Opportunity C, Pay Your Damn Bills!

If you haven’t already, please read our article “Challenges, But More Importantly, OPPORTUNITIES Within the Fitness Equipment Industry.

To briefly reiterate, the objective of this article is not to throw stones, the objective is to bring to light our experiences, our service model, and ultimately, to show how service providers and manufacturers can all work better together.

A show of hands, how many of you work for free?

No one? Same here. As much as we love to perform the service we provide for our customers, we can’t afford to work for free either.

Manufacturer C is a well-known fitness equipment manufacturer, and recently they have captured a large share of the under-desk treadmill space. Unfortunately, they can’t seem to be bothered to pay their service providers. We’ve worked with this company for the last 15 years, but for the last 6 months or so, we’ve seen things go downhill fast. Management changes, process changes, delays in shipping, the list goes on. Things change, we get it, but at the same time, we have a business to run and must have manufacturer support for us to be able to properly support our mutual customers. We’ve seen changes but have not seen much in the way of improvements. Field service is not cheap, and the cost of qualified personnel in both the office and the field, insurance costs, and additional overhead have only increased recently, and will likely continue to do so.

We understand things happen, we’re happy to work with manufacturers and roll with it, but what we cannot allow is bills to continue to be left unpaid, and, even worse, for our inquiries to be responded to with the same tiring old excuses.

At first, we were told these payment delays were due to a system outage but were assured that this would be rectified quickly. As months went by, we were then told that personnel changes were now the cause, and once again assured that we would be paid rapidly. Fast forward a couple of months again, now there are system upgrades that are happening which have resulted in our not being paid for work done months prior. We performed the requested service in a timely manner, and in good faith presuming we’d be paid as agreed. Just how long are we expected to wait to be compensated for the work we’ve performed?

Over the last year we’ve seen numerous fitness equipment manufacturers declare bankruptcy, is Manufacturer C next? I hope not, as these bankruptcies hurt the industry and often leave equipment owners with a worthless warranty and low chance of repair due to lack of parts availability. After Manufacturer C’s continued unwillingness to resolve this issue, my suspicions are high.

After being expected to now work for free for months, we were left with no other choice but to cancel the remaining dispatches Manufacturer C assigned to us. This is the absolute LAST thing we wanted to do, as this is not in alignment with the customer service obligations we take very seriously. After all, repairing fitness equipment is how we make our living. Bottom line, turning down work is generally a poor business practice, but we’re certainly not a charity. Once more, we understand things happen, but the most glaring issue here is the lack of communication, and the lack of a willingness to work together to resolve this problem.

I know we are not alone out there; I know there are numerous providers all over the country getting stiffed by manufacturers who do not make good on their promises. Small service providers like us across the country are being taken advantage of these manufacturers that are larger than we are, and that must stop. As more and more of us providers get together and compare notes, patterns are starting to be seen, and we’re hopeful we’ll be able to make positive changes across the board by holding everyone accountable. Ultimately, we go out and perform a service call, and are then paid for it. That shouldnt be complicated, right?

Once more, an open dialogue is encouraged, what obstacles have you encountered, and what changes would you like to see within this industry?

We’re looking forward to hearing your thoughts and looking forward to improving this industry by working TOGETHER! 

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