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There's a great, best-selling book titled The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker, the leading expert in crime and violence prediction. De Becker's thesis is that there's no mystery to human behavior, that even in the most abhorrent cases – rape, murder, “random acts of violence,” domestic abuse, and so on – there were predictors beforehand of what was to come, and often we overlook these predictors by using poor forms of rationalization and judgment (he looked like a nice guy...), rather than trusting our intuition, our “gift of fear.”

When it comes to the purchase and servicing of mobility products, too many consumers discount the red flags of situations, using poor forms of rationalization and judgment to justify using a bad provider rather than trusting their intuition that spells out it’s a provider to avoid from their first contact. I've heard countless cases over the years where consumers have shared with me, “I should have known my provider was going to be a nightmare from the start when he didn't return my phone calls promptly.” Such sentiments demonstrate how ignoring our intuition – and predictor signs from the start! – can haunt us later.

Although, picking a mobility provider isn't a literal life-or-death moment like de Becker discusses, predictors of future behavior absolutely apply to mobility purchases and service. When a provider doesn't return a phone call within a day when we wish to purchase a new wheelchair, it's easy to ignore our intuition and the predictor signs, incorrectly justifying such poor behavior, simply noting that maybe he or she is busy. However, as we know, true professionals – concerned about their customers – return phone calls quickly (the best providers I know work 12 hour days, responding to their customers promptly). So, as two or three days go by, and a provider doesn't return a call, one's intuition says that it's a bad provider – and, the predictor says that if service is that lax prior to the sale, it will almost certainly be far worse after the sale. And, both assessments are right: It’s a bad provider. Therefore, in such situations, we should listen to our intuition, and write off the provider as a bad one.

As mobility consumers, we need to both acknowledge our intuition and trust predictors, that if a provider appears bad, he or she is. I know that we all want to think the best – that if a provider doesn't return calls, it's because he or she is too busy. Yet, our intuition tells us that that's really never the case, that if a provider isn't returning calls, it's because he or she isn't taking care of business. I'm pretty darn busy, but I always make time to return calls, answer emails, and reply to message board posts. I recently had a rare situation where a consumer's part was on back order for quite some time; but, during that time, we exchanged 20 emails until he received and installed the part. Most of my emails simply stated that I was still awaiting the part, but I wanted him to know that I hadn't forgotten about him – it's just proper courtesy. And, if you don't see proper courtesy in a provider, that's a guaranteed predictor that you won't receive proper service – and you should find another provider.

It’s also intriguing how, as consumers, we seem to want to overlook “red flags” because a provider seems so nice. I recently encountered a situation where a consumer wanted to know how to help his provider sell him a rehab power chair even though the provider isn’t certified to do so. In essence, because the consumer saw the provider as a nice guy, and wanted to purchase a rehab power chair from him, he was looking to help the provider skirt the law. Talk about ignoring intuition and replacing it with bad judgment – that is, a non-certified provider should be avoided to begin with, and if he or she encourages your participation in skirting the law, alarm bells should really go off!

The fact is, there’s no gray area with providers – they’re either doing proper business or they’re not – and when you see that they’re performing poorly, don’t try to rationalize or justify it, but head the other way, finding a new provider where all adds up with your intuition.

Yes, we want to see the best in others, and give providers the benefit of the doubt. However, providers are in business to serve customers, period. If you’re a customer – assuming that you’re sane, reasonable, and rational! – and a provider is setting off alarm bells within your intuition via poor service, don’t try to justify it or overlook it. Rather, if a provider is setting off alarm bells within your intuition, listen loud and clear, and find a new provider. Judgment often fails us; intuition does not. Trust your intuition, and find a great provider, ensuring that your mobility is maximized above all else.

Published 3/2011, Copyright 2011,