As most of my readers know, I wear hearing aids. Before I made aliyah I took steps to acquire brand new hearing aids since my old ones were about four years old and already on their way out. I did not want to have to deal with attempting to acquire new hearing aids in Israel so shortly after my arrival. I also understood that there was probably no chance in hell that I could acquire them for nothing. But, in the US where there social services infrastructure is vast, and rather well supported, I felt I had a better chance of doing that.
I was in a position where I felt I could be eligible for such assistance. I thus went to the Division of Rehabilitation Services of Maryland and applied. My application was successful and after many months of meetings, testing, and working with an audiologist to find the right hearing aid for me, I was successfully fitted with brand new hearing aids - Agil Pro power aids by Oticon. Upon receiving the aids I also received a warranty for repair and a warranty for replacement. I then asked about coverage by those warranties while I would be living in Israel. We spoke with Oticon directly and they told us that both warranties are 100% valid and honorable in Israel.
In Israel there is only one distributor of Oticon hearing aids, Medton. Medton has a number of offices throughout the country. I decided (unwisely it would later turn out) to go to their "flagship" location, in Tel Aviv. This was the trip I took yesterday, despite not feeling very well. My daughter and two grandsons joined me in this excursion for a break in their routine. Trust me -- this was a break!
Using my trusty Garmin GPS I easily found my way to where the Medton office was located and then proceeded to look for a place to park. I found one a block away and parked. But this was not free parking. I then searched, in vain, for a nearby kiosk where I could purchase the parking card to display in my window. With an unsuccessful search for such I began asking passerby where I could find such a kiosk. Well, apparently it could be found several blocks away in the opposite direction in which I needed to go. I realized I could get a ticket while I would be on my way to purchase the parking card. (yes, BAD design, and yes, typically Israeli). I was going to move the car when one of the passersby whom I had stopped to ask where the kiosk was, took out a parking card from his briefcase and gave it to me with instructions on how to mark it (by scratching out the day, date, month, time, etc) and display it in the window of my car. I wanted to pay him but he refused. This was the typical really great only in Israel experience for this day!
With a smile on my face I then proceeded with my daughter, Chloe, grandsons Gavriel and Eliya to the Medton office. We entered the office (a nice but small place, easily accessible, clean and well-lit), and I approached the reception window. I explained my business -- one of my HA's had stopped working, I think it just needs a cleaning -- and I also assured them that if the work was more than just a cleaning, I have the warranties for coverage and showed them these. (Of course, they were in English, but trust me -- they understood). Well, they insisted that they could not honor the warranties and further insisted that my HA needed real work and it would cost me 900 NIS (nearly $250). I told them that these warranties were issued by OTICON and that they, as Oticon distributors were legally bound to honor the warranties -- to no avail. So, we prepared to leave - my intention being to go home and contact both my social worker and audiologist in Maryland and let them know what is happening. I knew my audi has a close working relationship with Oticon and that she (and they) would come through for me. But before we could leave, we each needed to use the facilities and then Chloe needed to nurse Eliya. So we were "hanging out" in the waiting area of the Medton office for a bit. Just before we were prepared to depart the woman at the desk told me that if I could produce a "cheshbonit" (receipt) for the HA's in MY NAME, they would honor the warranties. I explained to her that the HA's were purchased for me by a government agency so I could not produce such a thing, but that the HA's and the warranties are in my name and, more importantly, my HA serial numbers are in the Oticon database with MY NAME. No go. So, we left.
Upon arriving home I immediately hit my computer and sent out an email to both my social worker and audi back in Maryland. The response from them was swift and completely in agreement with me. My audi was in contact with Oticon and Oticon stated that Medton is legally obligated to honor my warranty. They then asked my audi to provide them with all the names and contact info for the people who turned me away. They said if they continue to refuse to honor my warranty then Oticon will find another distributor in Israel.
In the meantime, I remembered that I had cut out an advert for a hearing aid place in Jerusalem. I pulled out that ad to look at it. It is also for a Medton office. However, this ad was in English, in the JPost magazine, and targeted to English speaking clientele. The audiologists at this place are American. I have decided that before I proceed with any action against Medton via Oticon, I am going to give this place a shot. I will be calling them a bit later this morning and arrange for an appointment. So, for now, this is a story "to be continued"...