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Purchasing Mobility Equipment Online Pros & Cons

It can be quite difficult to find the product that suits your needs the best and is withing your budget. If you are internet savvy and do a bit of research, you may have come across a variation in pricing for the same products. You will always find that companies that don't have a storefront will be able to offer products at a lower cost than shops with an actual physical shop. The reasons for this are quite clear and are directly linked to the overhead costs of paying for a shop, staff, insurances and other expenses associated with this.  These costs need to be offset by the sale price and the margin that a company makes on each product, hence driving up the retail costs.

Another factor that can impact the prices is exclusivity and dealer agreements. In most instances, a manufacturer will nominate one company in a country that they will sell their products to exclusively. This company will then onsell the products through their store/stores and or other dealers. The company purchasing the product directly from the manufacturer will always be able to offer a lower price than any dealer, as the price the dealer buys the product at will always be higher than the price the importer pays to the manufacturer.

On top of that, you have to find your way past all the different discounts and special offers that different supplier may have at any given time. Don't forget to take into account shipping costs and delivery times if you are comparing prices online.

Long story short, you will always find a variation in costs when looking online. The big question is, however, should you purchase the product at a lower price from an online supplier or a vendor from another state that has no shopfront in your town or state?! Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to that question, and it comes down to everyone's individual priorities.

Do you want to physically try out the product? Have a test ride or inspect the quality? If yes, online is not the right option for you, as you have to make a decision based on images, written descriptions and videos.

What about repairs? If you purchase online, you have two choices.
1. send the product back to the supplier to get repaired
2. find a local shop that sells the same product and has the parts in stock to repair your mobility equipment.
What about warranty? If you have a problem with your product during the warranty period, will you have to send your product back to the supplier? What if it is a large piece of equipment like a bed? Will you be given a replacement bed for the time your product is getting fixed? Who pays for the shipping / transport costs if it turns out that the fault is not covered under warranty?

Do you want your mobility product to be customised to your needs? If you do, this might cause another hurdle to your online purchase, as the measuring and physical assessment of your needs are by description only, allowing more room for error. This is by no means an issue that can't be overcome by good and thorough communication from both parties, but definitely, something that can make the process more difficult, than going into a shop, getting measured, trying out a product and requesting adjustments based on your needs.

Lastly, should you be supporting your local economy and independent retailers?

To sum it up I have listed the main advantages and disadvantages of online shopping below.

-Cost, 85% of the time you will be able to find a product or comparable product at a lower price online
- Convenience, you can make a purchase from your home, you don't have to deal with pushy sales people and don't have to drive anywhere

- You can't touch the product before you purchase it, you have to rely on images and videos to make a decision
- limited access to servicing, spare parts and repairs
- warranty claims may be harder to handle
- you aren't supporting your local economy
- Customizations can be difficult and may require more than one go to get it right

Working for a business with a physical storefront, my views on this may be biased; however, this is partly because we have had people contact us for parts and repairs for items that we stock, but that they bought online. Many complained about the after sale service they received. We were told that the service was excellent until they paid for the product. However, when they tried to contact their supplier due to an issue, they had trouble getting their calls returned... Many of our clients are too reliant on their mobility aid to send it back for repairs, although they are under warranty, so they choose to get it fixed locally at a charge. This cost is often higher than the money they saved from purchasing their product online...


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