What Really Happens When You Warranty Your Socks?

Warranty team member inspecting a returned sock

We talk exhaustively (some might consider it ad nauseam) about our Lifetime Guarantee: our unconditional promise to replace your socks if they ever rip, tear, or lose their fit.

You’ve likely heard that lyric from a friend or read it in one of our emails. Yet, we still get people messaging us all the time asking: ‘Is it legit?’ and ‘Can I really send my socks back after 5 years and exchange them for a new pair?’

The short answer is, yes, of course you can. And we figured we’d take a few minutes (the average time it takes to read this post) to show you just what happens when you send those old socks back to redeem that warranty promise.

The Crew Behind the Seams

If you’ve returned a pair of socks in the last year or two, there’s a good chance Emily or Andrea has had their hands on them. These two wonderful humans make up our current Warranty team and, believe us when we tell you, they know a thing or two about socks. And likely what detergent you use.

Warranty is what they do, and if you ask us, they’re the best in the world at it.

Darn Tough employe inspecting a sock, ready to enter data

They sit downstairs at our Waterbury Mill, where they handle all the company’s returns, exchanges, and warranty claims.

That’s right… these two ladies, bless their souls, manage and process every pair of Darn Tough socks that get sent back. They’re experts on identifying wear patterns and assessing damage. 

Let’s take a short walk downstairs to meet Emily and Andrea to see what really happens when you warranty your socks.

Have You Ever Seen a Mailroom?

Buddy the Elf would be proud, despite there being no shiny bins. Or syrup for adding to coffee. But one thing our mail room does have is socks. Lots of socks.

A wall covered in darn tough socks

A litter of unopened packages – some neatly wrapped in pre-paid boxes, others stuffed into old cereal boxes – scatter the desks of Emily and Andrea’s workspace. A bloated mail cart filled to the brim with large shipping sacks sits between the two as they unload the day’s haul, sorting through returns over their morning coffee.

On the wall behind them, a collection of notable threads decorates the unpainted plasterboard with unique sock styles and discontinued colorways from the early 00’s – some dating back as far as the early 90’s from Cabot Hosiery Mills. An installation built by the ladies themselves, this sock wall is one of many mementos that you’ll find sprinkled about their workstation.

Andrea and Emily standing on either side of a cart full of warranty mail

Emily, pictured left, is an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker (class of ’16) and a skater who spends her summer nights shredding Burlington’s local waterfront skatepark. Considering the number of miles she’s walked (and pushed), you can be sure that Emily means it when she says she appreciates the value of a good sock.

On the right is Andrea, a certified sweetheart who is arguably the proudest to have her hands inside your old socks. Those hand-written notes and crocheted goodies that you send along with your warranties? Andrea keeps them safe inside a drawer beside her desk, and they’re the first thing she shows new people when they come down to visit her.

Andrea holding up a Thank You card she received

Together, they’re able to assess and determine what went wrong with your socks and why, often just by looking at them. Their expertise is second-to-none and one of the sole reasons why our Lifetime Guarantee is what it is. As they unpack and evaluate the day’s packages, we get to see their handy work in action.

The Warranty Process: A Breakdown

Let’s break down the process, shall we?

Hands reaching to take a bag off the pile of sock mail

It starts with you sending back your damaged Darn Tough socks to be warrantied. First off, congratulations. Ripping, tearing, or puncturing our socks takes effort… so if you managed to snag a hole in one of them, kudos. Secondly, we appreciate you taking us up on our offer. It means a lot.

After parceling your thread barren socks and sending them to us, Emily and Andrea are the ones who begin fishing through and processing them. There’s no priority or pecking order; whichever box they scoop up first is the first to get processed that day.

Andrew opening a warranty package

Your socks get examined more scrupulously, and in some cases studied with our Product team for more rigorous wear assessment and feedback. Emily and Andrea are diligent about taking notes, too, which helps our designers implement changes in real-time, sometimes even on the same day.

After inspecting your socks, they eventually get tossed into a bin where they go on to get recycled into practical things... like emergency blankets. At least the clean ones do. Dirty – e.g. fire damaged socks – are recycled separately and then used as stuffing for automotive seats... some local trivia you can share with your friends.

The Art of Identifying Wear Patterns

Andrea showing a damaged sock

Assessing a damaged sock with a large, gaping hole at the bottom of the forefoot, Emily notes that it’s often the wearer’s shoe choice (not their socks) that inflicts the damage. As the old saying goes, your shoes are only as good as your socks – meaning that if you’re spending money on a quality pair of shoes, you might want to do the same for your socks.

But the inverse is also true. Our socks are knit to last, but they tend to perform better when worn with more durable shoes, work boots, cleats, etc. You might think our socks need extra support, but really, your shoes might. Improper footwear is a common thread linking together a tether of warrantied socks.

Closeup of hands holding a warrantied sock, inspecting it

Emily makes a point to relay that info back to the sender, letting them know that their socks might have worn out because of their shoes, and that perhaps it’s time for a new pair of shoes, preferably ones that fit.

At this point they’ve seen it all – dog bites, tears, rips, burn holes, even counterfeit knits that folks are convinced are real. In cases of fraudulent – or counterfeit – socks, the customer who sends them back almost always gets the benefit of the doubt. Some of them (the fakes) are so hard to discern that we can’t blame people for mistakenly sending them back.

Emily entering warranty information into a computer

So, in the spirit of good fortune, we’ll likely grant them a one-time warranty in exchange for an authentic pair, which can then be warrantied later (if at all).

Is Our Lifetime Guarantee Really 'Unconditional'?

We get asked this question a lot. And the short answer is yes – we guarantee our work unconditionally. If you wear out our socks tomorrow, next year, or in next decade, we’ll replace them. But there are a few situations we feel we should mention:

  • If you try to warranty a single sock (an errant sock without a pair), we cannot fully process your claim. So if say, a falcon were to steal one of your socks, you can send us back the remaining single, and we'll give you half credit. 
  • If you try sending back an irregular sock (perhaps, if you’re local, one you purchased from our Northfield Sock Sale), we won’t be able to process those either.
  • If you alter the socks, like by dyeing them or cutting them down to re-size them, you have voided our warranty, and unfortunately we don't cover that. (But if you choose to extend the life of your sock by darning it yourself, we will cover that when you do eventually decide to replace them.)

Snag your heel on sharp corner of floorboard or protruding nail, and we'll replace that type of damage. Hike to the moon and we’ll cover that kind of wear, but if you leave them there, we don’t want to assume responsibility for that. We don’t need a receipt or a reason, but if you do try to slip one past us, just know our team is trained to fish those out.

Emily's hands holding a sock with holes

We don’t prefer invalidating or voiding your warranty exchanges. But Andrea and Emily are trained to identify the root cause of your sock’s malfunction. And that’s because the information we gain from this is super valuable – it helps make our socks even better. At least that’s our goal.

Warranty Program FAQs

As we mentioned earlier, we get asked a ton of questions about our Warranty program. Like, how many socks does the team process daily? The number, according to Emily and Andrea, varies based on the day (and is often greater during the holidays) but on average they open and process approximately 30 pairs per day.

The most they’ve processed in a single day is around 60 pairs, but they’re not often pumping out numbers that high (even though they could). They do get a steady stream of warranty exchanges though, and almost always have a few unopened packages waiting for them when they arrive in the morning.

Other questions we’ve gotten include: does the team wear gloves? To which the ladies answered, not usually. However, they do keep a box handy for when thru-hikers send back a smelly pair directly from the trail. Which doesn’t always happen, but it does happen. We do encourage folks to wash them before sending them back for warranty, but unfortunately that’s not always the case.

Wrapping It Up

A desk with different warranty notes on it

So, what have we learned? Here at Darn Tough, we make one thing and make it better than anyone else – a sentiment that starts and ends with our Lifetime Guarantee. Our overarching promise to make the world’s best socks and stand behind them unconditionally begins on the manufacturing floor and comes full circle when they (if they ever do) get sent back for warranty.

It’s a tough job, to say the least, but an important position that helps our company stay true to its values. Our warranty department is the backbone of our entire business and a key differentiator that (we hope) keeps you coming back for more.

If you have any questions about our warranty (and its legit-ness) or wish to speak to someone in person, please give our Customer Service team a call – they’ll likely do a better job convincing you, plus they’re the friendliest in the biz. Cheers.