Re: Warranty shipment question
I would be extremely surprised if a manufacturer would pay for you to ship a mandolin directly to them that was not purchased directly from them. Your first recourse is with whomever you bought the mandolin from.
The manufacturer's warranty backs up any claim not handled by the person you bought the mandolin from. And in that case every one I've ever seen will expect you to pay to get it to them.
I'd think it was a recipe for going broke to pay return shipping on an instrument because of cosmetic damage. Far more often the damage happened after leaving the factory. Just too many ways for a nick or smudge or dent to happen while it's going to the dealer, perhaps tried out by multiple people, shipped to the buyer, etc. Even if in your particular case it's something that was like that from the factory I don't know of any maker willing to write a blank check for people to send instruments to them at their expense when they can't possibly control what has happened in the weeks, months or years since it left their hands.
P.S. It's never unreasonable to ask for what you think is fair treatment. Just that this particular one seems a long shot.
The first man who whistled
thought he had a wren in his mouth.
He went around all day
with his lips puckered,
afraid to swallow.
--"The First" by Wendell Berry