By Tom Jow – When you work in bike shops as long as I have, you get to see a lot of broken parts. I mean hey, everything breaks. Sometimes the damage is caused by neglect. Often times it is just plain old abuse (“I was just riding along”, he said). Once in awhile, it is a legitimate defect. In the case of a defect, the manufacturer is expected to replace the defective component. Have you ever read a warranty policy? The bottom line is the manufacturer wants to inspect anything they think they may cover. In the old days (before smartphones and email), telephone calls were exchanged, usually followed by sending products to the manufacturer for inspection. More phone calls were exchanged. It could take forever. Despite the ease of evaluation afforded to us by electronic communication, these procedures must be followed. Any missing information can lead to a delay in the approval or denial of a claim. What is the best way to navigate a warranty claim?
Where to Begin
Read the warranty policy. The first thing to understand about warranties is that most have some sort of time limitation. This should not be unreasonable. If something is truly defective, a problem should arise within a short time after putting it into service. Typically components have 1-2 years, frames 1-5 years. The days of the lifetime warranty are pretty much over. Refer to the manufacturer’s documentation for exact details.
If your case falls within the warranty period, contact the retailer where the part/frame/bike/clothing item was purchased. They will be your liaison with the manufacturer. Defect or not, it’s pretty important to be nice to these guys. On the other hand, some manufacturers will work with the customer directly. This makes filing the actual claim easier, however, it does not necessarily increase your chances for a successful warranty claim.
The most important piece of information to your warranty case is the proof of purchase. This verifies when the item was purchased and that you are the original owner. Few, if any, warranties will benefit someone other than the original owner. Depending on the component, a request for service records may be made. For example, if a component breaks at month 11 of a 12 month warranty but it never received the recommended once a month service the manufacturer may deny the claim. Under paperwork, I will also include in any information regarding diagnoses by the rider and reputable bike shops under consultation. Finally, include pictures. Images (clear and in focus) normally required include the defect and the serial number. Be sure to construct any other images requested.
What to Expect
“There is no free lunch”. Contrary to popular belief, warranties are not free. Costs incurred by the user include shipping to the manufacturer, as well as any labor costs for disassembly and reassembly (of a bicycle, for example). In addition, most companies reserve the right to repair or replace. In the unfortunate event that the claim is not covered under warranty, a price quote will be made for repair or replacement. Sometimes a discount will be offered under the term “crash replacement”. Finally, these things take time. Factors determining how long a claim takes to resolve is related to the clarity of the paperwork, the size of the company, the location of the company, the severity of the defect, and your attitude.
Be Humble, Be Patient
As much as you, the consumer, is unhappy about a broken thing-a-ma-jig, neither the retailer nor the manufacturer want you to be without your equipment either. Everyone wants to be on your side. Keep in mind that most of agents in these warranty departments have a ton of experience. They have seen (and heard) almost everything. So in order to expedite your claim, be honest and be patient.
So yeah, everything breaks. If it happens prematurely it may be covered under warranty. Be prepared by keeping your receipt and serial number. Any records of time in service and maintenance are also handy. Keep in mind that having a potential warranty claim does not entitle you to be a pain in the you-know-what. Everyone involved will appreciate honesty and patience. A couple things to remember: “Sugar (or beer) goes a lot further than salt”, and “I was just riding along” is not a legitimate cause of breakage.
Got a bike question? Email Tom at [email protected]