Warranties: Why are we taking it on the chin?

Monday, April 29, 2019

As I am dealing with the 10th warranty issue for power chairs this month, I feel the need to express something that has bothered me for years. I should also add that we are a one location, small company with big dreams, so 10 warranty issues in one month is a lot.

I am an ATP that has been serving my client base for years, and I am talking back when the power chairs were belt drive and tilt-in-space was a futuristic dream.

My issue is this: As an industry why are we still taking it on the chin for warranty repairs that we cannot bill our service time for. I know we will never get it from the insurance companies, nor should we expect to. We should be having our labor covered by the manufactures.

A typical warranty repair scenario involves driving three hours round trip to pick up a chair with a motor that has quit. It is still under warranty and the manufacturer is taking care of the part. However, we are out six hours, plus the repair time.  And to make matters worse, there are some that will charge us freight to ship the warranty parts to us.

Now, I don’t expect the manufacturer to pay our travel time. I do have my feet firmly planted on the ground. I do, however, feel that these companies should be paying us—the providers—to service their warranty work. The automobile industry has always paid the dealership for the labor on all warranty parts. My brother has been in that business for years and has always thought that we, as providers, were taking a hell of a loss on this very issue. Recently, we are having issues with a number of tilt mechanisms on some manual tilt-in-space chairs. I will not name names, but the labor to replace the mechanisms is awful. And again, we do not get paid for fixing their problems.

Now, I also realize that the auto industry and the wheelchair industry are different, but hey, let’s face it, complex rehab power wheelchairs cost as much as many cars these days and, in some instances, much more expensive.

I sincerely feel that we as complex rehabilitation providers should be requesting, if not demanding, this from the manufacturers we buy from. We constantly see prices going up and allowables going down. Manufacturers can pass on increased production costs to us, but we cannot pass on our costs to our customers.

I often have the reps of the major power chair companies after me to buy more of their product, and I try to keep it somewhat divided up. But if you really want to sell me on your product above everyone else, tell me you will pay us to perform your warranty repairs. That would not only sell me, but I have no doubt many other providers, as well.

There are many issues we, as an industry, have to deal with on a daily basis. Losing money on defective products should not be one of them.

—Claude Levesque CEO, ATP, CRTS, CEAC, CARE Services Co., Palmyra, Maine.