Defending the Used/Refurbished Equipment Industry

Another potential purchase means another opportunity for a salesperson to shine or prove their ignorance. I recently had the opportunity to experience the latter. When I started to discuss other options besides purchasing a new laser, the salesperson retorted to sighting old examples of used equipment purchases that had gone bad. I found myself vehemently defending this industry, in hopes of educating this person.

Good relationships can be a double-edged sword. It is nice to have the trust and loyalty. However, ultimately the relationship is put to the test and I find myself working harder to maintain the relationship than I did to develop it. Because of this relationship I have, I was asked to help decide on a purchase of a new or different laser system. Since my department would be responsible for maintaining the laser, I willingly accepted the invitation without knowing or expecting what would transpire.

I performed my normal ritual for a new equipment purchase. I referred to the ECRI website for information on laser companies. ECRI does a nice job of providing a comparative analysis. I also checked the Internet for potential companies and called a few of my used equipment dealer friends for information. For the most part the search was routine, except the surgeons had requested that a wave guide delivery system be included in the sale. This would end up being a limiting factor in our quest to find a suitable vendor.

As we all are aware, many medical equipment manufacturers no longer exist because big companies have bought them to eliminate competition. Thus, our choice for a laser purchase was narrowed down to two OEM laser companies and whatever I could dig up on the refurbished market.

We contacted one of the major laser companies (let’s call them “Company A”) and scheduled a meeting with the local sales rep. Before setting up the meeting, I told the salesperson we were looking at all options – refurbished and new. I am thankful that the refurbished medical equipment companies exist. I truly believe that without the competition, prices for medical devices would be substantially higher. The gentleman came in, did his dog and pony show, and offered us some options. The problem for us was the laser he showed us was more than we needed and the price was more than we budgeted. He listened to our concerns and said his company had all kinds of payment and lease options. We concluded the meeting, thanking him for his time and told him we would get back to him.

“As we all are aware, many medical equipment manufacturers no longer exist because big companies have bought them to eliminate competition.”

Since money was an issue and our laser usage has been steadily declining, I offered to continue to search for options. While I was searching, I was contacted by the salesman from Company A via email. He told me he went back to his manager and they had worked hard and had a great deal for us. He proposed a couple of “refurbished” lasers that would fit into our budget and would include the wave guide system. I checked the numbers and the prices were a bit high, so I played my “I am also checking a few refurbishers” card to see if there was some room for better pricing.

The card I played was followed by an email from the salesperson. It was filled with the typical anti-third party refurbisher rhetoric. Generally, I do not respond to salespeople when they start playing these games but this guy’s comments provoked an answer. I wanted to tell the guy to take his quote and laser and stick it somewhere. His comments were as follows:

Do you ever know what you are really buying when you buy a used piece of equipment from an outside source? Hospitals don’t sell CO2 lasers unless there are continued problems that lead to canceling cases (In my experience).

Company A will only provide parts and service for a laser for 7 years from the time we stop making a certain model. That means you will only purchase parts for “refurbished Laser A” another four more years through Company A. After that, it will be a hunt and search of waiting to cannibalize a laser for parts just to get your system back up and running.

We provide a laser tech on-site within 48 hours of a reported problem. Will you get that with a used laser?”

My response, after I cooled down, was “Thanks for the info, however I do disagree with some of your points.

Hospitals that close/consolidate also sell their lasers when they don’t need them. Also sometimes, a laser purchase is for a specific surgeon who then leaves. My point is, there are many reasons that a laser or any device may be available, for resale.”

As far as parts, I have had very good success at finding parts from other sources, sometimes it is preferred, due to the exorbitant costs OEMs charge when they are trying to outdate a product. I have purchased parts for an old Company A unit that is used for a private office practice, the parts were excellent and the third-party company offered great support and stood behind the part. Just in case you did not know, some OEMs generally just refurbish their own boards, so you are not getting a new board anyway.

I understand you are trying to keep us informed of the consequence of our choices, please know I am aware of them and aware of the benefits.

I am just making sure my customer has options.”

It is not near as harsh as I wanted it to be, but I have learned that it is best not to burn bridges. You never know who is going to end up signing your check these days.

Of course, after all of this, the manger of the OR was upset. I had to explain all the benefits of refurbished equipment. I had to spend a considerable amount of time convincing her that refurbished equipment is a viable option. I told her all the success stories we have had and shared some recent examples. I think I have her confidence back for now.

Unfortunately, this story does not have a happy ending, the wave guide issue proved to be a limiting factor in the refurbished market. We ended up purchasing the laser direct from the manufacturer, with the promise of a wave guide system to follow shortly. What ended up happening was the company stalled on getting us a wave guide system and then the salesman left. We never received the wave guide system we were promised. They refunded the money for the wave guide system but we are stuck with a laser that we paid too much for.

Jim Fedele, CBET, has been with Medical Dealer magazine for more than 12 years. He is currently the director of clinical engineering for Susquehanna Health Systems in Williamsport, Pa. He can be reached for questions and/or comments by email at info@mdpublishing.com