Sunday, August 14, 2005

Who's on First, and Is He Driving the Big Brown Truck?

My wheelchair and my the lift on my van both needed repairs at the same time.

My wheelchair's regular maintenance needs are covered by my health insurance, for which I am thankful. I took it in for new tires, batteries, and a new seat cushion, and found out that my squeaky left rear wheel needed a new motor. They ordered it, and it was to arrive in about 5 business days.

The lift on my van, which I hate using for a variety of reasons, was barely getting my wheelchair into the van anymore. It also needed a new motor, but such things are not covered by insurance. You can, however -- and this is a big "tip from the crip" -- use the money from a health care spending account to pay for disability-related equipment and repairs on a car or van. (You can also use this money to pay for disability-related access work on your house/apartment, for things such as grab bars, lifts or ramps, widening doorways, etc.)

So, they ordered the motor, and, because I needed everything to be ready to go by 8/12 (a Friday), because I was going on vacation -- a driving vacation. I said that I would pay extra for them to send the lift motor by 2nd day air, because otherwise it might not arrive on time.

On Monday when I called, nothing had come -- but that wasn't surprising. Tuesday, I was too busy, and didn't call. On Wed. when I called, they had "just found out" that the motor for the wheel on the wheelchair was "backordered" and might not come in time, but it might come on Friday. Oh, and they "forgot" to ask for 2nd day air on the lift motor, but it "should" arrive on Friday also.

Friday morning, I get to the wheelchair vendor/mechanic at 10:30 am; UPS has come, but the truck was so full and disorganized that the guy was going to be coming back -- this from the "customer service" guy at the front desk. So, he doesn't know if either of the parts came.

I call my dad and he takes me to breakfast at the nearby public golf course. We get back to the vendor about 1:30. "Tell me something good." I say to Mr. Customer Service. "I don't know."

"Did the UPS guy come back?"


I sit and stare out the window for a while, and then I say, "I understand [from what he told me earlier] that the UPS delivery guy isn't the one who loads his truck, so he doesn't know where all the boxes are, but he must have a list of everything he has, right? [I believe this is sometimes called a "manifest", but I don't use this word.] "Did anyone ask him to check his list of boxes to see what had come?"

"I don't know."

Just then the phone rings, and Mr. Customer Service answers. He says, "Uh huh. So it won't be shipped until Monday. And who's that for?" Then he hangs up. I have a bad feeling about it, but hey -- I am not the only customer that they've got. There is no reason, other than the hairs sticking up on the back of my neck, for me to assume that this overheard scenario was about something for me.

About a minute later, Mr. Repair Guy comes out and sits down. "Well, dear," he says, which just makes me want to hit him in the head with a baseball bat, 'cause he's lied to me before, and I never know when he's telling me the truth, if ever. "The motor for your wheel on your chair won't be here until next week, but I've done blah blah blah to it and it should be okay for your vacation."

"And what about the motor for the lift?" I ask.

"It came this morning, and Mr. Van Repair Guy just finished installing it."

"It came before I got here this morning?"

"Yes, you're all set."

So -- back at 10:30 am, Mr. Customer Service either lied or didn't know what he was talking about when he told me that they didn't know if my stuff was on the truck. The UPS guy had dropped off the lift motor, and wasn't coming back that day because he didn't have any more deliveries there.

The insidious thing about wheelchair/durable medical equipment (DME) vendors is that there aren't that many of them -- at least not like car mechanics. I go to these people because they are the devil I know, and I have literally never been able to find a crip to give me a good recommendation for another outfit.
They overcharge like crazy on the stuff that gets paid for by insurance -- but their suppliers overcharge too, for the same reason.
I've been dealing with this place for years. The staff turns over pretty frequently. I always call a lot to check on the status of things because they will often find out something is "backordered" and not call me, or, conversely, finish the work on something and not call either.
In order to get the real story during this latest adventure, I would have had to question 2 0r 3 people before I got the whole story. I am in the business of service provision myself, and am sensitive to not being too pushy a customer -- it didn't really occur to me that the kid at the front desk (Mr. Customer Service) was either making shit up and/or talking out of his ass when I was trying to get the story on the status of things when I arrived. In fact, I thought the idea of me sitting in the small waiting room, which is where his desk is, would have been extra incentive for him to do everything possible to get me out of there as quickly as possible.
It sort of felt like a bad Seinfeld episode. Where's the Soup Nazi when you need him?

1 comment:

Gimpy Mumpy said...

Oh how frustrating! Have you tried out the messageboards at Mark Smith's Wheelchair Junkie? I remember them having a section for folks to tell about good and bad wheelchair/lift related vendors.
This guy sounded like my PCP's secretary. Full of contradictions (lies) that keep me running in circles of confusion.