I, too, once received what was apparently a defective product from SMD. It was a pack, and after the second trip with it I noticed that the stitching between the pack body and extension collar was starting to unravel.
I emailed Ron about this, just for his information--it was only a few stitches and I intended to do the repair myself. To my surprise, he offered to repair it for free, even though the pack had already been used. I originally said I'd bring the pack in--I live east of Portland and Ron lives just west of Portland. I decided, however, that I'd rather ship the pack than buck the horrible traffic through downtown Portland, so I mailed the pack. I didn't even think of asking Ron to pay the shipping charges. I received the pack back a few days later, with no charge to me either for Ron's shipping it to me (I could have driven over there, after all) or for the repair. The repair has held up, too!
The return policy published on SMD's website clearly states that shipping is at the expense of the customer.
"... if for some reason your purchase from Six Moon Designs does not meet your needs, you may return any unused items within 30 days for a full refund (less shipping charges)."
It appears to me that the original offer of free return shipping, contrary to the firm's published policy, was made only because the customer ordered a replacement item. Since the customer canceled the order for the replacement, he voided that agreement. That leaves the original published return shipping policy as the default.
I urge everyone to check any vendor's website for their complete policies before ordering anything online. This is just plain common sense, along with making sure they have a phyiscal address, a working phone and that their odering site is secure. If you disagree with the vendor's return policies, don't order! Expecting instant return of emails or phone messages (I've rarely had this from big corporations, either) from a one or two person firm is extremely unrealistic. Most of these small firms have no employees to cover such things while they're gone.
No, I have nothing to do with SMD except as an extremely infrequent customer. In fact, I've bought only two items from them, one being the above-mentioned pack, still going strong after 7 years. I tried one of their tents for a year and it didn't suit my sleeping style, so I sold it. There was nothing wrong with the tent; it just didn't work out for me. The current owner loves it, although he claims he's still finding my dog's hair in it!
I do know that SMD has an outstanding reputation in the backpacking community, and it appears to me that this gentleman's problem has quite a bit to do with misunderstanding the communications and possibly taking insufficient time to check the firm's policies before ordering. Whatever your opinon as to what a firm's policy "should be," it's their standard published policy that governs the buy/sell contract.