(Those who are late to the party and want to catch up can find my previous updates on my Kinja Profile.)
UPDATE: After speaking with ECS’s warranty and returns department and being informed they can’t do a cash refund on the broken bearing, they have agreed to send me a new throwout bearing free of charge. The caveat to this being that it will be a Genuine MINI OEM unit, as they are unable to ship a Valeo bearing separate from the kit. They have assured me that the OEM bearing will work just fine with the Valeo conversion kit. It will take a couple of days to get the unit shipped out, but they have arranged to have it sent overnight with Saturday delivery to make sure I get it as soon as possible. Mike, the representative I spoke with, informed me that he will personally inspect the unit before it ships out.
I am still hesitant about their claims that an OEM unit will work and of having to wait on yet another replacement package from them. However, once again, beggars can’t be choosers. This is a compromise that costs me nothing but a couple more days of waiting. I will give them this chance, but I will not redact or adjust my original post below, as it still stands that my experience up until this latest exchange has been unsatisfactory, to say the least. I commend them on taking the high road on the issue of the throwout bearing though, and may still use their business for less...fragile components. Only time will tell. For now, we wait and see what happens with the new throwout bearing they are going to send me.
Original post follows:
Dear ECS Tuning,
When I ordered my replacement clutch kit after the first one you sent was badly damaged in transit, I gave you explicit permission to open the Valeo manufacturer box and then request that you inspect the components and, upon inspecting them, package the components separately by wrapping them in styrofoam, bubble wrap, or some other means of additional protection before sending the replacement kit to me via UPS.
Congratulations. You met me halfway. UPS did indeed drop off the new box and the external ECS-branded box looked to be in good condition. Opening it, I found the green Valeo box directly inside with no additional padding, but appearing to be in good condition. Opening the Valeo box, I found a wealth of additional brown paper used as padding and...that was all the additional padding there was. Luckily, the flywheel and clutch disc looked to be in perfect new condition.
However, I found light surface rust on the pressure plate surface, which admittedly can still be used with a little cleaner and maybe a bit of scrubbing. While somewhat vexing, this is forgiveable- after all, beggars can’t be chooser and at this point I am undeniably in a begging sort of way. The centering tool, chewed up and notched as it is, is also in workable condition and will serve its purpose.
Then came the throwout bearing. My first hint was the tiny, brittle plastic bag in which it was wrapped before being wedged into the corner of the box. Said bag was punctured and and ripped in more than a few places. Opening the bag the rest of the way, I found the throwout bearing in decent condition upon initial inspecton. There were a few notches from having forcibly met the teeth of the flywheel during transit, but nothing to indicate a degradation in structural or operational integrity.
Then I noticed the retaining clip, which holds the bearing onto the release fork. Looking down, I found the rest of this clip in the plastic bag. You can see this piece of clip in the included picture. This clip is extremely important. When the exact same clip on my OEM throwout bearing failed, it ended with a spectacular grenading of the rear assembly of that OEM throwout bearing, which ended up as so many shards of metal and plastic ricocheting around my bell housing, accompanied by a cacophonous symphony reminiscent of thumbtacks in a blender.
I promise that I’ll be polite, but I am not going to mince words on this one. I blame you, ECS. I blame you for not respecting my request to package this kit with more thorough protection. I blame you for thinking that a few wads of brown paper are adequate padding for a set of internal automotive components machined to very exacting specifications. If you lay that blame on Valeo, then that tells me that you did not in fact open and inspect the original box as I requested- or that you did and somehow felt that all was in order and that my request for additional packaging was just more of that newfangled Millennial Entitlement you keep hearing about.
Let me tell you about my ‘entitlement’. I have had a rough few months. It has not been easy, but I have not stopped trying. It is not my first time having a rough patch and it is not even the worst one I have suffered- not by a long shot. However, the difference now is that I have a family depending on me- a family consisting of a fiancee afflicted with polycystic ovarian syndrome, fibromyalgia, anxiety, and depression and whom is just now realizing she may have to give up on her dreams of being a nurse and accept a medical diagnosis of ‘Disabled’. Also in our family are her two sons: Dax, who is 7, and Jett, who is 9; both of whom are autistic, with Dax being severely disabled and unable to care for himself or be left alone unsupervised at all.
That is my family. I provide for them. Or at least I did up until recently. I have lost 2 jobs in the past 3 months, each time accepting the next job at a reduced pay rate. I am not employed with my third. Each time we have run the math and decided we can make it work by tightening our belts just a little more and making a smattering of additional sacrifices, some small and some large. Each time we look at the numbers and say “We’ll survive. It’s just temporary. Things will get better.”
In three months, I have gone from making $16.00 per hour as a construction worker (Health reasons forced me to leave that field permanently) to making minimum wage as a pizza delivery driver and manager-in-training. And because of the issue of my stock 93,000-mile clutch going out the day after my first shift, I have not been able to do even that job. I have been picking up haphazard 4-5 hour night shifts inside the store for a handful of days each week if I can get a ride to and from the restaurant. At first it was only going to be a week or so. My manager understood. He even lets me get extra hours by allowing me to help close, even when they honestly have enough employees to do so.
Then the Valeo clutch conversion kit I ordered from you arrived badly damaged. I contacted you and was placated with the promise of a prompt return and replacement process, with empty platitudes assuring me of the care that would be taken with the replacement kit. I told my family, my friends, my manager, and my acquaintance who is letting me use his garage and lift to repair my Mini, that it’d be another week, but no more.
Then today arrived and I watched the UPS driver walk from his truck, respectfully straining with the weight of what is not a lightweight package, to my door to lay my long-awaited salvation upon my stoop. Bringing it inside, I opened that box. I was not happy, but I was ready to accept the measly ‘added packaging’, since the flywheel and clutch plate were well and good. I was ready to grin and bear the surface rust on the pressure plate- after all, moisture happens even to the best of us. It can be overcome. I was willing to look past the notches on the centering tool, since it can still be used as needed. But I cannot and will not accept a throwout bearing that cannot be held securely enough to reliably do its job.
And for that, I do not blame ECS alone. No, I do not blame UPS- they did their job as well as any primarily-automated shipping agency can be expected to. The exterior box was fine, showing no signs of major abuse. The man who removed it from his truck and walked it to my doorstep did not wantonly toss it about as the FedEx driver had. No- I blame Valeo, the manufacturer, as well. Because ECS might not be receiving my ire and my public digital tongue-lashing if you had taken the effort and thought to improve upon the flaw of the OEM throwout bearing while also improving upon their use of a dual-mass flywheel. It is not difficult to use an aluminum, or even steel, retaining clip and bracket. So many other companies do just that and still manage to make profits just fine. Instead you chose to cost-cut at the expense of reliability just as BMW and Mini chose to do.
As such, because of the oversight of Valeo’s Research and Development department and the blase dismissal of the customer’s needs from ECS, I now have to explain to my family, to my fiancee, to our children, to my friends, to my co-workers and my manager, that my car’s return to the road and my return to a steady 40-hour work week has been delayed once more. Delayed once again, because some people simply couldn’t be bothered.
And once again, I have to wonder how our finances are going to hold out. The generosity of strangers has been all that has kept us afloat for this first month of this new year. But my father did not raise me to budget for gifts and charity. I was raised to budget for what I can earn. And right now? My ability to earn has been sabotaged and besieged by unfortunate circumstances and inconsiderate, faceless entities behind desks and brand logos.
So no, ECS, I do not want a replacement throwout bearing. I want a refund for the useless one I now possess. And I will take that refund and I will find somewhere else to shop for my livelihood. You have lost me as a customer- doing business with you has reminded me of the difference between ‘inexpensive’ and ‘cheap’. So I will state it once again: I do not want a replacement- I do not trust you enough for that anymore. I want a refund. I want my money back. THAT is my entitlement.
-Yours in utter disappointment,
R. Chris Hall
Greenville, South Carolina
To my concerned friends: Don’t you worry- I am not going to give up. I am not going to give in to circumstance. But I hope you can forgive me if I ball my fists, inhale deeply, and rage at the moon from time to time.