Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Lifetime Warranties Revisited

I wrote an article three years ago in which I related my experience with Litespeed's "lifetime warranty".
I wasn't very impressed with Litespeed's response to the failure of my 7 year old titanium Ghisallo frame. While I considered a cracked frame to be a materials failure, Litespeed says that a "lifetime warranty does not imply unlimited useful life". The fine print of their warranty backs them up, so that is that.
On the whole, my warranty experiences with top tier manufacturers has been very good. I'll recount two recent experiences that I've had with makers of some popular cycling accessories, Serfas and Genuine Innovations.

Serfas makes a wide array of cycling accessories ranging from saddles to shoes, bar tape to bike locks. We own several Serfas lights and I have Serfas saddle bags on three of my bikes. They are well-designed, reasonable priced , and widely distributed. Serfas products are available at most local bike.One of my favorite Serfas bits is a very small, stealthy front blinkie. They no longer make this particular light, but I love the fact that it almost disappears when strapped below the bars of my #1 road bike and gives me the confidence that drivers will have a better opportunity to pick me out of the visual clutter of the road when they happen to glance up from their cell phones and actually look at the road.  You never know when you'll be riding home in the dusky dark and need that margin of visibility. It is USB charged and stays on my bike full time.

Recently, the stretchy rubber strap that attaches the light broke. Not shocking, and the light still works great, so I went to the Serfas website. Lo and behold, there was the magic statement:

Serfas warrants to the original purchaser of our product that the product is free from defects in material and workmanship for the lifetime of the product.

I noticed that batteries were covered for a year and they give you the opportunity to order small parts to "get back on the road quickly".

The warranty statement was followed of course by the usual disclaimers of abuse, neglect, alterations, etc,etc, but I had committed none of those atrocities, so I followed up with a phone call. 
I was politely told that the attachment band was not covered by the warranty and that it could be ordered for $5.00 plus a $4.00 mailing fee. Those charges were reasonable enough so I ordered the part to get my 4 or 5-year old $25.00 light back on the bike. I would describe the Serfas experience as "OK".

The replacement strap was mailed a week or so after I ordered it, and I'm back in business. Fortunately, my collection of tools includes the tiny star driver required for the repair.

When overkill is barely enough....

I'll start my next warranty story with some build-up.
A few weeks ago, I had a clusterf--k of a flat tire situation. While riding with friends, we ran through some gravel that had washed out onto the River Trail from a recent deluge, resulting in what I thought was a pinch flat. We were finishing our ride and I was only 3-4 miles from my car so I waved my friends on for their ride home. I'm capable of fixing a flat and I had my usual kit of 2 spare tubes, an inflator, and 3, count 'em, 3 CO2 cartridges.  Being good folks, they stuck around, anyway.I inspected my tire rolling surface for damage and ran my fingers around the interior, but I was pretty sure I had the classic "snake bite" flat. 
I quickly replaced the tube and proceeded with the inflation. I immediately noticed that CO2 was spewing around the valve stem. Hmmm.., I guess I hadn't really opened the presta valve. I fully opened the valve and got the tube inflated enough to notice that it was protruding from a tear in the sidewall of the tire. Shit. 
Tear down the whole mess again and insert a dollar bill as a boot. Used my second CO2. Still had some leakage around valve stem (when something seems wrong, it usually is. I should have stopped before now to carefully inspect everything.) but thought I had enough pressure to ride. By now, my loyal friends had seen enough and had departed. I was wrong yet again, as after a few yards, I realized that I would not make it to my vehicle. At this point, I installed my second spare tube on the assumption that I had compromised the first, and I actually took a close look at my inflator. The O-ring at the valve stem fitting had a small tear in it. 
I was on my second tube and my third and last CO2 cartridge, so I waved down a passing rider and borrowed an inflator. Neither he nor I knew how to use it, but it seemed simple. Screw in the cartridge and depress the trigger. Which worked only a small burst at a time. That allowed me to get just enough tire pressure to limp back to my car.
I could have avoided most of my problems by:
1) doing a more thorough inspection of my damaged tire
2) doing an inspection of the seals on my inflator when I first noticed air leaking around the valve.

I still would have wasted one CO2 cartridge, but would have had the flat fixed and still had a back-up on hand.

If I had been out on the road alone, I would have been screwed, but I likely would have been more methodical away from the confines of the Fiver Trail. Or so I tell myself.

Genuine Innovations is best known to cyclists for their CO2 inflators and accessories. I could not find any explicit warranty information on their website.

Back to the warranty experience. 
I called Genuine Innovations to see if they could send me a couple of O-rings. The pleasant customer service rep helped me identify my inflator as a Microflate Nano (it was old enough that all the graphics were long worn off) and she said they would be glad to send me some O-rings, but that the inflator had a lifetime warranty and she was also going to send me a new inflator. Cool. I love it when people exceed my expectations. As I thanked her, I recounted the short version of my trials and tribulations on the trail. Upon hearing that I had blown through some CO2 cartridge, she said that she would also throw in a couple of threaded cartridges and asked whether I needed 16g or 20g. size (MTB or road )

Genuine Innovations blew me away with their warranty fulfillment. The old inflator with damaged O-ring is shown at the bottom of the photo. It might be worthwhile to take a look at yours before you need it. This one has seen a lot of flats.

And, it just keeps getting better. 
The same rep called back to tell me that my package had shipped and then called a few days later to let me know that UPS had delivered the shipment and had left it at my door. I came home to find the O-rings to repair my old inflator, a new retail-packaged MicroFlate Nano, and a half-dozen CO2 cartridges. Remarkable.

Needless to say, I think Genuine Innovations deserves your business. Their parent company also makes Slime, which I have used for years in everything from wheelbarrow to tractor tires. 
 The internet makes finding contact information easy. Diane needed to replace her many years-old NRS kayak flotation bags recently. She called their 800 number and told them that the bags would no longer hold air. They told her they had a lifetime warranty and shipped new bags, along with a label to return the old ones.
If a product fails you, it never hurts to call the maker and ask about warranty. Serfas left me with a neutral feeling. Good stuff, but there's a lot of good stuff around. Genuine innovations and NRS earned loyal customers. 

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