Waspish Wednesday: Now, with Real Wasps!

Betsy got stung by a wasp today as she was dealing with one of our four composting nightmares. As she was sitting on the floor with a bag of frozen peas on her ankle, she said, “You should write a Waspish Wednesday about this!”

After I thought about it I realized she was right, it is Wednesday! I have other topics I’ve been wanting to write on, not least my post for the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival, if I can get it done in time. Meanwhile, though, what have I been up to?

Powerchair hell, as usual. A few weeks ago, I asked the people who built my big purple chair if I could please exchange it for a new chair or just return it for a refund, inasmuch as it is a lemon. They responded that they would completely change all the wiring and the wheel motors.

I thought about it. I knew I didn’t want that, because they’d already rewired it, and I’m convinced the wheel motors are not the issue. But I was trying to decide if I wanted to ask for a new chair or just a refund. I looked up the Massachusetts wheelchair lemon law and discovered that it is up to me, the consumer, as to whether I want an exchange or a refund.

I wrote them, referred them to the law (which is online; most states have wheelchair lemon laws), and told them I wanted a refund. They responded by yelling at me a few times. I basically said, “Can’t we please just settle this? I’m not asking for reimbursement for mileage for the many long trips. I just want a refund. I’ll return the chair.” But no, I kept getting emails saying it was my fault for using it in mud, snow, and rain, which is mostly not true, and also beside the point, as the advertisements for this chair and the conversations I had with them said it’s great to use it in snow, etc.

For the last few days I have been contacting the Better Business Bureau — who told me to file a complaint, but who have no teeth — and the Consumer Protection Office, who told me to file a complaint, and may or may not have teeth, and the Attorney General’s office, who told me to file a complaint, and who — I think — do have some sort of teeth. This is just exactly how I wanted to spend my summer. Sitting inside, reading websites, making phone calls, and doing paperwork for a chair that has caused me pretty much nonstop stress and trouble.

Right now I’m in the middle of writing a “Letter of Demand,” which the AG and the Consumer Protection office told me to write. I’ve got my calendar and all my old emails to refer to to help my sometimes rusty memory. In this letter, I demand he comply with the various applicable consumer protection laws, and then say that if he doesn’t, he could be facing big, nasty, mean court charges. It’s just a thrill, and I know he’ll be totally cooperative and reasonable once he gets it.

Meanwhile, I decided to see if I could resurrect my old pchair, my Jet 3 Ultra, which was a pretty decent machine in its prime. Betsy and I took it all apart, as this picture attests.

The seat of the powerchair sits sideways on the floor, disconnected from the base. Around it are tools, hardware, rags, cleaning solution, a flashlight, and other debris.

Actually, we'd already put the base back together when I thought to take pictures. We took it apart a lot more than this.

It turned out we didn’t need to take it apart as much as we did. We discovered this when Betsy suggested I find and read the manual and see if it tells us how to change the batteries, which it did. However, I’m not sorry we took it apart, because I learned about what’s inside and where and how to make all sorts of adjustments. It also gave us a chance to vacuum out a lot of debris and remove dust and dirt — which always harbors mold.

We adjusted the seating, which had always been too low for my long legs — raising the seat and then moving it back so my feet rested on the foot-plate like they were supposed to. (The original vendor should have done this, but he just dropped it off and left. That’s a story for another time.) Then, we had to move where the controller box (joystick) was sitting, so that would be in the right place, too. Betsy did a lot of heavy lifting; it was quite a job, but now I finally have two chairs with proper seating.

We tried taking out the almost entirely dead batteries and replacing them with some others I had lying around. Usually if you don’t charge batteries they die completely, but I thought that since the others were very-nearly dead, these others couldn’t be much worse. I was wrong. They are completely dead, and now the chair doesn’t go at all. It won’t even charge. However, it looks fabulous.

Powerchair reassembled. In the foreground, the chair, with a shiny gray captain's seat and red metal base with gray wheels. Behind and to the left, Barnum naps on his tan organic dog bed.


I even figured out a problem that had stumped me for years, which was how to make my elevated leg rests from my new indoor chair fit with it. I figured out how to remove some thingies that had been blocking the  rails. I also took the seat belts off my useless purple chair and put them on this chair. (Which is where they were originally from.) With the addition of seat belts and extended leg rests, it will be safer, more stable, and less tiring for me to use for extended periods, such as for walking my dog! Behold! . . .

Side view of the powerchair with long, black, metal leg rests and a gray seatbelt with a red buckle.

Now I'm ready for action! (Sorta.)

I have been posting on a powerchair forum called Wheelchair Junkie, which is basically a bulletin board for power mobility gearheads. The folks there have given me a lot of helpful advice. I decided to get cheap replacement batteries for the Jet, just so I have a working backup chair and one that I can use with my existing van lift — so I can go to doctor’s appointments and take Barnum for working field trips to parking lots and stores and such. And, I will see how this chair does in the rough-and-tumble of my rural setting. Hopefully, it will be good enough until I get something with more power, clearance, stability, and speed. (I’ll talk more about ideas for that another time.)

I ordered my batteries from Amazon, the same brand and type that had been in there before. They arrived within three days, and I couldn’t wait to install them and see if the chair was viable! After all Betsy’s and my hard work, I was very excited.

I took out the old batteries, put in one of the new ones, started to connect the wires to the terminals, and then decided I should put the other one in, too, before I connected the wires. So, I took the second one out of the box, and . . .

Close-up of wheelchair battery. On the far side, the red terminal stands up straight. On the near side, the black terminal is bent back severely.

Augh! The terminal was bent!

I emailed the seller and asked them to send me a new one with expedited shipping and take back this damaged one for no shipping charges (because each battery weighs 23 pounds, so shipping can be pricey!). I didn’t hear back from them. The next day, I emailed them again and asked for their shipping return address and an expedited exchange. No response. Today I sent the battery back, and the shipping charges came to almost as much as the cost of the battery itself! I wrote to them for a third time, told them the battery was on the way, and asked for them to defray the shipping costs and send a new battery. I also said I was “very unhappy with your customer service.” I hoped that would get their attention, since they get feedback scores from customers.

Surprise! Very shortly after that, an actual human from the company emailed me and said they were expediting my refund, but that my shipping charges were too high for them to cover. I don’t know what will happen in the end, because we’re still discussing it. Meanwhile, I ordered a replacement battery. I hope it arrives in perfect condition!

I want to get out of my frickin’ house! AUGH!

My theory is that I was in a wheelchair karma-accident in my former life. The only positive out of the battery disappointment was that when I tried to stand up from the ground and needed assistance, Barnum did a terrific job of bracing me. He is super solid on that skill. He stands nice and square and doesn’t move a muscle. Best stand-stay and brace on any dog I’ve had yet.

Good dog! Bad wheelchair vendors. If only I could clicker train them! . . .

– Sharon, who has used a carrot for a long time and has now taken out her big stick! The muse of Gadget (I LIKED the Jet! But not as much as the scooter, which went faster), and Barnum (Sharon never takes me for walks anymore. Sigh.)

7 Responses to “Waspish Wednesday: Now, with Real Wasps!”

  1. 1 Nergler July 28, 2011 at 12:49 am

    You are way overdue for some good wheelchair karma (despite any past-life wheelchair-karma accident). I don’t get it–wheelchair company advertises that chair can be used in the snow, buyer uses chair in the snow, wheelchair company then says buyer broke it partially by using it in the snow? Am I missing something? I am frustrated because I am needing them to have greater accuracy in their advertising claims. Bastards. 🙂
    Am impressed by your and Betsy’s extremely complicated-looking dismemberment of chair. I cannot even manage to get the (removable) plates on George Foreman grill off. Well, O.K., I did get them off, but then needed assistance to reattach them.
    Am sending positive chair vibes-they really should make one that can handle adverse weather conditions. I see people on the street here in pchairs-what are they supposed to do if they are out and there is a sudden torrential downpour (happens a lot in summer and spring)?

  2. 2 Karyn July 28, 2011 at 10:31 am

    I agree you and I are both overdue for some good! I noted your sarcasm in discussing your letter of demand and the company your Trailboss came from. I had no idea the batteries came from Amazon and a seller no less instead of them. I am really sorry. I think since the battery was defective Amazon can MAKE them cover your return shipping. Check into that. I hope they are MK USA batteries. I think the article index on WCJ might have an article on that. If not, I know it was discussed before when I was considering buying batteries, but then my regular chair was changed and I saved the old ones. I’m fortunate to have the same batteries in all my chairs. Email me if you want more info on the USA made only viewpoint for batteries. And Betsy getting stung YOUCH! That’s gotta hurt.
    Sometimes lemonade is being made in excess isn’t it?

  3. 3 Sharon Wachsler July 28, 2011 at 10:48 am

    Karyn, your last line made me laugh. It reminds me of one of my favorite Dilbert cartoons. It helps if you know I’m allergic to citrus.

    Dilbert: I’m depressed. Dogbert: You know what they say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Dilbert: I’m allergic to citrus. Dogbert: You know what they say, when life gives you lemons, swell up and die.

    I didn’t buy good batteries for this chair, I just replaced them with the same batteries it had, Universal type sealed lead acid. The reason is that I don’t know for sure it will run right until I test it with new batteries, and I don’t want to sink any more money into anything until I know what I’m doing. This will probably be my backup chair until I can find one used that does more like what I’m looking for, like a Quickie 646 or something similar. Or, if it turns out the Jet is really working great in the ways I need it to, I will replace the batteries with really good quality ones. But for now, I was just trying to save money and time/energy (neither of which happened to the extent I’d like!).

  4. 4 Karyn July 28, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    I Gotcha abt the batteries. I don’t blame you on that count.
    btw the more a chair is cleaned out like you did, the better it runs too so hopefully that is a positive omen. I hope the vender does get a good battery to you very soon and that the chair becomes a good asset for you again.
    When I got my backup a Quickie 600 series (don’t recall which one) was also available but it was his older and now backup chair. I chose the TDX because I knew it and it had more potential for a longer life.
    I have heard really good things about that chair though (the 646) so hope that you can find that.
    Someone got a shirt for me when I was going through chemo and other immune related problems thanks to its side effects that said
    When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade! I wore that shirt all the time! LOL
    I am MCS collapsed by citrus now so I get why that Dilbert cartoon is so funny too. Its pretty cute.

  5. 5 brilliantmindbrokenbody July 28, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    If it’s of any comfort, your AG’s office definitely has teeth. Assuming they are not horrendously overworked, they can do pretty much anything a private attorney could do on your behalf but at no cost to you.

    Ugh, this sounds like a terribly frustrating chain of events. I wish I could offer more comfort than ‘It looks like a good case if you sue the bastards!’


  6. 6 brilliantmindbrokenbody July 29, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    Er, they can do pretty much the same as a private attorney in cases like these, that is. AGs tend to get involved on the behalf of private individuals when there are what we consider basic contract failures, like fradulent charges, failure to follow the terms of a contract, misrepresentation of goods or services, illegal contracts, false advertising, failure to warrantee goods, etc etc.

  7. 7 Sharon Wachsler July 29, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    I got a letter from the AG’s office today saying they’d referred my case to the local consumer protection office, and that they work with them. The consumer protection office is supposed to call me. Of course, I had already left a message for them a few days ago and hadn’t heard back….

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