Timberland's new warranty conditions screw the prisoners who must buy them


…talk about captive audience.


I rather suspect Timberland got caught up in a lawsuit because some commissary was doing evil to a prisoner.

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meaning that prisoners could spend decades without suitable footwear.

Sure, if they don’t want to just buy decent shoes on the black market.

I was under the impression that pretty much everything worth having in jail is quietly smuggled in and quietly overlooked by the authorities so long as you can’t kill someone or effect an escape with it.

Our current jail system is absolutely corrupt. The issue of how prisoners end up shoed is a drop in the bucket. I believe the entire organization needs to be torn down and rebuilt from the ground up. It’s beyond saving, in my mind.


…Because they can.


As the FA says, “As human rights issues for prisoners go, thwarted warranty exchanges
aren’t the most urgent problems, but they’re part of what we do here at Consumerist. It’s pretty frustrating for reader AnnaMarie and her brother, who is in prison and left without a pair of work boots because of a gap between Timberland’s warranty policies and the Virginia Department of Corrections.”

You’re right, there are lots of villains in the prison system, but that doesn’t make Timberland less evil for participating in the villainry. They’ve got a literal captive audience – overwhelmingly drawn from the poorest, most disadvantaged people in the country – and they’re using their sweetheart deal to gratuitously enmiserate those people who have the bad luck to buy defective products for the sole reason that they can.

If Timberland was preferentially screwing some other group of people with a shitty warranty policy – say, serving US military overseas personnel – no one would say, “Getting shot at sucks and wars are all corrupt, what’s getting ripped off by Timberland in the grand scheme of things?”


From the article:

Prison regulations prohibit them from receiving anything more substantial than sheets of paper through the mail, which rules out boxes of boots. Even if AnnaMarie didn’t live on the other side of the country, in-person visitors aren’t allowed to bring gifts.

If this is accurate, it sounds like Timberland’s policy and sweetheart deal have no impact at all on whether prisoners can get their defective products replaced.


No, because the commissary does have a policy of accepting warranty repairs (and this was how it was done until Timberland unilaterally altered its warranty deal).


I’m not vouching for Timberland. If I had my way, the way corporations are run would be stripped down and redone as well.


How does that work? I see no reference to it in the linked article.

I’m betting a minion mailed some drugs into a prison inside some ‘repaired’ boots. Using the time honored ‘punish the vulnerable for our own failings’ model, Timberland is protecting their asses at the expense of a bunch of people who do not matter (to the population at large).


I suspect that Timberland has this policy because boots they return to prisoners don’t reach the prisoners, and then they’re in a more complicated mess. Cory says the commissary participates in the warranty process, but the article makes it seems like they refuse to be involved.

The obvious solution is for TimberLand to handle warranty claims from prisoners by sending a voucher for replacement boots from the commissary. Duh.


“Timberland – whose boots are the sole option for many prisoners in US correctional institutions”

I see what you did there…


If a prisoner can’t afford to buy (or receive repaired) boots from the commissary, I can’t imagine he’d be made to go barefoot. How do prisons handle that? Do they issue standard cheap shoes, with the Timberlands being an option for those that can afford them?

The individuals inside Timberlake would do this very same thing to non-prisoner ‘customers’ if they could. it is in their nature, as rats like cheese. But this is a perfect example of a state monopoly. Here the state is imposing these restrictions and this is a nice little monopoly/civil rights suit.
But I shan’t be buying anything from Timberlake, and I was in the market for some new ‘tennies’.


The full piece states that the prisoners are allowed three pairs of shoes: sneakers, shower shoes and work boots. I’m guessing the sneakers come issue with their prison uniform.


Having a tough time figuring out how this is Timberland’s fault.

FTFA: Prison regulations prohibit them from receiving anything more substantial than sheets of paper through the mail, which rules out boxes of boots. Assuming this is correct info (i.e. an actual rule of the VADOC), how could Timberland mail the boots back to the inmate purchaser?

Also FTFA: Nope, she [AnnaMarie, the inmate’s sister who wrote to Consumerist] says: the commissary tells them to mail their boots in, and Timberland says that the company can’t mail anything back directly. Seems pretty clear, in AnnaMarie’s words at least, that the prison commissary is the one doing the screwing here.

MFTFA (Missing From The Fine Article) is anything to support Cory’s statement that the commissary accommodates warranty returns/replacements, or that Timberland has struck sweetheart deals with prison commissaries. Even Consumerist has difficulty fueling the outrage, closing the article with: Administering warranty exchanges might be needlessly complex for the commissary, and we get that. It doesn’t sound like anyone designed this policy to intentionally boost sales or to leave inmates bootless, but it leaves AnnaMarie’s brother with no option but to buy a new pair, and that’s frustrating.


  1. Prison is hard.
  2. Cory made a mistake.

Cory and The Consumerist didn’t get this wrong. One class of customer is being disallowed the use of a lifetime warranty because of where they live. When people tried to accommodate (send it to the commissary) that was disallowed. The new Timberland company policy for prisons only only allows delivery off-site, and from off-site you can’t bring in anything thicker than paper.

I have found a possible reason why an attempt is being made to keep Timberlands whole within prisons. After some hunting, I found this article:

In it, a claim is made that, “Some inmates fashion shanks from the metal toes of Timberland boots,” So, it may be that Timberland is trying to avoid a lawsuit that hasn’t yet happened involving the use of their product as a weapon.



Really man? Decades? I realize you’re a writer, and maybe that just compels one to make everything over dramatic, but come on.

Let’s assume a prisoner did get footwear that was defective. Who the hell wears the same shoes for decades? If they only have one pair to wear, I would think everyone would require a replacement every couple years at least. The only way for “decades” to happen would be some poor sap getting 10 pairs of bad shoes in a row.

ETA - to be clear though, if their policy is specifically set up to they don’t have to service their customers in prison, that is messed up.


Sometimes boots are grossly defective, especially if they were sewn in China or if they have components from China. Rocky boots have had soles that have literally melted and turned to gummy slime while stored in the closet.

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