It’s Time To Say Goodbye To TUMI – It’s Not The Brand It Used To Be

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You may have noticed that I travel a lot. Probably not as much as some who read this blog (I tip my metaphorical hat to you guys) but more than most people. As a result I take quite a bit of care when it comes to selecting the luggage I carry around with me.

Unlike a lot of heavy travelers I check baggage on my longer trips –  I prefer to wait at a baggage carousel rather than pay the extortionate fees hotels will charge for laundry service….

a table with numbers and linesLaundry charges at the JW Marriott Singapore

…..and I’d rather wait at a baggage carousel than hang around a local laundry wherever it is I’m traveling. This means that the luggage I take on my longer trips has to be able to stand up to the abuse that various airlines and baggage handlers are bound to inflict on it.

For quite a number of years my preferred luggage brand has been TUMI.

My carry-on is the TUMI Alpha 2-wheeled case….

a close-up of a suitcase

….which I confess I still really like – it works for me and fits in most overhead compartments relatively easily.

And, for my checked luggage I’ve had TUMI Vapor cases for a number of years:

a black suitcase with wheels

I’ve always bought my cases when there has been a great offer available so I’ve never spent the ridiculous amount of money that these retail for….but I’ve still spent a lot.

When I first started traveling frequently I chose TUMI as my preferred luggage brand partly on the recommendation of a friend, partly because I like the ballistic nylon of the Alpha carry-on but mainly because of the warranty that came with the luggage.

The warranty wasn’t bullet proof as it was only for 5 years and didn’t guarantee that I wouldn’t have a problem…but anecdotal evidence told me that TUMI was very good at dealing with issues.

Thanks to some truly idiotic baggage handling from American Airlines I got to experience TUMI’s customer service within two years of having my first case….and they were great. I couldn’t have asked for more.

I then had another opportunity to deal with them a year later (this time courtesy of British Airways) and, although the service was worse than before (I was in the UK so the service was never going to be as good as in LA), the issue was resolved to my satisfaction.

But over the past few years things have changed. TUMI is now owned by Samsonite (a brand for which I have little regard) and their customer services department doesn’t appear to know what its purpose in life is.

The lock on one of my TUMI Vapor cases started acting strange a little over a year ago – the combination had changed when I got it home after a trip – but I managed to resolve the issue myself (the number had only changed by 1 digit) and I put this down to something dumb the TSA had done when they opened my case (a note inside had confirmed the TSA had been rooting around for no apparent reason).

a piece of paper with text on it

A  month or so later the lock did the same thing again only this time there was no evidence that the TSA was involved.

Once again the combination was only out by one number but I called up TUMI to report the issue anyway. Their response was to tell me that there was nothing they could do as there was no proof there was an issue in the first place. I considered getting annoyed with them but, as my case was open and I had no way of really challenging them on their statement, I let it go.

Fast forward to January of this year and my second Vapor case (which up until now had show no sign of any issues) suffered the same fate…only this time nothing would open the lock.

There was no visible sign of damage but, after going through every single possible combination on the lock (that was a very boring 30 minutes I’ll never get back!), I still couldn’t get in to the case….and it was full of things from my trip (luckily the issue occurred on my return leg and not when I was thousands of miles from home).

In case you’re wondering, this is what the offending lock looks like:

a lock on a suitcase

I called up the local TUMI store and explained the situation (I also explained that this wasn’t the first time I’d seen an issue like this with a Vapor lock) and their advice to me was to break in to the case, empty it of my belongings and to then bring it in to the store.

I did as they suggested and was startled at how easily a kitchen knife went through the TUMI zipper – I had the case fully open in under 10 seconds….and that’s never a good sign!


I took the case into the store and was told that it would have to be sent away to their repair center and that I’d have to wait 5 -6 weeks. This wasn’t exactly great but, luckily, I had other cases so I wasn’t going to be put out (others may not have been that lucky).

Here’s how the next few interactions with TUMI panned out:

  • 8 weeks later I still hadn’t heard back from TUMI so I called up the store. They still didn’t have my case (or a replacement) so they said they’d chase up the service centre.
  • 3 weeks after that I still hadn’t heard back from the store so I called them again. This time they confirmed that my bag had been returned (it would have been nice if they had called!) with a note saying that the damage wasn’t a manufacturing defect so there was nothing that could be done.
  • After I pointed out that I was well aware how the obvious damage had occurred and that they were the ones that had told me to inflict the damage on the case in the first place, they said they’d take this up with the service centre and get back to me.
  • 4 weeks later I called in again as, once again, I hadn’t heard back. The store confirmed that the service centre had once again flatly refused to help out as they were still claiming this was all somehow my fault. I lost my temper at this point and the rather embarrassed store manager said she would see what she could do.
  • 6 months after I had taken the case in to TUMI the store manager called to let me know she had been given “special dispensation” to issue me an equivalent case as a “one time thing”.

The case I was given was perfectly ok….although it is noticeably smaller than the Vapor case it’s replacing:

a couple of luggage on a tile floor

two suitcases on a tile floor

But the size of the replacement case isn’t the issue.

When I buy luggage that costs as much as TUMI luggage costs I buy with it an expectation that I’m going be looked after when something goes wrong.

There should be no need for “special dispensation” or any need for me to wait 6 months to get a simple issue sorted out.

As I’ve already mentioned, I still have another TUMI Vapor case whose lock has already shown signs of going the same way as the case I took to TUMI….and I just know TUMI will wash its hands of the issue completely when the inevitable happens and the lock breaks.

So that’s it for my relationship with TUMI. I’m done.

Should I have the need to buy more luggage in the future (and I strongly suspect I will) I’ve already got a replacement brand in mind – Briggs & Riley.

Their cases cost about the same as TUMI (so hold out for a sale if you’re in the market for new luggage) and they look pretty good….

a comparison of luggage bags a comparison of a suitcase

….but the important thing is that their warranty appears to be fantastic.

Here’s an extract from their website:

At Briggs & Riley we believe our customers are family. When you’re family, you do what’s right. It’s been our philosophy since day one. And in typical family fashion, we believe in looking out for one another. That’s why we’re the only luggage company to offer a lifetime repair guarantee on all our bags – simple as that. If your Briggs & Riley bag is ever broken or damaged, even if it was caused by an airline, we will repair it free of charge. You see, to us, the phrase “lifetime guarantee” is more than just a marketing strategy. It’s a sign of our integrity.

a white rectangle with lines

Wow. The “even if it was caused by an airline” part is great!

Now this is a luggage manufacturer I’m happy to deal with.

If I’m paying hundreds of dollars for a suitcase I want to know that the company I buying it from is prepared to stand by its products – and at these prices that’s the least a company should be doing!

I know there are a lot of TUMI fans out there (I was once one of them) but the fact is that this isn’t the same manufacturer most of us signed up with.

The quality of the luggage has been on the decline for a while and now I’ve got proof that the customer service element has gone down the drain too….so what are we paying all that money for?

I’ll be moving over to Briggs & Riley the next time I or Joanna or the rapidly growing not-so-mini-Joanna need new luggage and, if you’ve been buying TUMI up until now, I suggest you have a look around and see which brand will work better for you, because I strongly think that it won’t be TUMI that will come out on top.


  1. TUMI *did* change their warranty some time ago, from Lifetime to five years. I also have my old, *original* TUMI “Alpha” cases, but a) they’re heavy; and b) they only have two wheels — back from the days when every case only had two wheels. But later, I also bought some TUMI “T-Tech” cases which worked great for years. Then, after one trip, the zipper broke on the larger one and the fabric around it tore, so I took it in for repair. The TUMI store sent it off and about 4-6 weeks later, I received a telephone call from TUMI saying they couldn’t repair it and they couldn’t replace it as the line had been discontinued. And so TUMI issued me a credit for the original full retail price towards the purchase of a new suitcase. The result: my remaining T-Tech carry-on, still fully functional, is now my daughter’s, and I have a new set of TUMI V3 (Vapor 3.0) cases — so far, incredibly lightweight and very durable (if you don’t mind a few scratches). They’ll be going to Europe next month, and we’ll see how they hold up.

    NOW . . . will all that aside, while still quite happy with TUMI and their customer service, I’ll admit I have been looking for an alternative just in case the need arises . . .

    • Great comment, thanks for the info.

      I confess that I thought TUMI had a lifetime warranty at one point but I wasn’t sure and my current irregular and limited access to the internet didn’t help my research 🙂

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