first of all, maya is one of the most brilliant programs ever written
Im not sure why your having hassels with this tool, its only a new add on in the last few versions anyhow.
Why not use a deformer, to get your results.
Or.. better still, change to the animation set.
select the vertices you want, add a cluster, and then use paint cluster wieghts tool. This does the same job, but gives you even more control.
Just some thoughts
There's nothing normal about normals. In FACT i think the are abnormal.