Providers review marketing dos, don’ts

Sunday, August 31, 2003

BATON ROUGE, La. - A recent article in a Baton Rouge, Louis., newspaper about a questionable rehab provider dubbed “Scooter Man” has the industry brushing up on the dos and don’ts of marketing scooters.

Several members of the National Registry of Rehabilitation Technology Suppliers (NRRTS) have posted messages on the organization’s online message board recently, discussing the man’s reported violations of supplier standards.

The article, which appeared in The Advocate on July 21, detailed Sidney Zenon’s attempts to furnish the elderly and disabled residents of a housing complex with “motorized scooters” by going door to door. Zenon has been telling residents that they can get scooters for free, according to the article. He has also been taking them to a local general practitioner to get them approved for scooters.

“He [Zenon] even got a chair for a blind guy,” Gretchen Monroe, the complex’s elderly service coordinator, is quoted as saying in the article.

Messages posted to the NRRTS message board questioned the legality of door-to-door solicitations. They also questioned whether Zenon was in cahoots with the practitioner, giving him kickbacks for approving scooter requests.

Tom Antone, a retired healthcare attorney, said although unsolicited phone calls are prohibited by law, door-to-door solicitations are not.

“The law was drafted to correct a narrow problem, and that was telemarketing,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that providers who do [door-to-door solicitation] are home free.”

In fact, industry sources don’t recommended it. They say it can carry the appearance of “misleading” or “bullying” end-users.

Stephen Azia, counselor to the Power Mobility Coalition, said Zenon’s actions raise several other questions, too. He said if Zenon provided a blind man with a wheelchair, for instance, isn’t he violating the supplier standard that requires end-users be able to use the equipment effectively?

Antone agreed, saying that was the bigger question.

“It’s not so much the door-to-door solicitation,” he said. “It’s whether the residents qualify for the equipment. It’s what they’re being told.” HME