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We’re Not Sure Exactly What Their Job Is, But This Seems… Wrong…

, , , , , , , | Working | October 25, 2022

I work for a medical supplier that sells disability equipment. We sell to the public as well as National Health Service hospitals, schools, and councils. Most of our products can be returned; however, a very small minority is made to order. These particular items are very specialist and require measurements to be taken of the patient who will be using the equipment for correct sizing. Because of this, these items are strictly non-returnable as we sell so few that it might be years, if ever, before we get an order for a certain specification.

The fact that these items are non-returnable is in big lettering on the pages for these items both in our printed catalogue and on our website.

We receive a purchase order for one of these items from a hospital. I check with the manufacturer to see their current turnaround time and then give the staff member who has placed the order a call.

Me: “Hi. I’m calling from [Medical Supplier] about your order [purchase order number]. Just wanted to check that you are aware that these items are non-returnable.”

Hospital Staff Member: “So?”

Me: “Well, we just wanted to ensure that the healthcare professional who has ordered this is aware of this and that they have checked that the patient’s measurements are definitely correct as we will only accept a return if the product is faulty.”

Hospital Staff Member: *In a nasty tone* “Are you trying to tell me how to do my job?!”

Me: “Not at all; my apologies if that is how it has come across. It’s just that the item is £5,000, so we like to double-check that all the details are correct before we order it to be produced.”

Hospital Staff Member: “Well, I know how to do my job, so order it as I have requested.”

Me: “Certainly. I will get that ordered today. The manufacturer will have that ready for delivery to you in ten days.”

Twelve days later, a colleague transfers a call to me to do a high-value return which, as the deputy manager, I can authorise.

Caller: “Hi. We’ve had a delivery, but it’s too small for the patient so we need to return it. It’s [purchase order number].”

Me: “Sure, let me bring up the details. Okay, is that [item]?”

Caller: “Yes, that’s the one. It’s not suitable.”

Me: “Okay, well, this item is non-returnable, as stated in our catalogue and on our website, so unfortunately, we are unable to accept a return or provide a refund.”

Caller: “THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE! This is £5,000, and the hospital cannot afford to waste this amount of money. I demand you accept a return. We were not informed that we could not return it, so the doctor ordering it guessed the patient’s measurements.”

Me: “I’ve just checked the notes, and it was me personally who called to advise of this and to ask if the measurements had been checked. I spoke to [Hospital Staff Member], who told me that they knew how to do their job and that I should proceed with the order. Shall I speak to [Hospital Staff Member]?”

Caller: “Oh… Okay. No, that won’t be necessary.”

Me: “You sure? I can pull the call recording and send that over to you as proof.”

Caller: “No… It’s okay. I am [Hospital Staff Member].”

A few days later, we get an emailed complaint from a manager at [Hospital] about us not accepting a return. I reply with a copy of our standard business terms, screenshots of our website and catalogue showing where it states that the item is non-returnable, and a copy of the call recording where I tried to confirm the measurements. I don’t hear anything for a week, so I give the manager a call so I can close out the complaint.

Me: “I’m calling from [Medical Supplier] about your complaint about us not accepting a return of [item]. I haven’t heard back from you and just wanted to know if I could close out the complaint?”

Manager: *Sounding defeated* “Yes, that’s fine. You can close it. [Hospital Staff Member] advised the doctor who ordered it to guess the measurements and that would be fine.”

That’s just one of the many examples I came across of money being wasted in the NHS!

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