A funny but serious lesson on buying HME online


A number of us at HME News got a good chuckle when a press release with this headline popped up in our Google News Alerts:

“Raised Toilet Seats Online No Longer Accepts Returns on Toilet Seats and Commodes”

Managing Editor Theresa Flaherty says there’s no second-guessing what this provider does for a living. They sell…raised toilet seats…online.

The press release goes on to explain that the provider has changed its return policy and no longer accepts returns on raised toilet seats and commodes for personal hygiene reasons.

This makes complete sense for obvious reasons. Yet, most consumers I know don’t like to be permanently tied to a purchase they make sight unseen.

The release then goes on to offer, because the provider no longer accepts returns, tips on making better-educated purchasing decisions. Tips include: Determine if your toilet seat is round or elongated; determine the desired height of your raised toilet seat by stacking cushions on a chair; and determine if you want extras like padding or built-in or removable arms.

These tips are simple enough, if somewhat strange, at least that whole cushions-on-a-chair exercise. Do we really think that’s a safe idea for someone who needs a raised toilet seat to begin with?

That’s one reason I couldn’t help thinking, as I was reading this release, that I’d be making the best-educated and safest purchasing decision by visiting my local HME provider to discuss my needs with a friendly customer service rep and try before I buy.

And we’re not talking about a complicated piece of HME here. We’re talking about a raised toilet seat, not an oxygen concentrator or a CPAP device or a power wheelchair.

Government agencies like to make much ado about how easy and less expensive it is for Medicare beneficiaries to buy HME online.

This release delivers a funny but serious lesson on why it may not be smart.


I also think people like to return stuff when the have no use for it. For example, I think LL Bean used to get returns of Christmas trees. People have no shame.

But what really happens is. The customer comes into your store. Asks your salesman for the "23m-7" ( the online item number) and gets the education and reccomendations for the online product he wants to buy  from a qualifyed and trained professional. 

Then the customer leaves your store .  Goes back online to order the item you just showed him at your store. 

This happens here everyday!

I saw this trend for "buying the cheapest" trend begin in the mid-1990s.  Bathroom safety equipment was just starting to be offered outside of DME stores (Walgreens, Lowes, etc.) and it was quite eye-opening for occupational therapists in home care.  Add the onlne market and wow!  Fall prevention requires that the patient get he RIGHT equiment.  Education is key, even online.  In time my company will have a solution for bathing that will be in both places. 

For more on toileting safety, see my 2-part blog under Active Tips at www.twostepsolutions.com