Wheel And Deal

It’s proved interesting working consumer mobility tradeshows over the years, where I’ve noticed that consumers fall into fairly clear patterns of intentions. There are those who attend shows knowing exactly the wheelchair they want, eager to explore it in detail with a manufacturer’s representative, with a depth that they may not find at their local provider. Then, there are those who know they will need a new wheelchair in the near future, attending shows to window shop, where they can view almost all wheelchairs in one place, trying products, collecting brochures, and heading home to contemplate what they’ve seen.

Still, there’s a third profile, one exceptionally uncommon, but seen at every consumer show that I’ve worked: The gentleman who’s shopping for a new wheelchair, convinced that the process is identical to haggling a deal for a new car.

“There are a lot of great chairs here – why should I bother considering yours?” he asks, rolling up to me in my booth.

“I suppose I could give you many reasons,” I say. “But, I believe that products should speak for themselves. What type of chair are you interested in? I’ll be glad to show you what we offer.”

“Oh, I know what kind of chair I want,” he says, glancing around my booth. “And, I know what I’m willing to pay.”

“Are you looking to replace your current chair?” I ask, studying his chair, noting its product class and signs of wear, determining which products in our booth might be of interest to his needs.

“Yes, but nothing fancy – I know how all you guys up-sell,” he says. “I’m not getting suckered into all the bells and whistles.”

“How about a horn,” I say, reaching over, beeping the horn on a scooter next to me, smiling. Beep, beep, beep.

But, he doesn’t laugh or smile.

“Well, we have our newer models over here,” I say, maneuvering my chair, rolling toward the line of powerchairs of varying sizes and applications.

“Don’t you have last year’s model?” he asks. “A past model year should be cheaper.”

“Actually, powerchairs don’t go by model years like cars,” I say. “But, we have models to fit many funding levels.”

“OK, let’s cut to the chase,” he says. “Show me the one you can give me the best deal on if I buy it today.”

“We don’t actually sell powerchairs,” I say. “We’re the manufacturer. To purchase a powerchair, consumers go through a dealer. And, there are dealers here at the show. But, we’re here to educate consumers, reviewing products with them, answering any questions they may have.”

“So, you’re telling me that if I offered you a million bucks for that chair, you wouldn’t sell it to me,” he says, pointing at one of our smallest powerchairs.

“For a million bucks, I’d sell you that chair, my own chair, and that lady’s chair over there,” I say.

And, he finally smiles.

“But, in all seriousness, we don’t sell directly to consumers,” I say.

“Alright, show me what you’ve got,” he says.

I pull out of the line a powerchair of similar size and seating to his current chair, and he transfers into it. He spins in a circle, crosses the booth, squeezes the padded armrests, and rolls up beside me.

“I like it,” he says, leaning closer to me. ”Zero down, $319 per month?”

“Do you have a trade-in?” I reply, and we both laugh.


Author: Mark E. Smith

The literary side of the WheelchairJunkie

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