Thursday, October 30, 2008

New Chair!

OK, I know I haven’t posted anything since way back in August, when I told you about my problems with getting my wheelchair repaired and about the loaner chair that kept stopping on me. Well, that situation went on until the beginning of October, so my energy level’s been really low. But I thought I’d update you with the good news and the bad news.

I’ll start with the good news first. The good news is that I now have a brand new, squeaky clean Pronto M91 power wheelchair. It was just delivered today and the service technician made most of the adjustments I needed. There are still a couple mor tweaks needed, but those will be done this Friday. This chair is pretty much like my original Pronto M91, but with a couple of great upgrades. So I’m really happy about that.

Now for the bad news. Why do I have a brand new chair instead of my original 3-year-old chair?

Well, at the end of September I got a call saying my chair had finally been fixed and they’d bring it out the next day. So the next day I got a nasty shock when the service technician brought me an old chair that was really, really short. Now, I’m pretty short myself, but this chair was so short I knew right away it had to be someone else’s. When I got up close to feel the chair I knew for sure it wasn’t mine. The service technician called his boss to tell him it was the wrong chair, and his boss told him that was the chair they had on file for me. Later that afternoon the boss’s boss called me and said the same thing. Since back in March when my own chair was brought in for repairs, they’d been thinking my chair was a Quantum 6000 instead of my Pronto M91. (And if you’ve read my previous post you probably saw this coming just like I did.)

In the meantime I was still stuck with a loaner chair that kept stalling on me. Although my service provider had tried to fix this loaner chair in August they couldn’t find the problem, so they replaced the batteries, cleaned out the terminals, made a couple of minor adjustments and gave it back to me. But the chair still kept stalling. So at the end of September, with my mobility restricted and my energy level still really low, I wasn’t happy to hear that they couldn’t find my own chair at all. Yeah, that’s right, they lost my wheelchair, and after the 6 and a half months my chair was in limbo that’s not much of a surprise. I asked them again for a reliable loaner chair that wouldn’t stop dead on me in the middle of the road, and at this time a staff member at my community center also started calling them on my behalf. At the beginning of October I finally got a reliable loaner chair, which wasn’t too comfortable but did the job. It was such a relief to have a working chair again.

Earlier this month I wrote a letter to the CEO and vice-president of the company I’ve been dealing with. In this letter I gave a detailed chronological account of pretty much everything that had happened with my chair since March, as well as the impact this has had on me. I also requested that this company get me a brand new Pronto M91 chair from the manufacturer, not only because they lost or misplaced my own chair but also because of the excessive amount of time it took them to repair the wheelchair they thought was mine. I c.c.ed this letter to a journalist who’s known for her column on disability issues, and also said in the letter that I had the purchase invoice as well as a photo of me in my chair as evidence that the Pronto M91 was really my chair.

Unbelievably, within 2 days of sending the letter I got a call from the company. The person I spoke to was very nice, apologizing for the trouble I went through, and she said that the next day she’d work on getting me a brand new chair. She was true to her word, and the next day she went through the manufacturer’s order form with me over the phone. She said it would take about 2 weeks for the chair to come in, and now, after less than 2 weeks, I have my new chair. Whoo-hoo!

So, I guess I’ve learned something from my experience that I can pass on to other people. This is, if you have problems with a particular company it can help to go to the top. Not only go to the top, but make sure you have documentation like e-mails, invoices etc. If you don’t have concrete documentation, at least make detailed notes about what you’ve experienced, who you spoke to, when you spoke to them, what you told them and what they said. It helps to have a good, coherent chronological account of your issue, otherwise the company won’t have enough information to go on and may not take you seriously. If you write a letter to the bigwigs, it also helps to carbon copy the letter to a journalist you think might be interested in your issue, especially if you know other people have had similar problems.

Anyway, now that I have a comfortable, working set of wheels again, maybe I can start posting more stuff.