Breathing device at centre of family's struggle

A man who bought a breathing machine for his father the day before his death is wondering why the company won't let him return the device, even though it wasn't opened or used.

Man stuck with machine after father's death

Al Rogers says the company he bought a breathing machine from won't let him return the device - even though it was unused and unopened - without charging a 60 per cent restocking fee. (CBC)

A man who bought a breathing machine for his father the day before his death is wondering why the company won't let him return the device, even though it wasn't opened or used.

Al Rogers said his father was 82, but planned to live a lot longer than he did. He planned on moving to B.C. to live with his girlfriend and get married in September.

When he started feeling ill, he called an ambulance to bring him to a hospital.

"He went to the hospital, they said his blood oxygen was low, and for him to be travelling, he was going to need one of those [oxygen] machines," Rogers said.

Rogers made some calls around St. John's and found a portable oxygen concentrator at HorizonAire.

When he inquired about the cost of renting or buying one, Rogers calculated that it would be cheaper to buy one for roughly $2,500, rather than rent one and pay a fee of $250 per month, as well as $500 for leaving the province.

Rogers bought the machine on July 10 and had the machine delivered by taxi to his father in the Burin Peninsula Health Care Centre that same day.

However, the next morning, he got a phone call that his father had a sudden heart attack and died.

"There's no words that can explain how I felt," Rogers said. "Crushed doesn't even begin to describe it. All his plans were gone."

Change of tone

A few days later, Rogers contacted the company to ask what the return policy was. He said he explained to the receptionist that the box hadn't even been opened, and the person who it was intended for had died.

"I asked [the receptionist] what the return policy was, and she seemed pretty friendly and cordial first when we were talking. As soon as I asked them what the return policy was, her tone changed — you could feel it," he said.

She recommended he call back Monday morning to ask the company's owner what the policy was.

"That upset me even worse — I was going through enough. So Monday morning, I called the owner, same thing — he knew why I was calling anyway because I guess the receptionist told him — same thing, no condolences, no nothing, and he explained to me that they take back for a 60 per cent restocking fee," Rogers said.

But Rogers said the manager offered him one more option.

"He said, 'You could do something better — you could run it on N.L. Kijiji and see if you can sell it that way. You might get more money back.' That's the condolences I got from these people," Rogers said.

"There was already a knife in my heart. From his tone, his attitude — he just twisted it."

Rogers said the machine he purchased was the same machine that the company would have rented him for temporary use.

According to Rogers, he doesn't know what they would have done with the machine after it was returned from being rented, but that he thinks it likely would have been cleaned and put back out for rent to someone else.

Rogers plans to speak with his father's attorney about the dispute. But he said beyond the money, he's more upset about how he was treated during an already difficult time in his life.

Policy being reviewed

John Pike, the owner of HorizonAire, said that since Al Rogers has involved a lawyer in the dispute, he will be doing the same.

Pike said that the company normally has a no-return policy on purchased medical equipment.

Equipment that customers rent from the company can be returned without a restocking fee.

Pike said he didn't know why Rogers was told he could return the item with the restocking fee, but said the company's policy is currently being reviewed.