Consumer with Disabilities, Fight Back!

By Paul Lane, Abilities Expo Ambassador and KMET 1490 AM Radio Host

Maybe you are a member of the physically challenged community. You might even have a family member with disabilities. If so, you are most likely a veteran purchaser of adaptive devices. Ever felt less than satisfied with the goods or services? If you have, you're in good company. But never forget—as consumers in a niche market, our buying power counts. And with such great power comes our great responsibility to not allow ourselves to be exploited!

Taking travel risks

Be Vigilant, even with Companies that Serve the Community

I believe sometimes we get lured into a false sense security when it comes to companies from which we procure goods. We automatically think that, because they cater to our community, they will be on the up and up.

It's not wrong for us to think that way. We hope that they understand what we're going through and, therefore, they would not choose to add to our already challenging lives. Sad to say, many of us have been taken advantage of as consumers by those businesses purporting to have our backs.

I recall one occasion when I had purchased a product that stop working. It was a dangerous situation because, if I was involved in an automobile accident, I would not be able to get out of my vehicle. The company that I bought it from supposedly inspected everything. As you can imagine, I was extremely upset and perhaps not the nicest person when I left my complaint on the company's voice mail. Now, I'm no stranger to customer service and I have dealt with angry and dissatisfied customers before. One thing I never did was argue with them.

But that happened to me! The owner did not call me back and hear me out. Instead, he launched into a verbal argument with me! Eventually I had to calm the conversation down and let him know point blank, "If anyone would understand how serious this situation is, I thought you would."

While I got the issue fixed, it was not fixed appropriately. Insult to injury, I thought. But it was my fault as a consumer for not asking questions and demanding that they show me what they repaired. Perhaps it would have been a different story if this person had any inkling that I'm a member of the media. Suffice it to say, I have never done business with that company again and if anyone were to ask me, I would warn them to stay away.

How to Keep Your Power as a Consumer

At times, we are too trusting and accommodating, even to our own detriment. So what can we do to protect ourselves and become shrewd consumers?

1. Research the company thoroughly.
Do your due diligence and find out more about them. Online resources like Yelp, complaint boards, the Better Business Bureau and other sites are extremely helpful in getting to the truth.

2. Look at their social media pages.
You will be able to discover if there's any interaction between the satisfied customers and how the company handles customer service issues.

3. Ask the company for some references.
This is a practice we have stopped doing as consumers. Sadly, we may feel that we're being a bother. But remember, you are the consumer and it is time to recover that lost art!

4. You have the power!
Never forget that you are the final decision-maker, even when it comes to products that insurance covers for us. There is a misconception out there that your insurance only deals with one company. That is wrong. Contact your insurance and ask them about the different providers that they contract with.

5. Inspect their work.

If you're getting repairs done as a consumer, you have a right to insist that they show you. And that includes repairs that your insurance covers.

Folks, I speak from experience and have dealt with companies that have taken advantage of me. But that is over! I will never again allow myself to let a company that I am patronizing think that they are doing me a favor. Quite the contrary; we are doing them a favor by giving them our business. As consumers with disabilities, let's take the power back and become shrewd customers!

About the Author:

Paul Amadeus Lane has been a C-6 quadriplegic since January 21, 1993. He's been a broadcast journalist since 2007 and currently hosts "In The Fast Lane" on KMET-AM 1490 ABC News Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Pacific time. Beginning in July, Paul will be co-hosting a brand new television morning show. You can always connect with Paul at www.paulonwheels.com.

Pre-Register for Abilities Expo Today...It's Free!
Sign up for the Buzz stay in the know on disability news and info