When I moved to Richmond, Virginia the sporting goods chain Dick’s often elicited a snicker or a giggle from the 12-year-old boy inside my mind. Of course, it was immature and childish, but it gave me a kick and lightened my mood on occasion. When I became interested in kayaking I started looking at local stores that sold kayaks so that I could begin what has become a passion of mine. I did a fairly good amount of research and ended up purchasing my first kayak from Dick’s. A second kayak followed about a month later, also purchased from Dick’s.
On Father’s Day, my wife took me to Dick’s to purchase a third kayak. This was to be my Father’s Day present and would give us a total of four yaks which would allow the entire family to go kayaking together so that I wouldn’t have to kayak alone anymore. It was a bonus that Dick’s was having a Father’s Day sale and the kayak I wanted was on sale.
I struggled to deal with the noise and disorder that was rampant in the store and made my way to the section where the kayaks were, rather excited that I was going to be able to get the kayak that I had been wanting since I began kayaking.
When I got to the kayaks I was devastated to find that they didn’t have the kayak that I wanted. Slowly, my wife and I began to look over the other kayaks and settled on one that was a fishing kayak. I could fish from and just enjoy playing in the water with my family on this kayak. The only issue was it was pretty dinged up; there was something akin to road rash on the underside of the yak and I was told by the manager that it was the only one they had. I was offered 10% off the price of the yak because of the scratches and dents, none of which looked to be bad enough to affect the usability of the yak. I was a little disappointed because this yak was green and not in one of my favorite colors, but I was still going to get my Father’s Day present so it almost made up for the disappointment.
I was a little disappointed because this yak was green and not in one of my favorite colors, but I was still going to get my Father’s Day present so it almost made up for the disappointment.
We got in line to check out, which was fairly long, and were waiting for our turn to check out when one of the workers at the store came up to us and explained they had a return in the exact same model that was in “perfect condition, no scrapes or scratches and has never seen the water”. We were asked if we wanted to purchase this one instead because it was in “better condition”. Of course, the offer of 10% off the kayak was rescinded when we were offered the customer return because it was brand new and there was nothing wrong with it. My wife and I discussed this and decided to go ahead and purchase this kayak instead because we were told that it was sound and there was nothing at all wrong with it.
We left the store about 12:30 that afternoon, and made it to the James River to paddle around 2:00ish. It took a bit of time to launch because there was a fairly large number of other people using the boat ramp. After my wife and two sons launched their kayaks I put my “brand new” one in the water. I got my service dog in training settled into the yak before settling myself in and my family began to paddle up the James River.
We had a pretty decent time for all of fifteen minutes. I noticed that the rear of my kayak was starting to sink into the water, at first I thought this was because I had my dry bag in the back, but dismissed that idea when my wife said I was taking on water in the back of the kayak. She has a sit in and paddled over to me to bail the water out with her bailing sponge. When that didn’t seem to help I called my eldest son over to take my service dog in training ( who is a puppy that weighs less than 8 pounds) in case I flipped, because at this point the kayak was beginning to list pretty bad to the starboard side.
Less than thirty seconds of passing off my service dog the kayak’s rear end dunked completely into the water and flipped on top of me. I went under, was hit in the head by the kayak and ended up losing my shoes, prescription goggles, and my lucky hat. My shoes weren’t really that big of a deal, but my goggles were fairly expensive and my hat was irreplaceable.
My kayak would no longer take a paddler and flipped every time that I got back on to it. After the fifth time of having the yak flip, I decided my only option was to swim it back to the launch. I pulled a length of paracord from my PFD, tied it to the bow of the yak and began the half of a mile trek back to the launch where we put in.
When I reached the launch and tried to pull the yak from the water, it was so heavy that I couldn’t pull it up the slide at the launch. I am by no means meek, I heft around 50 lb feed bags on my farm like they are gallon jugs of milk. I have never had a problem lifting or carrying any of the kayaks we own, but there was no way I was getting this kayak up the launch without first emptying it.
Just for a point of reference, a gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds, and the yak itself weighed 48 pounds, my eldest son weighs over 200lbs and I can lift him without much effort. I would say that there was better than ten gallons of water inside of this sit on top kayak. It took quite a bit of time to drain all of the water out, during this process I noticed that there were rivets missing on one of the fishing pole holders in the rear of the kayak. When I loaded the kayak into the back of my SUV upside down water began to pour out of the area where the fishing pole holders connected to the kayak, which means when they were installed they were not properly sealed.
By the time we got back to the store to return the kayak I was in autistic meltdown mode. Not only had my Father’s Day been ruined because of the incident with the kayak, but now I was going to lose new kayak as well. My wife and eldest son had to take the kayak back into Dick’s while I sat in the SUV.
My wife was barely given an apology before having the money we paid returned. There was no offer of replacing the kayak or anything. She later told me she felt like they just wanted her out of the store, like “here’s your money go away”.
Dick’s Sporting Goods sold us a defective used kayak at full price; a kayak that ended up costing us more than what we paid for it, so I posted about it on twitter.
It took a few days to get a response, but I was directed to send them a DM (direct message) detailing what happened, so I did. Several more days went by and I heard nothing from them. Then my wife received a phone call from their customer relations department.
The entirety of the call was basically “I’m sorry we sold you a defective kayak, are you still looking to purchase a kayak.”
When they were asked if they inspect returned items to make sure that they are safe for use before reselling them, the answer was no. They have no system in place to make sure that the customer returns they resell at full price, are safe for the people that buy them.
Had I been in the ocean (Virginia Beach is only about 120 miles away and I had been planning on going there for Father’s Day instead. I’m glad I changed my mind at the last moment.) I could have drowned. I could have been killed using an item that was returned to the store that the employees didn’t even take the time to look over.
What if I had placed my 12-year-old son in that kayak? We all wear PFDs while kayaking, but he isn’t the strongest swimmer, is autistic as well and would have completely freaked out had the kayak done to him what it did to me.
I know these are “what ifs” and not what ended up happening but a life could have been lost because of their negligence. The worst part is, they will probably continue this dangerous cycle until someone does lose their life, and what then? I’m sorry, no matter how sincere will not bring back a life.
So to answer their question, yes, I’m still looking to buy a kayak, but this time, I’ll just save my money up and buy from a company that doesn’t put their profit margins in front of their customer’s lives.
I’ll be writing the manufacture of the kayak Future Beach, about what happened as well. I hope they would want to be made aware that one of their kayaks was defective and cost my family a good amount of pain, stress, upset and money.
Though with the track records companies seem to have as of late, I doubt they’ll care any more than Dick’s did.