It’s me or the chair … [updated AGAIN!]
We just received our third new wheelchair in three months! If you want the simple punchline … we are keeping it. You can stop reading now.
If you want more than the simple punchline, well, keep reading. There’s more. There’s lots more …
It has become clear that we have reached the limits of the abilities of the wheelchair manufacturing world and I really don’t understand this. We are working with one of primary manufacturers of wheelchairs for this population, Sunrise Medical, and their largest DME distributor, National Seating and Mobility. We’re talking thousands of chairs a year.
I know some of these people personally. Some of them are fantastic, wonderful, smart, intelligent, caring people who really want things to go right. Some others, not so. But that is to be found everywhere. I do believe that the vast majority of the people at these two companies (and I am sure the others) are really good people. Some are parents of kids like ours. Why am I saying this? Because I do think some of these issues are ingrained in the industry somehow, not the individual people. Or maybe it’s just me. I encourage those in the industry to just tell me where I am wrong here.
- You have a kid.
- The doctors tell you your kid is messed up.
- Couple of years later you need a wheelchair. Someone (doctor, physical therapist, occupational therapist, physiatrist …) contacts a Durable Medical Equipment company (DME).
- You meet with a Rehabilitation Technology Supplier (RTS) who is an employee of the DME. Some have PT or OT degrees, which is generally a plus, especially for a wheelchair “fitting.”
- You smile, not really understanding everything, trust the RTS and whoever else is involved, maybe ask questions, maybe not. The first time, you hold back some tears.
- The DME then deals with the insurance company and the wheelchair manufacturer. They order the parts, possibly from multiple vendors, they assemble the chair. Note that our chair cost over $6000.
- The DME delivers the chair to you and your child, explains all about it, you sign a piece of paper and you are the proud owner of a wheelchair. You hold back some tears.
Remember the scratches on the first chair (and some on the second)? Well, this chair is no exception. By the time the chair arrived in the house it was scratched in several places, some very obvious (see image on left, one of many examples of how the manufacturer sent the new chair parts). I know that the scratches were on the parts when they were received by the DME. It appears that the manufacturer does not know how to properly protect the parts during shipping or just ships scratched parts. Not only visible scratches but parts of the frame already have touch-up paint.
I don’t get it. Would a car dealer deliver a new car with obvious scratches and obvious touch up? Or even a used car? Would Sears deliver a washer and dryer that are all scratched? Would you accept them? Would you accept a new bicycle that had multiple obvious scratches on the frame? The DME has offered to replace the scratched parts, they would be the fourth set of parts and personally I don’t fully believe the manufacturer is capable of delivering them in new condition (using the common definition of “new”). I am tired, I will touch up the scratches.
A quick diversion here before more problems with the chair. When we were ordering it, near the last minute, the actual chair designer (a GREAT guy named Rich at Sunrise Medical), had some suggestions. I thought they were great and I asked for an engineering drawing as to what some measurements would be if we went with his ideas (go with a Quickie vs. a Zippie (adult vs. pediatric) ). I have been told that I am the first customer to ever request such. What an honor! He sent me the drawing with the measurement I needed and I told my RTS that it was great, let’s go with it.
Then a surprise. My RTS told me she would not order the chair unless I signed the engineering drawing! Very bizarre, obviously no one in the history of the company had to do this since I was the first to request such a drawing, but heck, I must be such an asshole (my word, not hers) that she wanted to know this is what I wanted. Okay, I figured I would “behave” and I annotated the diagram and sent it to her. She accepted it and ordered the chair. Here is the drawing, with my annotations, click on it to enlarge it. I will be referring to it.
The first point in that drawing, and what mattered most, was the measurement from the primary axle to the front of the chair. It makes a difference in our van, and in our house. I cannot move the walls of the hallway to accommodate a longer chair (matters when turning). In ALL the interactions with both the DME and the manufacturer, this measurement was key. As a matter of fact, this is how everything started. Anyway … the drawing that I was required to sign and agree to shows 28.8 inches (I even emphasized it with a red square). My note on the drawing specifies it as well. The design engineer’s cad software shows it. I SIGNED OFF on the engineering drawing that specifies 28.8 inches and was required to do such before the chair was ordered.
So, what’s my point? The actual measurement of the delivered chair is 30.25 inches. And yes, it matters, big time.
The next point in that drawing, that I had to sign and agree to before the chair would be ordered, is that by moving the position of the footplate the casters (front wheels) will move 360 degrees (be able to spin around in any direction) even with the chair at zero tilt. Simple theory, the chair would work as the designer intended, not like the first chair of this series which did not work. Again, no tilt of the chair but it could be turned in any direction, the casters would be free to move as intended. We knew the requested footplate would interfere unless positioned properly, and that was fine.
So, what’s my point? The casters hit the wheelchair chair FRAME, it has nothing to do with the footplate and when the chair is in zero tilt, THE CHAIR DOES NOT WORK, even with the footplate removed. The manufacturer claims that this problem would be “red flagged” and obviously it was not. Heck, the designer’s design says it would work. It does not. The entire chair is using off the shelf parts, nothing custom, it should work. It does not.
What’s even better? When the chair was delivered, there were these plastic locks put on it by the DME so the chair cannot be put into zero tilt! It will only go down to 4.5 degrees. That’s the solution … it hurts when you do this? Don’t do that.
Funny, my car engine was making a strange noise the other day. Know how I fixed it? I turned up the radio.
The two primary points on the engineering drawing that I had to sign in order to get the chair ordered are completely, obviously, and knowingly violated. Why did I need to sign it? To ensure that I knew that we were not getting what we were ordering? Where did I do something wrong?
There are other issues, smaller ones that I can change with some wrenches, etc. but, alas I was specifically told they would be different.
I am tired. We are keeping the chair. And I am sure my DME friends hate me. Please, seriously, tell me where I am wrong, other than simply expecting a chair in new condition that works as advertised? Tell me.
I am not going to post about this chair stuff anymore (well, probably not). Just not worth it, and too embarrassing, but I just want to make my last points here. In regards to the three chairs over the past three months:
- The first chair was returned because at zero tilt the casters did not work. The third chair is being kept even though at zero tilt the casters do not work.
- The first chair was returned because Pearlsky’s school needs the chair to be put into zero tilt for her table. The third chair is being kept even though it does not work at zero tilt, it has been crippled to not tilt less than 4.5 degrees.
- The first chair was returned because the frame (and only the frame) had multiple scratches. The third chair is being kept even though the frame has multiple scratches, as does the stroller extension and the anti-tip wheely thingys.
- The first chair was returned even though it met the size specifications detailed by the manufacturer. The third chair is being kept even though it exceeds (a bad thing) the manufacturer’s size specifications.
So who is the retarded one?
I wrote an email to the CEO of Sunrise Medical offering him an opportunity to respond to my issues if he wanted to. I promised to reproduce his words, as is, without comment. I will let you know!
All I want is a wheelchair that is in new condition and works as advertised. NOTE: There is a piece of paper in the backpack delivered with the chair that shows the cost to be $8032.60. And it can’t even roll straight! Sunrise Medical cannot seem to deliver a chair in new condition that works as they claim it does, that is the size they claim it is. Boggles the mind. Do you think the Attorney General or Consumer Affairs or the insurance company would care?
This is so typical. You have the audacity to expect competence. Go to a motor cycle or bike shop and design a frame yourself based on what is needed. Farm out the rest to other people that are competent. Your experience is identical to what I experienced 25 years ago. Long ago I gave up all hope a wheelchair company can provide a top quality product.
I was just going to tell you to contact Bill because he’s quit these folks…there he is already. What is interesting is that they violated their own engineering design, which you signed…technically, is that not a breach of contract on their part? If you were rich and famous and not tired, could you sue them for such (wouldn’t that be fun…Wheelchair Company Screws Poor Little Disabled Kids and Their Dads…). As for the scratches…retarded kids don’t care about those, don’t you know…why should you? Idiots.
Nothing. You did nothing wrong. Would they have been more responsive if you were an attorney instead of an engineer?
wjpeace is my reference for the alternative to DME woes, too. You are at least as courageous as he and perhaps you can configure a different path for the next chair well in advance.
(Hope you are walking around with no more than a trill up your leg.)
Hey, I have been reading since I found you and you are absolutely right!! The whole thing is just so far gone with regards to equipment et.al
I coordinate a library of equipmnet as well a donated equipment, so that people can try before the go through Dante’s hike! or they can come in a get a long term loan. The fun part is fixing those products and re-constitute them for the better and the best part (Free) so I am a obsessed finder of things which brings me back to your story, which is that most of these parts are imported and supply partners change. In addition, look up how much the big A.T. Vendors put towards lobbying. What you said about the car and scratches, there is a saying that I regularly adhere to. If At. stores and suppliers had to sell these at say target or Walmart or best buy they would all be out of buisness. With that said, I try to do what little I can to find a way to bring all of these products through to the open market. This seems to be the biggest issue…Why?? try to go and look up the footplate parts, or maybe you need to do a critical update for your sgd, or you need more Ram you won’t find them. Unless you go to where they are originally manufactured which is a extreme secrecy. Remember all those industry training and fancy seminars like closing the Gap in Minneapolis it is like a big vendor orgy and it makes me sick.
Seriously, how do you find the energy to deal with all of this? My God. Hats off to you!
I totally get the quick review list. I’ve never had to deal with a wheelchair but have a very similar quick review in my back pocket. I totally get it.
Totally creeped out seems totally appropriate.
And that price tag seems insane, even if the chair had arrived as ordered and in new condition. Maybe the people who make the scratches take a cut. Have you looked at spinlife.com for price comparisons?
Quickie was a good company until Sunrise bought them out.
Years ago I ordered a really nice German wheelchair for my daughter; it had all the bells and whistles she needed and rolled like a dream. Between the time the order was received and the chair could be assembled to her specs and shipped, guess who bought out that company and refused to let the sale go through? Yep. Sunrise again.
I’ll bet there are still good European chairs, but you have to go there to buy them. You can’t, as far as I know, do the measurements yourself and
order them from abroad because the wheelchair mafia won’t let you import “medical equipment.” You can only bring them in as personal possessions you already own.
Of our current wheelchairs one is a lightweight titanium Swedish chair, one is a heavier chair called an XL that was manufactured by a guy in Chico, California. I hope I’ll be able to avoid Sunrise, just on principle, when we shop for our next chair.
You have been s c r 3 w 3 d.
More boldly, I might suggest you let-go of some of your loyalties. Might not be appropriate. Don’t hate me.
You might think this strange, too, but the most practical thing I can suggest is to go out-of-town for your next equipment need. If you read my several posts on wcs – included are links to big expos of DME that includes both wcs and aug com.
Hoping you pain-free or pain managed.
Sunrise Medical is the modern day equivalent of its historical antecedent Everest and Jennings. Both companies produced grossly inferior products and squash any technological advances that enhanced the lives of their customers. Customer service does not exist and profit rather quality is the priority. Both companies are contemptible. Any person with a sense of right and wrong quickly leaves the wheelchair business for good reason.
You are SO not in the wrong. They are assholes that are used to people just caving in. Keep pushing for getting what you expect. What they SAY you will get.
And keep writing about it. It’s interesting.