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Is it just me or is the whole wheelchair manufacturer customer dynamic all backwards?

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  • Is it just me or is the whole wheelchair manufacturer customer dynamic all backwards?

    So I can only speak about dealing with Topend and Tilite.

    But am left with the feeling they are doing me a whole favor by having me as a prospective customer.
    It's like pulling teeth dealing with these companies. I only want to give them $$$ for the item they are allegedly in business to manufacturer !


    The only company that comes close is comcast cable on the customer service front.... Praise be, we now at least have Centurylink in the neighborhood.

    What I'd give to get a call back, or have some meaningful dialogue where they listen and correct all the issues with their CAD. Like this SCI BS isn't a big enough bitch to deal with.

    Gave up with Topend, does anyone even work there anymore ?

  • #2
    Many suppliers consider their customers to be your insurance company, not you.

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    • #3
      Top End went through a big turn over last year. Have you tried Mike Box or some of the other small places?

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      • #4
        Come now, as we all know, those wheelchair people are complete retards who should be ignored. Only professional DME vendors know what they are talking about, 'cause they are like, professionals. Hence wheelchair manufacturers prefer to deal with DME vendors and provide them with 100% markup for their expertise in dealing with those incredibly stupid wheelchair users

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        • #5
          The Comcast Cable comparison is pretty accurate.
          My story; I bought a used 2007 Permobil C300 (front drive) while waiting for medicare to kick in. That chair saved my life. I MUST recline periodically or my feet will swell due to DVT. Not overweight or diabetic.
          Got Medicare 2014, I chose Permobil M300 (center drive). It worked great on smooth hospital floor. However, when at my home (hardwood floor) it would not steer smoothly from stand still (like backing out from bathroom doorway). It would jerk in the chosen direction resulting in a banged door or wall. Permobil replaced caster bearings due to recall to no avail. I called them again, "my problem still exists". By this time 2 months had passed. Sales rep came out this time and said, "your problem is with Permobil, not me". He then said I should have returned chair before 2 week trial period expired. What? I never knew I had 2 weeks to try it out to see if it worked in my home. I didn't call Permobil after that, I use my older chair and my newer (2014) chair is a back up.
          I will be getting a new chair this year and will chose Permobil again despite recent reliability issues I've read.
          Lessons learned; Center drive chairs do not like tight spaces (although they have smaller turn radius), they ride rough and get stuck easier out doors, also I have 2 weeks to try out new chair (ask your vender about this trial) .
          I have 32" doorways in my home. 36" or 38" doorways, center drive may work better but they have an inherent jerk in direction change from a stop (due to 4 casters changing directions).
          Attack life, it's going to kill you anyway
          Steve Mcqueen (Mr Cool)

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Gearhead View Post
            The Comcast Cable comparison is pretty accurate.
            My story; I bought a used 2007 Permobil C300 (front drive) while waiting for medicare to kick in. That chair saved my life. I MUST recline periodically or my feet will swell due to DVT. Not overweight or diabetic.
            Got Medicare 2014, I chose Permobil M300 (center drive). It worked great on smooth hospital floor. However, when at my home (hardwood floor) it would not steer smoothly from stand still (like backing out from bathroom doorway). It would jerk in the chosen direction resulting in a banged door or wall. Permobil replaced caster bearings due to recall to no avail. I called them again, "my problem still exists". By this time 2 months had passed. Sales rep came out this time and said, "your problem is with Permobil, not me". He then said I should have returned chair before 2 week trial period expired. What? I never knew I had 2 weeks to try it out to see if it worked in my home. I didn't call Permobil after that, I use my older chair and my newer (2014) chair is a back up.
            I will be getting a new chair this year and will chose Permobil again despite recent reliability issues I've read.
            Lessons learned; Center drive chairs do not like tight spaces (although they have smaller turn radius), they ride rough and get stuck easier out doors, also I have 2 weeks to try out new chair (ask your vender about this trial) .
            I have 32" doorways in my home. 36" or 38" doorways, center drive may work better but they have an inherent jerk in direction change from a stop (due to 4 casters changing directions).
            By addressing your problem here, I am a bit off topic. Hopefully it will help others too.

            You can mitigate the jerking of the casters a good deal by tuning the nut at the top of the caster counter clock wise. This loosens the bearings and allows the caster to turn without so much jerking. That said, you have to be careful that you don't loosen the bearings too much, otherwise your casters will flutter. Once the bearings are loosened, the casters will move more freely and frequently, but that does come with a trade off that you have to watch backing out of tight spaces (like cabinetry on both sides of the chair). Before I had the bearings loosened, I could back up about 8 feet without the casters turning. Now, I have to inch out of a tight space to avoid scarring up the walls of the cabinetry.
            Attached Files

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            • #7
              There shouldn't be any "jerking" with a powerchair that's programmed correctly, all movements should be smooth as silk and intuitive. The problem is that someone that attended a lunch and learn is a "tech."

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Rustyjames View Post
                There shouldn't be any "jerking" with a powerchair that's programmed correctly, all movements should be smooth as silk and intuitive. The problem is that someone that attended a lunch and learn is a "tech."
                I'm not sure what you are trying to say in your comment.

                Do you have a Permobil m300? If you have one, have you never had this jerk/pull to the left or right problem?

                My suggestion comes from a high level representative in the Permobil organization that suggested this fix when I encountered this person at an Abilities Expo. Permobil offers services at these expos to solve problems and that is what they did for me, as I explained in my post.

                Love to hear your experience with these m300's if your experience is different.
                Last edited by gjnl; 01-23-2019, 11:13 PM.

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                • #9
                  I also think wheelchair manufacturers are backwards, especially for those who don’t need/want dealers involved. We are not required to go through a dealer for funding, and we have not had good experiences when we have. Especially with customisations, I think it is critical that the user has contact with the manufacturer directly when needed. We have a possibility for funding for a new wheelchair, but due to all of the hassles we have had in the past we will wait as long as possible before we buy a new chair. Surely this is not in the better of interests of wheelchair manufacturers, so it would behoove them to do what their customers request and have better contact with them!
                  Partner of an incredible stroke survivor. Limitations: hemiparesis and neglect (functional paralysis and complete lack of awareness on one side). Equipment: TiLite ZRA 2 and 2GX, Spinergy ZX-1, RioMobility Firefly. Knowledge: relative newbie for high-level equipment (2012), but willing to try to help others who are new with similar limitations (definitely not a guru, but inquisitive).

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                  • #10
                    When it comes to the DME part of the equation, I think the margins are so thin that it's hard to attract high quality people. Folks like fuentejps and stephen212 are the exception rather than the norm. It's worse than dealing with used car salepeople most of the time.
                    "I have great faith in fools; self-confidence my friends call it." - Edgar Allen Poe

                    "If you only know your side of an issue, you know nothing." -John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

                    "Even what those with the greatest reputation for knowing it all claim to understand and defend are but opinions..." -Heraclitus, Fragments

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                    • #11
                      I was in the process of ordering a new wheelchair and had a question only TiLite could answer. The DME was refusing to initiate a conference call. I called TiLite directly and they said that they need an order number. I asked the DME for the order number. They refused to give it to me because they didn't want me working with TiLite. I got the local TiLite rep to find the order number and answer my question. The DME was so upset that I went around them that they cancelled the order.

                      I understand why they would be upset that I went around them. What I don't understand is why they would refuse to help. What choice did they leave me? They can't have it both ways. Totally unreasonable.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by August West View Post
                        I was in the process of ordering a new wheelchair and had a question only TiLite could answer. The DME was refusing to initiate a conference call. I called TiLite directly and they said that they need an order number. I asked the DME for the order number. They refused to give it to me because they didn't want me working with TiLite. I got the local TiLite rep to find the order number and answer my question. The DME was so upset that I went around them that they cancelled the order.

                        I understand why they would be upset that I went around them. What I don't understand is why they would refuse to help. What choice did they leave me? They can't have it both ways. Totally unreasonable.
                        I am having similar difficulty with my DME. This is the first time around I’m getting the feeling that the DME actively doesn’t want me to get a chair. Ive said from the beginning with them that I know exactly what I want im not flexible about it, but I’m willing to pay whatever insurance doesn’t cover. Yet I have to fight them tooth and nail to get any progress.

                        i don’t really understand how they stay in business, unless they stuff enough people into high margin ill-suited choices quickly and so doing anything that requires thought or work (such as filling out an order form with actual options selected) isn’t worth their time.

                        at one point i called my insurance company and asked them if I could order a titanium chair (I know good and well that I can, and will have to pay for the upgrade out of pocket). The insurance rep said hold on, called my DME then called me back and said THE DME SAID I can’t get a titanium chair. I was literally at a loss for words for a long moment then politely asked them why the DME was telling BCBS what BCBS’s policy covered and how it worked. I had to argue with her patronizing “explanation” for a few moments before she actually looked at the policy and said “oh... yeah... you can get whatever you want you just have to pay for it”. So aggravating. I’m sure a titanium upgrade puts at least a couple extra bucks in the DMEs pocket, but they went out of their way to try and prevent me from doing it.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by funklab View Post
                          I am having similar difficulty with my DME.
                          It's common. But I don't blame the DME entirely. I had a DME who was pretty helpful with private insurance but couldn't do much (or anything) for me with Medicare.

                          Originally posted by funklab View Post
                          I?m getting the feeling that the DME actively doesn?t want me to get a chair... I don?t really understand how they stay in business.
                          They have more work and less profit with titanium wheelchairs. They have less more work and more profit with power chairs. The DME tried to talk me out a titanium wheelchair and into a power chair. DMEs are people first and DMEs second. Some people only care about themselves and have no empathy for others.

                          Originally posted by funklab View Post
                          The insurance rep said hold on, called my DME then called me back and said THE DME SAID I can?t get a titanium chair.
                          Tail wagging the dog. It's hit or miss who you get on the phone. You have to walk a fine line between getting what you want and not pissing them off. It's an art... one that I am still refining. I have been waiting over 2 years for my wheelchair. Times like these it's hard to play nice. But you have to do it. I filed a complaint with Blue Shield that the DME wasn't letting me talk to TiLite and then they stopped returning my phone calls. Blue Shield was totally on my side on the phone. But the letter they sent was totally on the DMEs side. Right after then is when the DME cancelled my order. I don't know if it was because I went around them or complained to Blue Shield, maybe both. Either way, I am getting my wheelchair through a different DME. I still had problems. But I decided to use more honey and less vinegar. It's paying off.

                          Hard to do but they have the upper hand so you have to even when they totally disrespect you and treat you like they don't want your business but are just doing you a favor.
                          Last edited by August West; 01-24-2019, 09:10 PM.

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                          • #14
                            I agree the whole process is so horrible, you only think of getting a new chair when you really have to, which seems an insane way to run a business.

                            It would seem it would make more sense for the wheelchair manufacturer to hand hold you to the design of your new chair and then hand you off to the DME to deal with insurance crap.

                            Just so tired of this stuff.


                            Originally posted by August West View Post
                            You have to walk a fine line between getting what you want and not pissing them off. It's an art... one that I am still refining. I have been waiting over 2 years for my wheelchair. Times like these it's hard to play nice. But you have to do it. ....

                            It's paying off. Hard to do but they have the upper hand so you have to even when they totally disrespect you and treat you like they don't want your business but are just doing you a favor.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by August West View Post
                              I have been waiting over 2 years for my wheelchair.
                              Me too! I started the process in November 2016. My insurance just changed at work with the new year, so I am starting the process all over again and hoping to find a different DME (the one I was stuck with before was the only one my insurance would cover as in-network). I'm starting out this time by visiting a PM&R doc for the first time in 6 years and the first ever I've had who has a fellowship in SCI, and I am doing so 100% and for no other reason than so that when I appeal to the insurance company they have to find one of their specialist who is a PM&R doc (I don't know if same specialty applies to fellowships as well, they might have to go even further).

                              Also I just learned something interesting from one of my bosses who used to be an insurance doc. Apparently (at least as of a couple years ago) if you continue to appeal you can eventually request an outside appeal and if they want to fight that they totally have to go hire someone who doesn't even work for them to look at the appeal, which would probably cost them more than whatever you're asking for (at least when it comes to wheelchairs).

                              If insurance companies want to up the stakes, I'm the kind of asshole to double down...

                              Oh, and NW-Will this is why you DON'T wait until you "really have to" and start the process as soon as 5 years is up. There's a good chance I'll have to buy my own chair for cash because it becomes unrepairable before insurance actually kicks in and pays.

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