(There I am, all logged in to the account that Performance Customer Service says they cannot find!)
I really enjoy working on my own bikes. I like the sense of satisfaction it it gives me, I like getting repairs done on my own schedule, and I like knowing that I did things correctly and competently. I also like to work on bikes that come with practical, useful features like replaceable derailer hangers. As I recently found out, it doesn't take much of a spill to bend a derailer hanger, so having one that isn't welded on to your otherwise perfectly fine frame is a real advantage. What I don't like is when the job of replacing this proprietary part is derailed (groan) by a combination of mass-retailer bureaucracy and the impersonal nature of e-commerce.
My Scattante (A house brand of Performance) XRL Cross bike has a removable, replaceable derailer hanger, so when I fell on it on the drive side a week ago and heard the telltale ting-ting-ting of the derailer cage bouncing off the spokes in low gear, I decided I should get a new one, if only to compare it to the one on the bike to see how bent it is, to do the replacement if necessary, and otherwise to have a spare around before they stop making them.
Off to the Performance website I went. The site had a plethora of derailer hangers on offer, but none of them were identified as fitting my frame. The website had a "live chat with customer service" option, so I went for it. Soon, I was connected with "Gary." I asked Gary if any of the hangers on the site would work, and if not, was there a way I could get a hanger for this frame. He replied that they did not have a hanger that would work available through the web site but that I could do a "small parts order" via Performance Customer Service.
That's when the email conversation started:
I started by emailing them on September 18th, shortly after my chat with Gary:
Following a live chat with Gary via your website, I would like to have you place a small parts order for a derailer hanger that is compatible with my 2008 Scattante XRL Cross frame. Could you please advise me how to proceed in regards to getting you my billing/shipping information and completing this order?
It took them a weekend to think about my request, but here's the response I got from them on September 21:
Dear Mr. Boulanger,
Your account could not be accessed with the information provided in your e-mail. Please forward your full name and billing address, your order number, or your customer number at your earliest convenience.
I got right back to them on the same day:
My full name is Matthew D. Boulanger, my billing/shipping address is REDACTED, and my customer number is REDACTED.
Perhaps stunned by the oncoming equinox, or slowed by the passing of the buck from "Amy" to "Kim," it took the representatives another two days to try to look up my account with all of the relevant information I provided. This response hit my inbox on September 23:
Dear Mr Boulanger,
I do apologize but we are still not showing you have an account, have you lived at a different address in the last year or so? Please advise. thank you
No problem. I advised, on the very same day:
Yes, I lived at a different address until the end of December 2008, and the most recent orders I made were prior to my moving and would have shipped/billed to my old address.
My old address was REDACTED, Burlington, Vermont, 05401.
I was able to log into my account prior to responding to you on September 21st to update that address to REDACTED. I assume my ability to log into the account means that I have one.
The email address associated with the account is REDACTED@gmail.com.
My customer number is REDACTED.
As I write this I am logged into the account, so I'm sure it exists. I have attached a screenshot.
Thanks and good luck,
See the above screenshot. As I prepared my response to Amy, I actually opened up another tab and logged into my account with Performance. I had no problem doing so using the information I had provided to her before. Here's the response I got back:
September 24, 2009
Dear Mr Boulanger,
I do apologize but I am still unable to locate your account with the information you have provided, you may want to call customer service at 1-800-727-2433. Thank you
Well, I'm sorry you're sorry, Kim. I'm also sorry that nowhere in this exchange did I get any information about whether the part I want to buy is available or not. I'm sorry that an account that exists on your website, in your system, that I can log into, is not findable by the good people at Performance HQ. I'm sorry that sending you a screenshot of my logged-in account did nothing to convince you that being unable to find my account is due to an inability to do so on your part and is not because it doesn't exist. I thought sending you that proof might inspire you to look a little deeper, or call someone who can. No dice. I should just start all over with somebody on the phone, i guess.
I don't want to call customer service. I don't want to waste any more time explaining what I need. I want you to find your supervisor or somebody who can work the computer. I want them to get my information up and I want them to use it to bill me for a part for my bicycle and ship it to me. Barring that, I want somebody to check some inventory somewhere and if the part is no longer in existence, I want somebody to tell me that.
And what if I didn't have an account? What if I just emailed Performance and asked them if they could send me this part? What if I emailed customer service and just asked them if they have the part in stock?
A little googling reveals some facts, and that others have been in the same shoes:
1. These frames used to come with a spare hanger in the box, now they don't.
2. Nobody I could find online has ever gotten a straight answer out of tech support about whether any of the hangers are compatible.
3. Somebody's Scattante XRL frame came with a Pacific Cycle sticker on the box. Pacific makes frames for a lot of manufacturers, so there's probably a frame out there somewhere, under another marque, that shares this hanger. It would be nice if somebody at Performance would be willing to share this information.
Maybe it's time to pull the old one, photograph it, and get in touch with the folks at derailleurhanger.com to see what they advise. I bet I'll at least get a straight answer.
At any rate, I'm posting this to my blog via email and I'm going to do Performance's Customer Service people the courtesy of copying them on it. I like Performance. I've ordered from them before. I've endured the snobbery that one endures when shopping online instead of at the vaunted LBS, and I have stood up for online retailers before in debates about the moral obligations we might or might not have to "shop local." This experience might start to change how I participate in that debate. I might pay more at the LBS, but at least I have the option of not leaving the counter when my question isn't answered satisfactorily. To be fair, I'm going to copy this post over to Performance Customer Service and give them another shot.
Hmmm. Will Performance get back to me with some information? Will someody there find out if they still make the part I need?