Mobility Scooter Meltdown

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Taking a page from Jan and Eric’s blogs to tell a personal story. Like many disabled people, I rely on my mobility scooter to get around. Twice now, I’ve been sold defective scooters. But this time I fought back, and after ten months, I won!

I’ve been riding a model made by a well-known manufacturer — you may have seen their ads on late-night TV, promising you a new life paid for by Medicare. I bought the scooter (not covered by Medicare) because it’s one of the smallest, lightest weight models available. That makes it easier to maneuver on a bus or indoors, or to lift into a car.

To my dismay, after a few months, the batteries kept running down and wearing out way too fast. The electrical parts started overheating and burning out. Pretty soon, the scooter became completely unreliable. It would overheat and stop working while I was out on the street, which is a bad situation for someone who can’t walk. I went through batteries every couple of months, when they are supposed to last at least a year. I needed help!

I called the manufacturer. They sent out a technician who replaced the battery and the transaxle, at no charge since the scooter was still under warranty. Things seemed to work better for a couple of months, then started going bad again. I could take very short trips and use the scooter in the apartment, but that was it.

I called the manufacturer for advice or instruction, but they couldn’t give me anything useful. Since they hadn’t been able to help me the first time, and since the scooter was no longer under warranty, I called an outside scooter repair service called Rollin Along. Their technician, a sweetheart also named David, came out and found the burned out electrical parts.

I had to wait weeks for the new parts to come, during which I was pretty much housebound. When the parts came, my total bill was $470, about half the price of a new scooter. It was only when David went to install the new parts that he discovered the source of the problem. The right rear tire had been installed backward, so that it was rubbing against the chassis. That’s what was running down the battery and overheating the motor. When David flipped the wheel around, the scooter started running much better. I finally got to see how they were supposed to work!

When I called Rollin Along, I had no intention of asking anyone else to pay for the repairs. But when it turned out to be a factory problem, which the manufacturer’s own repairman had failed to find, I asked them to pay my repair bill. They refused. They wouldn’t even get back to me by mail, e-mail, or phone. I had to catch someone in to talk to them at all.

Finally, I took them to small claims court, which takes a lot of time and cost $35 in fees. I won a judgment for $476 plus fees. They didn’t even show up to contest my claim. But they still refused to pay or even be in touch at all. Since they are headquartered in Pennsylvania and have no California property, my California court claim could not easily be enforced.

I kept after them. Finally, a phone receptionist put me through to their legal department, which nobody else there had been willing to do. I talked to a nice lawyer named Pat B. He offered to negotiate, which I thought would have been nicer before I had spent months taking them to court and more months trying to enforce judgment. Then he missed our first phone appointment, causing me to waste a day waiting for his call.

I was angry but patient. Finally we did talk, and he offered me $400. I felt like I should receive thousands for all the grief they put me through, but without any good legal way to proceed, I took his offer. When Pat sent the check, he asked if I could help him out by endorsing their product! I said I didn’t think so.

When I got the check, I felt like a weight had been lifted. I felt much more at peace, and I finally had a working scooter!

I don’t know about you. I don’t usually fight for myself, but now I think that’s a key to being well. It’s stressful to let people run over you. But it’s probably also bad to fight impossible battles. Do you have thoughts about standing up for yourself? How do you know when to fight and when to let go?

Note: Check out my new post on Reasons to Live, about valuing yourself. It’s based on a piece I posted here a year or so ago, with some good changes. I’ve also got a good short article called Why Healthcare Markets Can Never Work at Dissident Voice.

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