As many of you know, it has been possible to buy TiLite wheelchairs and parts through some online suppliers in the US and have them shipped internationally. A few months ago one of the big on-line suppliers stopped with international shipping (or even making their site viewable if you are international). I have heard that others will be also stop shipping internationally, by request (demand) of TiLite .

As a US citizen living part of the time internationally, with a TiLite chair purchased in the US, I find this policy unacceptable. Where we are in Europe, there is only *one* choice for a TiLite supplier locally. Prices are at least 30% more, not including taxes, which needs to be paid on import regardless of where purchased (so not a factor). It is a monopoly situation, and a situation we have no choice or control over.

Although the local TiLite supplier happens to be good overall, I do not understand why we should be forced to order from them, especially for parts for a chair that was not bought from them. If we are in another country to we need to find yet another supplier?

I understand that TiLite wants to support their international suppliers and has recently setup parts distribution in Europe to help with this (well done). Unfortunately, those cost savings of shipping in bulk from TiLite are not being passed on to customers, because often the suppliers do not provide competitive pricing or services. Also, many of us do not require the value-added services from a supplier, and should not be forced to pay their extra mark-up and have delays for something we do not receive.

As long as TiLite subsidizes this uncompetitive pricing and service internationally, by not allowing international competition, it is the users who will pay the price. Of course, there will be nothing to stop people from using another address is the US for shipping and forwarding, but this is just unfair, costly, and counter productive. In our case it will mean a lot of extra shipping costs as parts will need to go a few thousand miles back and forth in the opposite direction before being shipped to us. Still we will probably do that rather than deal with a local supplier.

International suppliers also have the option to setup shop internationally to compete, but if they don't make that effort and investment, the companies who do should not be penalized for it, nor should customers. TiLite should be focusing on how they can help their international suppliers to be more competitive rather than penalizing customers who do take the effort to shop around internationally for better pricing and service. Those who need the value added services of a local supplier will always shop locally, so I don’t understand what the problem is.

I will be very angry if TiLite implements this policy, which I have been told unofficially that they already have. We finally got approval for a new chair this week, which we spent extra effort to make sure we were approved to purchase abroad and/or online if need be. This chair had been planned to be a TiLite.

Knowing that we may no longer be able to purchase parts internationally through the supplier of our choice may make us seriously reconsider our choice of chairs, that we have spent 6 months researching and fighting for. International shipping was one of our primary criteria after my husband fell out of another brand of chair and almost broke his neck, because it had malfunctioned and it took 81 days to receive parts from a local supplier that I could have had shipped from the US within a week!

I hope all of you international TiLite customers will let it be known to TiLite, via this post, that they are not considering the best interests of their international customers, if in fact this is a new policy. TiLite should also make this very clear on their website so that those of us who are international will not waste our time researching their products.

I also hope that those of you who are not international might show a little solidarity, because it may also impact you if you happen to be traveling and have a malfunctioning part. It will mean that you may be forced to use a local supplier who has no knowledge of your situation and may not be able to speak your language or be able to provide the proper paperwork for your government/insurance reimbursement scheme.

Users should be able to choose their own trusted supplier and be able to have something expedited to them, regardless of where they are in this global economy.

Thanks for listening to my rant.

-- Ellyn

Note: We have an international software business as a suppliers of products and services, and often are under-cut on pricing and services. It is what makes us better and what free-trade and competition are all about.