A Message to Manufacturers of Wheelie Bags

Predictable as night follows day is the fact that the wheels on my wheelie bag will let me down.  Again.

I have lost count of the number of perfectly good suitcases I have had to chuck away, simply because the wheels have become so worn down that they no longer function.  They are a persistent point of weakness on an otherwise solid construction.

My latest wheelie bag had come with a five-year guarantee, which still had two years to run, so I returned the case to the retailer from whom I had originally bought it.  They eyed the case a bit suspiciously and said that they would need to consult the manufacturer.  Fine, I thought.  I had long been campaigning for a change of design to wheelie bag wheels; have them replaceable, rather than sealed units, which cannot be readily removed.  Here, I hoped, might be a manufacturer prepared to make a change; would look at my case, recognise the fault in their design, and come up with an entirely new construction for wheelie bag wheels.

Not so.  The report came back from the manufacturer to the retailer regarding my case with a rather blunt statement that they did not believe that the damage to the wheels could have resulted from ‘normal use’ and that they would not honour the guarantee.  Thankfully, the retailer took a different viewpoint and did honour the guarantee, but it left a bad taste.

What is considered ‘normal use’?

The bag had let me down on a recent two-week rundfahrt in Germany.  I had trailed it between train station and accommodation in several cities, including a mile or so across old East German pavements in Berlin; a couple of miles on smooth streets in Dresden; and a mile along a rough, gravel track in Oberammergau but, there, I had taken pity on the bag and actually carried it for half the journey.  This is my ‘normal use’.

If a bag comes with a five-year guarantee, I expect that I should be able to wheel it with me for every mile I walk during those five years and it will still keep rolling.  I don’t live my entire life on soft carpets, and I don’t expect my wheelie bag to require any more pampering than I do.

I looked online to see if other people had trouble with the wheels on their wheelie bags.  And, judging by the number of instructional videos on Youtube, showing how it is possible to replace worn-down wheels––not easily, in most cases––I get the impression that my problem is pretty universal.

In a time when we should be limiting the amount of waste we produce, I am forced to chuck away a perfectly good suitcase simply because one small element of it is designed to fail.  In the spirit of saving resources, I would urge the manufacturers of wheelie bags to relook at their products and fit them with wheels that can be removed and replaced.

In the meantime, I have been amused to see that my new wheelie bag now comes with a ten-year guarantee.  Ten years!  Until the manufacturers change their product, I’ll be seeing you again within three.

© E. C. Glendenny

E. C. Glendenny walks where her wheelie bag fears to tread.

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