Earlier this year I raved about my dissatisfaction with Numotion and my issues with their services and response. To be perfectly honest, they were horrible to deal with, every step of the way. Well, my blog post “Picture me rollin” was immediately picked up on twitter by Justin Richardson, the Director of Customer Relations for Numotion, located on the east coast. Justin and I spoke on the phone at great length, a couple different times and exchanged emails addressing my wheelchair issues, mainly being:
- The wheelchair was entirely too wide for me, I had a few inches of space on either side, at the widest part, between my legs and the side guards.
- The tech measured me without shoes on, and didn’t account for shoe height, so we had to order spacers, which took about a year to sort out, to raise the whole chair up so the foot plate could be dropped enough for my upper legs to be weight bearing on the seat.
- The back was too high, and not supportive enough for my back issues, eventually a hard Java back was ordered (this took close to a year as well), but it was still a bit high.
- I was talked into an aluminum chair, rather than titanium, while not completely extreme, I consider myself to be a relatively high performance geared user and need a chair able to keep up with me, and with this factored in, I really should have gone titanium, my insurance would have had no issue approving such.
- The wheelchair pulled to the left, from day one, slight, but just enough that my left shoulder began developing tendonitis from working so much harder than the right, just to keep the thing going straight.
Now, I should have gone into the initial process having researched these things more myself. Really, I do that with everything else, pouring for hours over the internet finding every bit of advice and review before pulling the trigger, but I figured these techs and specialists were experienced enough to deduce what I needed after evaluating and talking with me. After the first year I started getting some better response and effort from Numotion, which still took a good deal of effort on my part, but the response time was improving.
Talking with Justin about the issues, I tried not to be completely scathing with my complaints, recognizing that I came into getting my first wheelchair about a month after Numotion bought out and merged the three big providers in the Portland area and there was all sorts of personnel shakeup and turnover happening. For instance, the tech that was assigned to my case, went through 3 different assistants before my chair was even ordered. Secondly, I explained how I really felt that my chair was measured and sized for an inactive user, I think it was being presumed that I needed a bigger chair because with transitioning to a chair, I was now going to be much less active and likely gain weight and size. The local techs were use to dealing with people where this really was the case, and didn’t have exposure to the more active, alternatively abled wheelchair users. As you can see, I’m trying to be a good example of not letting a wheelchair slow me down.
Justin reached out and talked with the regional manager for Numotion (WB Mick) on my behalf and Mick scheduled a visit to try and figure out the pulling to the left issue that had completely alluded my regular techs. Mick came to my house with one of their top repair techs and they put in a solid effort, trying all the tricks they could think of, but the chair was still uneven and pulling to the left. Before leaving, Mick got on the phone and called the local rep for TiLite (manufacture of my wheelchair) and after being unsuccessful with a couple more recommended things to try, the TiLite rep scheduled with me to take a look himself.
Turns out another buy-out/merger happened and right around this time, Permobil had purchased TiLite, and David Knight, the local Permobil rep was now the new TiLitee rep as well. David and I hit it off and while he was very new to the TiLite brand, he had a great deal of experience with wheelchairs and sincerely tried to address everything that could possibly be causing my chair to be pulling to the left. When all had been tried, he got on the phone with TiLite directly for more possibilities and kept at it, scheduling and trying another few things. Still, nothing worked. The next visit, David brought a loaner chair for me so he could send my frame to TiLite so they could try and figure out what was going on. The loaner chair was crappy, but I was happy to use it knowing that mine was being thoroughly evaluated. Well, TiLite tested out the chair and sent it back saying there was nothing wrong (we think they tested without full weight in the chair). David went to his manager and talked to his new contacts with TiLite and they agreed and authorized the chair to be overnighted back to TiLite again for more thorough evaluation.
In the meantime of trying to fix my chair, David and I talked in detail about the chair fit and size. Having a ton of experience in sizing chairs, David took complete measurements, brought me a smaller, newer loaner chair to try, and we customized a new chair to order if it came down to a point where my original chair were to be scrapped, or to have ready to go for the next chair in a few years when I would qualify for insurance to cover another one. The new loaner chair, although a tad on the small side, was great. It was amazing to me how much more confident I felt popping and rolling wheelies, going off curbs, and being able to fly without shoulder pain, not to mention the image improvement I felt having a chair that looked more “cool” rather than feeling like I was trying to navigate a tank through the city (which would be very fun in certain circumstances, just not this one).
A few weeks passed this time and David was getting no new updates from TiLite on the status of my chair. Needing to make a trip over there sometime anyways, David drove the couple hours to TiLite headquarters in the Tri-cities to see if he could find out what was going on. Well, when he got there and after inquiring, he found out that they had indeed checked out my chair in more detail, determined that the front stems were ever-so slightly twisted, causing the chair to pull to the left when loaded, and they scrapped the chair. TiLite makes a great product and thus has a lifetime warranty on their wheelchair frames, and when this root cause was discovered, they were ready to replace my frame. David proposed the new specs/measurements and got the frame ordered, which was great news, but told me while he tried his hardest to get TiLite to throw in the upgrade to titanium, it just wasn’t going to happen with this replacement.
Not getting the titanium upgrade was a little disappointing to me, but I was extremely thrilled to be getting a new chair that was sized more appropriately for me, and I could make do with the aluminum frame, having the titanium to look forward to for the next chair a few years down the road. In the meantime, while TiLite was producing my new frame, WB Mick and his team at the local Numotion, really went the extra mile and made sure everything else was ordered and on hand, ready for the new frame to arrive, including a new Java back for me to use if needed (I’ve actually gone back to using a soft back as it’s lighter, and turns out that my back does great with this when it cuts off much lower).
The new chair arrived, Numotion put everything together and David scheduled to meet me at my office, with a Numotion tech to deliver and ensure the chair was adjusted perfectly for me. When they arrived, David had a smile on his face and it took me less than a minute to exclaim with excitement: “David, that is a titanium frame!” Indeed, with him really going to bat for me, TiLite decided to pimp my ride and threw in the titanium upgrade for my replacement chair, David wanted to and was successful in surprising me with this.
So while Numotion was pretty horrible for me to deal with initially, they have really come around and stepped up their game. If you are having issues with their services, talk to your reps and make your issues known, regardless of the provider, if they don’t know about something, it’s not going to get fixed and it’s up to you to keep trying to work with them until it’s resolved. And trust me, in almost all cases, your requests will go further if coming from a workable place, rather than demanding. Inform yourself so that you know better how to express what isn’t right.
Thank you Numotion, Permobil, TiLite, and especially Justin, WB Mick, and David for coming through with top-notch service to really turn around my rough entry into using a wheelchair and giving me a do-over. If you have to use a wheelchair, it really need to be a true extension of you and while we missed the mark the first go-around, I sincerely appreciate you all making up for it with my replacement.