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Being Frank: Warranty Versus Guarantee

110 Bottom Bracket
Brent Graves - CEO & President

March 2024

There is a common misunderstanding between a product warranty and a product guarantee. For consumer products, including bicycles and parts, a warranty states that the product was manufactured without defects in design or workmanship. This is a near universal definition. Warranties do not promise specific use results. In essence, a warranty claims that the product was made as intended. Guarantees are usually much more specific, usually promising certain function or performance attributes like, “guaranteed not to rust.”

For the most part, warranties are a marketing tool that are intended to reduce or eliminate buyer anxiety. Marketing teams would like the warranty statement to imply to the buyer that problems will not be encountered, and by extension the buyer will be satisfied. That’s all good until there is a problem and a customer service rep (CSR) has to explain to the customer what the warranty actually covers – defects. This is where it can get tricky, as the customer can easily see a failure as a defect but the company sees it as normal wear-and-tear, improper use, and/or negligent care. In some cases the claim may not be a legit warranty, but for the creation of goodwill the CSR has the product repaired or replaced.

This gap between the customer and company perspectives is not uncommon and sometimes leads to customer frustration that manifests as angry forum posts, trolling, and even lawsuits. Certainly, there are times when a product issue is related to a design or manufacture defect and for whatever reason the company declines to back the product. There are also times where there is no defect, yet the customer has experienced a problem leading to their dissatisfaction. This usually stems from mis-aligned expectations. For example, when I was young many BMX bicycles had stickers applied that stated the warranty would be voided if the bicycle was “used for racing, stunt riding, or jumping.” But those were the very types of riding the we expected to do with the BMX bike!

As stated above, guarantees are making specific promises, and are usually much more valuable to customers. Companies carefully craft guarantee statements to minimize their exposure yet offer what they think the customer will value. Warranties are required by governments, but guarantees are not. Since guarantees are not required and they expose the company to increased liability, guarantees are much less common. Again, marketing departments would like customers to view a warranty as a guarantee – up until the point the customer is dissatisfied and there is no real defect.

(Note: The U.S. requires a 1-year warranty whereas the EU requires 2 years.)

Marketing departments also understand that a longer warranty period is perceived to mean a better quality product. In reality, most true defects show up early in a product’s life cycle. If there is a real defect in design or workmanship, it generally shows up early. So offering a five or ten year warranty does not have as much value as it would seem. In contrast, a longer term guarantee should be more meaningful to the customer.

As it is required, all Cane Creek products have warranties. In addition to government required one- and two-year warranties mentioned above, our cranks for electric MTBs (Electric Wings) have a 5-year warranty, and our cranks for standard MTBs (eeWings) have a 10-year warranty. However, Cane Creek also offers a “100 satisfaction guarantee” on our 110 headsets and 110 bottom brackets. Without conditions we will replace parts if you are not satisfied. This is bold and uncommon, especially for high-wear parts. But what makes this guarantee extremely rare and valuable is that the guarantee covers the bearings! What does that really mean? Well, if you rode your 110 bottom bracket for seven years and put 1,000,000 miles on it and then decided it did not meet your expectations, Cane Creek will replace it. There is no fine print or special conditions. You are satisfied or not. No one anywhere offers a satisfaction guarantee for headset or bottom bracket bearings.

I hope this blog provides you with a better understanding of what warranties and guarantees mean. And if you want absolute peace of mind, look for a guarantee – like what Cane Creek offers with the 110 headset and 110 bottom bracket.

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