The dog ate my luggage

Lou Briasco at Michael Bruno luggage in San Francisco's Castro neighbhorhood

Lou Briasco at the Michael Bruno Luggage store in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

How good is the warranty on your luggage?

“My customer’s dog tore the zipper off a $300 carry-on bag he’d had for just two weeks,” said Lou Briasco, the owner of Michael Bruno Luggage on Market Street in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood.

“The bag was ruined, so he came back into the store to buy a replacement. Since he wasn’t traveling soon, I told him I would send it back to Briggs & Riley to see if they really stood behind their ‘no questions asked’ repair or replacement policy,” he added.

If there’s anyone in the Bay Area who knows luggage, it’s the gregarious, affable Briasco, who has been the sole proprietor at Michael Bruno since 1982. Even though the store does not have a web site, all you have to do is check the hundred or so stellar ratings on Yelp to know that Briasco knows his business…and his customers.

Michael Bruno Luggage is located at 2267 Market Street in SF. (Chris McGinnis)

Michael Bruno Luggage is located at 2267 Market Street in SF. (Chris McGinnis)

“Two weeks later, the bag shipped back with the zipper replaced at no charge,” he beamed. “That shows a company that truly stands behind its warranty. And now we both have a customer for life.”

After more than 30 years in the luggage business, Briasco says that the key feature frequent travelers should look for in a new bag is a strong manufacturer’s repair or replacement policy. For that reason, the two primary lines of luggage he carries are Briggs & Riley and Eagle Creek—both, he says, have solid, time-tested warranties.

Briggs & Riley’s warranty states: “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 – Simple as that!” The warranty is good for life and does not require receipts or any other evidence that you even bought the bag. All you have to do is pay to ship it to the repair center.

Eagle Creek luggage sells at a lower price point than Briggs & Riley, so its warranty is good for five years. Its website says that when customers ship back a damaged bag,  “If it is covered under our warranty, we will repair it or replace it with an available product of similar features and value. We will then send it back to you at no charge.”

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Briasco says that the high-end (and very popular) Tumi line has added too many exceptions to its warranty (such as proof of purchase requirements) in recent years, so he’s stopped carrying it in his store. For occasional travelers, he stocks less expensive Delsey bags, which he says are suitable for infrequent use. But you get what you pay for with its rather thin warranty that specifically rules out coverage for damage caused by airlines.

In addition to a good warranty, what should a frequent traveler look for when buying a bag?

Look for durable, but easily replaced wheels

Look for durable, but easily replaced wheels

DURABILITY: Since wheels often break, even on high quality bags, Briasco recommends looking for sturdy wheels that can easily be switched out if broken. For wheeled bags, Briasco said that external frame telescopic handles result in more room inside bags.

LEATHER OR NYLON? “While leather looks and smells good, for durability, weight, and protection from the elements, nylon is best,” he said. “Cordura nylon is the most durable, but you can only find it on the few bags manufactured in the US, such as the John Peters line of packs and messenger bags, made in New York.”

IMG_2693MADE IN USA? “When I started out in 1982, nearly all luggage was made in the USA. It was a sign of quality. Now, all bags are made in Asia—and that’s not all bad if the manufacturer has strict quality controls—not all of them do, and you can tell,” he said. Briasco is happy to show off features such as inverted, waterproof zippers, sturdy, low profile handles that don’t get snagged by baggage handling equipment, convenient exterior pockets, etc.

HOW MUCH? “Frequent travelers should spend a little bit more money on a higher quality bag that lasts a lot longer. In the long run, they will spend less than they would having to replace cheaper bags over and over again.” he advised. “Those who travel once per month should invest around $300 for good bag that won’t break when you really need it.” Briasco offers deep unadvertised discounts on all his merchandise. “It’s the only way I can stay in business and compete with the online retailers,” he smiled.

HARD-SIDED LUGGAGE? Shiny, colorful new hard-sided bags from manufacturers like Rimowa seem to be all the rage in airports and hotel lobbies these days. However, Briasco is not much of a fan. “Most do not have external pockets, which I think are critical. Also, for the hard sides to maintain their integrity, the bag has to be packed full. If not, the sides get a little wobbly,” he said.

FOUR WHEELS? New four wheeled bags, referred to as “spinners” are also very popular these days. But Briasco warns that those with small wheels are difficult to maneuver, especially on carpets. “So if you really want a spinner, check the wheels first, and try to roll it over some carpet,” he advised.

You won't find too many easily snatched black bags at Michael Bruno- check out the colors.

You won’t find too many easily snatched black bags at Michael Bruno- check out the colors.

COLOR? Think twice before you buy a black bag. “A thief will never steal a red bag at the airport—he’d be too easy to catch,” he warned. If you have a black bag, he suggests getting a very colorful luggage tag—as a matter of fact, Briasco throws in a free brightly colored tag with most high end bags he sells.

Individualize your bag with a bright luggage tag

Individualize your bag with a bright luggage tag

Need some luggage advice? Drop by Michael Bruno Luggage at 2267 Market Street and let Lou bend your ear. You’ll get more than a piece of luggage—you’ll get a piece of his mind!

The store is open Thurs-Tues between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. But if you drop by and the store is closed, call the phone number posted on the door and Lou (who lives three doors away) will come open the shop for you.

What type of luggage do you carry? Why? Do you have any good tips or advice regarding the bag you own? Please leave your comments below! 

-Chris McGinnis


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