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Buying medical equipment and aids

BP focuses on postural support and accessories for wheelchairs, shower chairs and other mobility devices. But our users have a lot more needs than that, and most of us shop on line, so here are some reminders about the all-important retail shopping process.

  1. Add price + tax + shipping when you price compare, which may mean entering your zip code for accuracy.
  2. Double-check part numbers on the manufacturer's own site if needed, to ensure that you're not getting discontinued parts or obsolete versions. Often you can also see MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) on the manufacturer's site, if not shown on the resale site.
  3. Some manufacturers sell direct to the public, but prices and shipping may differ from their resellers. If your situation is complicated and the manufacturer has a customer service number, email or live chat, that may give you more insight than the reseller can. Also check whatever sites you need to find the owner's manual, so you can double-check features, washability and installation requirements.
  4. A good customer service representative should be able to tell you if her company's product can meet your need and refer you elsewhere if not. So if you hear canned responses like "that's not a problem" or "that should be fine" instead of specifically addressing your situation, be wary as with any other purchase. 
  5. Understand what return privileges, return shipping charges and restocking fees will apply if the item is not what you've expected. "Hygiene items" -- products that you wouldn't want to buy used -- are not returnable. Policies for items such as wheelchair cushions can vary across resellers.
  6. If you are able to demo the item in a clinic or local supply store, by all means, do so. But don't buy it there unless you have checked to make sure the price is competitive, even with not having to pay shipping.
  7. Have some reason to believe an unfamiliar site will send you what you think you're getting, when you think it will arrive. Check BBB ratings, reviews, Google results, Yelp and the site itself. Does the footer say 2012? Are the descriptions realistic? You can also use a browser plugin like SimilarWeb to verify that it has a minimal amount of traffic, say more than a thousand monthly visits.
  8. Above all, never make a decision under pressure. If choices seem overwhelming, take a break and do something else.

All this may seem really complicated, if you are not used to it. But give yourself time to learn, and you will soon have your "go-to" site list bookmarked, ready for your next equipment need.  

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