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When to Repair vs. Retire a High-End Handbag

By Amalah

I know you are a fan of Coach and other high end purses (and have great taste in them), so I’m hoping you can point me in the right direction on this. A year and a half ago, after over a year of looking (I had some very specific design features on which I wasn’t willing to compromise.), I finally found the perfect purse at the local Dooney & Bourke Outlet. It’s this one in Ivy. It’s hard to tell from the picture but it has a magnetic catch on tabs in the center of the top opening, and a suede lining. I’ve gotten tons of complements on it, and hate to think I might have to give it up before I’m ready.
Unlike some (most?) people, I use the same purse day in and day out no matter the season or outfit – only shifting a few items into a smaller evening bag (or my husbands pockets) for our very rare dressy evenings out. And while I try to keep the amount of junk that can pile up in a purse down to the minimum (wallet, keys, sunglasses, and a small toiletries bag), I don’t always succeed. As you can imagine, the constant use and contents have taken a toll on my purse – especially the areas which had been glued instead of stitched and which are now starting to separate. The primary location where this is an issue is on the inner magnetic tabs which hold the top together. These are stitched to the top of the purse, and around the magnet, but not along the sides, which is the portion now starting to pull apart. The finish is also starting to wear off the bottom corners, but this is less of an issue for me.
So my question is, do I ship my purse off to D & B for refurbishment (do they even offer this option?), do I find a local leather shop to stitch or re-glue those particular edges (how do I know if they will do a good job or just half-ass it?), or do I resign myself to having to find another purse with the hope that this one will last until that undetermined point in the future when it can be retired?
Did I mention how smart and pretty and generally awesome you are? And what gorgeous babies you make? And how much I love your writing whether it’s a deodorant soap opera, about your family, or your always well thought out and non-judgemental advice?
Thanks a million, and I hope your father’s surgery is a great success.
Mrs. Higrens

MX10_l.jpgOh, thank goodness, an easy question. I was soooo in the mood for an easy question today.
It sounds like that purse can easily be repaired — re-gluing leather? A snap, a lark, a nothing job for any halfway competent leather shop or luggage repair place or cobbler. (Yes, most cobblers will also repair handbags — particularly if you’re just asking for some glue and buffing.) Do you use a dry cleaner that also offers shoe repair? Take it there first and see what they can offer.
Dooney does indeed have a repair/replacement program — you can read the details about it here on their website — but there are two problems here, for your particular bag. One, you bought it at an outlet, which MIGHT void the guarantee/warrantee/whatever. I’d contact customer service before sending your bag in to make sure it’s even eligible for the repairs — which aren’t free, take several weeks, and you run the risk of Dooney declaring the repairs to be too expensive. If they do that, this happens:

If an item is beyond repair, or if the repair costs exceed half of the current retail price, you have the option of having it replaced. You will be offered credit for half the current retail price of that item to apply toward a replacement item of equal or greater value. We will try to accommodate all replacement requests to your full satisfaction, however, it is not our policy to replace an item from a specific collection with another item from one of the following collections/styles: watches, coats, sweaters, scarves, hats, gloves and shoes, Internet specials and the new IT collection. Please note: The original item will not be returned to you. Once you have authorized a replacement, this item will be destroyed.

You love your bag, and I can sense you clutching it to your chest and yelping in horror.
That probably wouldn’t happen, because again: you’re talking about some glue and some wear on the corners (which just happens, and while that damage can’t be undone, a little basic leather care will make it look a lot less noticeable — invest in a leather care kit if you haven’t already). Hell, I bet you could find suitable glue yourself at a craft store and fix it on your own.
Save the manufacturer’s repair program for major damage or defects (faulty snaps, broken straps, huge gashes in seams, etc.). Save your handbag from further coming-apart-ness and take it to a leather shop — cobbler, luggage store, anything — and get it fixed. It definitely has plenty of life left in it yet.
As for knowing whether they’ll “half ass it”? Well, unless you get a personal recommendation, you might not know for sure, but again, you aren’t talking major structural damage here. Personally, every time I’ve taken shoes or a bag in to a cobbler I’ve met people who take immense pride in their work. It’s a dying breed, in this culture where “throw it away and buy a new one” seems to be everybody’s first instinct, but maybe we’ll see a resurgence, as people learn to make due with what they already have and luxury handbag purchases get bumped down the priority list, and more women decide to repair that lovely bag from two seasons ago instead of needing the latest and greatest style.
I’ve treated myself to one new bag in the past three years, actually: the perfect black patent leather Coach bag that I found marked down 30% and then an additional 50% at Bloomies, and hot damn, that’s just good fiscal sense, right there. The rest of the time (when I’m not lugging a diaper bag around, anyway) I’m carrying bags that I bought ages ago, have taken good care off, and hope to use for many more years to come.


Published February 5, 2009. Last updated February 5, 2009.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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