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Product and service

Hearing aid vendors supply both a product (the aid) and a service (fitting, maintenance, etc). To my mind, these are two completely separate things.

I’m writing about this because I popped into my local Scrivens branch last weekend – I was waiting for my Wife and just happened to notice the “Hearing Care” sign in their window – to ask for a price list. I knew from previous experiences with other suppliers that it was unlikely that they’d have a price list and sure enough, the answer to my request was, “We suggest you book an appointment with the audiologist for an assessment as everyone’s needs are different”. I said that I knew which aids I wanted and was trying to find where I could get them cheapest – still, I would have to see the audiologist.

Scrivens are selling products, I know which one I want, so why can’t they tell me the price at which I can buy it? I can understand that “everyone’s needs are different” but if Scrivens sell 10 Oticon Epoch hearing aids to different people they are still selling the same product – the only difference being the programming for the individual’s hearing loss. To drive that point home, Scrivens also sell glasses – the glasses are all laid out in the store with prices on the frames and a list of lense types. Why do hearing aids have to be different? Are the vendors scared of their own inflated prices?

To go back to the original point – vendors are offering a service and a product. It should be possible to pay for either of these separately. I should be able to pick up a pair of Epochs if I want them and get them programmed somewhere else. Of course, many customers may not be aware that if they buy a hearing aid it will need to be programmed to their individual loss – and it’s right that vendors make people aware of this BUT that should not stop people being able to purchase an aid only if they so wish.

I’d love to see some transparent pricing on the high-street this year. I think Specsavers are starting to get the idea – let’s hope everyone else will follow.

I still don’t know the price for a pair of Epochs!