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I currently have 3 gitzo tripods. They are subjected to some tough conditions, and they all have served me well with no issues. There will certainly be problems in any batch of product. In my opinion, something of this magnitude looks to be some sort of initial weakness in that part that eventually became much worse. My tripods have banged off rocks, been in salt/fresh water, and have been exposed to some bad conditions, but I have never had a problem like that.
Just as with most things on the internet, you'll find that those who are happy with the equipment seldom speak much about their satisfaction, but who have problems (and in this case righteously so) will carry the bigger megaphone. I have a friend who uses a RRS tripod that has been in the shop on so many occasions that he is on a first name basis with the repair deparment, but that doesn't mean they make poor quality tripods. Likewise, when you see a tripod like this that has a failure, that doesn't speak to Gitzo as a whole --- otherwise you would see far more instances of issues.
What does make a difference is how a company deals with such an issue after the fact. That is an area where Gitzo definitely has some problems. Their repairs can take a VEEEERRRRYYY long time.