Saturday, July 25, 2009

Distinction of the Human Touch Kind Will be Entering My Abode Soon

My massage chair saga was starting to seem unending, like Toronto's garbage strike. Turns out the problem with my massage chair was not the remote but a problem with the back where all the electronics, software, and robotics are. But the US manufacturer wasn't sure if that back was available anymore since my chair had long since been discontinued. Fortunately, I had learnt from my experience with getting a replacement remote and this time turned myself into a nag (such a male thing to do, I know) so that I wouldn't be waiting for almost 2 weeks just to find out if the part was available. I called Human Touch three days in a row, got them to e-mail Intertemp in Calgary twice, and on the fourth day I called Intertemp myself to see if they had the part (no). They hadn't yet heard from Human Touch (where do their e-mails go?!) but he promised me he'd immediately call the person I'd been talking to in the US and call me right back. She was sick that day, but he did call me the next. So only 5 business days this time round to find out they had a chair back but in a different colour, which meant they lowered the price a bit. Because of all these calls to them and a knowledgeable relative, I learnt a few things about my chair from Intertemp, about Canadian law from my relative, and about the hazards of buying a product sold only in the US.

Well, first off, I didn't know until this past week that it hadn't been stocked in Canada. I did buy my chair from a Toronto retailer, and the guys the store hired to deliver my chair were very familiar with both Interactive Health (the official name of Human Touch) and my chair. So how was I to know my chair wasn't actually stocked and sold here? Even so, you'd think that would be no big deal with NAFTA and all. My chair even had a manufacturer's defect back when I first got it, and it was easily fixed with no cost to me so I didn't think repairs would become difficult. How was I to know that when the manufacturer's warranty was over, where it was sold and stocked would matter very much.

The problem with having a chair not sold through the distributor or manufacturer's rep here is (1) the US manufacturer and the Canadian distributor have to have a discussion about whether the part is available and when if your product fails which leads to endless calls and delays; (2) it may not be approved by CSA or ULC so if it shorts and causes damage, insurance will probably not cover it; (3) it is not covered by Canadian law that stipulates that the distributor or manufacturer must stock parts for the product for 7 years after its discontinuation so you may be SOL when trying to get the right part; (4) the retailer goes out of business and then you're stuck with local people who have no experience with the product other than the manufacturer in the US; (5) it takes FOREVER to get the part delivered, assuming there's no miscommunication between manufacturer and distributor leading to the wrong part being shipped and assuming it's the right-coloured part.

And then there was the bigger problem of how to install this heavy sucker of a part. It's one thing to install a remote, but to replace an almost 40-kg chair back is something entirely different. Both Human Touch and Intertemp were happy to immediately e-mail me instructions so I'd see what changing the back entailed. I quickly realised I'd have to hire two strong people, people who would read instructions. I would also have to wait at least another week for the back to be delivered and then installed. Plus I'd have to somehow get rid of the old one during a garbage strike, and I don't exactly have the space to store large stuff like that. It wasn't too much of an issue that they didn't have the back in my chair's colour. Luckily, the cushions could be switched, otherwise it would look real odd. But the sides of the chair would be bicoloured.

All this was giving me a headache as I tried to plan -- not something that comes easily to a person with  a brain injury whose neck is turtling and back is aching -- the logistics and figure out the total cost. So I headed to a Toronto retailer who stocked a Human Touch massage chair. There are other manufacturers, like Panasonic, but I couldn't find anyone who actually stocked those in store. And I don't think it's wise to buy a massage chair without trying it first. Anyway, this retailer stocked the HT-7450, the only one that massages in the zero gravity position. I, of course, immediately tried it out. My back was so happy after that, it didn't whine for arnica cream for the rest of the day and much of the next. But now I really wanted that chair. It does so much more than my old one; I especially liked it did my entire back, not just mostly lower and upper, and not just in two straight lines on either side of my spine. And I really, really liked that he said he could have it to me in 48 hours. I went home to figure out how I was going to pay for the demo model. A new one was totally out of my reach financially.

Of course, I hemmed and hawed over what I should do: spend more money in hopes that the new part would fix the problem and keep the chair functioning for another 5+ years or buy the demo. I don't get my money back for the part if it doesn't fix the issue. Yet it's a whole lot cheaper to repair my chair than buy a newer model. Back and forth I went. I don't know how people live like this, being so indecisive. The brain injury bestowed me with this gift of indecision, and being a person who was able to make thoughtful, researched decisions so easily and quickly before, this is like torture.

We went back today. And spent some god-awful amount of time trying out the chair more, discussing the demo versus new, discussing an easier way to repair the chair, discussing the demo, talking about other things, discussing repairing the old. And then all of a sudden he asked how much I was prepared to pay for getting the new chair tomorrow. Well, he'd pegged me. Or rather my back's needs. I'd also figured out how much the demo was worth.

So in the end, I abandoned my old massage chair and I will be taking up with a new one, one of Distinction. I feel sad for my old massage chair; it's given me such faithful service. And now it'll be heading to the dump since trying to find someone to buy it, when it doesn't work, even if it is a nice armchair all on its own, is beyond me. I couldn't even find someone to take a nice, solid, well-constructed sofa awhile back. All this talk of green and recycling is a bunch of hooey. People for the most part want new, even the charities. But I digress. Only a few more hours, and I can once again find pain relief in my home when I need it, whether at 2 pm or 2 am, on weekdays or weekends, after gardening or a too-long bout at the computer. Weekly therapeutic massage with a real human providing the healing touch is wonderful if a bit painful, but nothing beats having a massage exactly when you need it. And only a massage chair in the home can do that.

My back should thank me with chocolate and flowers.

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