Not so sure if the idea of hearing aid manufacturers having offices in the field is such a bad idea. Hear me out…
The only issues as I see them, in this type of business model, are (a) sufficient coverage geographically, and (b) sufficient competition to keep costs down and service up.
We are seeing this now with cellular phone suppliers and two way radio system providers doing just this.
FURTHER TO THIS, I find myself in a quandary and here is my story, which I will post in a seperate thread if necessary, so it stands out as a warning to potential customers. CAVEAT EMPTOR!
My wife is deaf in one ear and impaired in the other. She relies on a CROS system hearing aid setup to determine where sounds are coming from and to converse in a group, which she must do for both business and for personal reasons (such as maintaining a level of self assuredness in family and/or friend gatherings). We understand that there are only TWO brands of CROS systems presently on the market; namely Unitron and Phonak.
The audiologist recommended the Unitrons and we bought and paid for them about a year ago. They have spent much time in the ‘shop’ and to make a long story short, Unitron ultimately replaced them with a brand new set (as we were led to believe). You would think that after almost a year of troubles Unitron would have checked to ensure the units were working before letting them leave their plant. NOPE! You would have thought that the dispenser and audiologist would have checked the units out with a ‘standard’ program to ensure they were ready, working and only in need of minor tweaking when we took a half day off to (yet again) pay a visit to this dispenser/audiologist that is located near Markham/Stoufville, Ontario. NOPE. You would think that we would be somewhat ticked off arriving to find the system DEAD and the audiologist UNABLE TO PROGRAM even the working side. You’d be right. We said that we were unhappy and asked for a different make. We were told that because of all the trouble we could switch to the Phonak Audeo V system at no cost to us (after all, dispensers are extremely well paid in Ontario for their services. Sic. They are grossly overpaid.). We agreed, having taken the time to research on this forum primarily and determining that this was EXACTLY the system we wanted and which would do the job.
Strangely, the audiologist insisted on doing another hearing test. The Phonaks were ordered in and we again took time off for the 10th. time or so to come and get the “fitted”. Well, the “fitting” on Phonak Audeo V is no big deal if you have a clue as to what you are doing. The unit is micro sized and has a wire that places a wee speaker/microphone in your ear. The CROS transmitter side has a microphone only supposedly and requires little or no adjustment whatsoever as I understand it. The whole job should have taken about 20 minutes I am told. Well, guess what. They had no clue as to how to properly program the Phonak system either at this place near Markham/Stoufville in Ontario. We finally insisted on dealing with the branch manager and having the Phonak rep there. And so it came to pass. And we are about as tickled as tickled can be with the equipment, after taking about 16 half days off in visits to the dispenser/dealer with all of this nonsense. Asides from eating batteries, which we expected, the Phonaks are miraculous pieces of engineering and my wife cannot imagine a better system, bar none.
Our issue is now with the dispenser/dealer. They claim that Unitron, despite the issues we had and despite the hearing aids sold to us (and paid for in full) being LEMONS and despite all of our wasted time… Unitron was chargin a restocking fee of 25%!!!
The original quote of “We will change your hearing aids for the Phonaks at no cost to you” became… “This is going to cost you about $400 plus taxes”. That we were prepared to live with and offered to pay. I had my credit card out. Our invoice was not ready. “Next visit” we were told (when we would come in to pick up the units). At the next visit, when we came in to pick up the Phonaks, we were told “we are going to have to charge you $500+” and upon asking to speak to the owner we were told the owner had several locations and was not available. We left. AGAIN, no invoice was ready nor presented to us although we did have a business card with the original quote on it. We had to return yet again to have the units programmed; this time with the Phonak rep. present. And again, when we went to leave, there was nobody at the counter to speak to us nor take our payment (I was, at that time, willing to pay $500 to keep the peace and maintain future relations. Still no invoice presented though.) Well, imagine our shock, when a few weeks later we received a statement in the mail announcing that we owed $1200 (!!!) along with a credit note for the original Unitron purchase but STILL… no invoice for the Phonaks! I finally had to call and insist on them sending me a copy of the invoice, which the eventually found and faxed to me. The difference between the two invoices was indeed $1200, but we were not going to stand still for one minute after being told that it would cost us ZERO. I asked for the owner again and was told she was out of town until ‘next Tuesday’ and would call me on her return. All of this conversation is recorded “for quality control purposes”. I asked for the manager who happened to be the gal that looked after us on our final visit along with the Phonak rep. She did not understand why the bill was so high but immediately said that she could reduce the bill by some $650 give or take. I should have paid the $550 and shut up… but I reminded her that the original quote on the difference, due to all of our aggravation, was ZERO. She said she would have the owner call us and that was the end of the conversation.
Well, the owner did call us back, a week later than expected, TODAY and left a message stating quite succinctly that the balance was $1200 and she was going to do nothing about it.
At this point I am torn between just letting them take us to small claims court and let a JP decide what’s fair, based on the evidence, or talking with the owner to come to some sort of amicable arrangement in order to give the wife an avenue of approach for any future problems that may arise with the product. Suggestions would be appreciated.
If the thing were to go to court I would subpoena all of the staff involved in the billing process as well as the staff that were involved in the original deal… as witness to the pricing mentioned. I also have some other evidence of the earlier pricing quotes and of our inability to pay as they refused to take payment due to lack of having paperwork.
We do not wish to be the customers from H–L but then again do not want to be stepped on.
Problem in Ontario is that they are just getting paid too much money by the government and customers - they have no fear of ridicule or loss of business.