True to its word, Shimano resolved the issues with my Alfine-11 hub in 3-5 days. Yesterday I received an entirely different hub by return mail. I suppose it’s possible that this is a refurbished hub but by all outward appearances it’s brand new. By most any measure, Shimano’s response was beyond reproach. So why am I not smiling?
I’ve had doubts about Alfine from the beginning. Now I’ve survived a failure early enough to walk away from it with a brand new hub that should allow me to recoup much of my cost. If I were a superstitious person, this would be a clear sign to embrace my original fear, cut my losses, and move on. I’d be relieved and smiling.
But I’m not superstitious. Anything can fail. I know the hub didn’t fail so early in its life because I’m unlucky. It failed because of a manufacturing defect, a design defect, or because it was handled or operated outside of its design limits. By itself, an isolated failure offers little insight into which cause might be at the root. Unfortunately Shimano offered nothing new to shed light on the matter.
I sent the failed hub to Shimano in the blind, accompanied by a downloaded form with a brief description of the problems and my return address. No RMA number or any other way to contact them about the status or analysis of my hub. They sent it back to me in the blind with no failure analysis, no disposition, not even an indication whether the hub in the box was original (definitely not), refurbished (I think not), or brand new.
So I’m left to speculate. I’ll give Shimano the benefit of the doubt and assume that they would have acknowledged an obvious manufacturing problem. As in, “After opening up your hub, we found a bottle cap from a worker on the assembly line. Please try this new pristine hub with our apologies. “ Or, “No manufacturing process is perfect and sometimes a bad unit gets past our quality assurance. Here’s a new hub that has undergone additional scrutiny to ensure it will work properly for you. Please accept our apologies.”
I’ll call either of these responses door #1. I’d expect Shimano to be less forthcoming about door #2, a design issue in a production component with many units in the field. And if my ginger use of the hub so far is beyond it’s design limits, I’d say door #3 and door #2 are really the same: A bad design that I want no part of.