November 17, 2010
Clinic owner struggles with ultrasound-equipment vendor
Amerisource Medical blames veterinarian’s location for shipment delay
Stephen W. Spero
For The VIN News Service
Dr. Jeffrey LaHuis is not a man who gives up easily.
He’s a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve and helps police with forensic investigations, so he’s used to difficult situations.
But Amerisource Medical LLC of Columbia, Md., has him sputtering to himself and colleagues in the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), an online professional community. LaHuis is so disappointed with the company that he said he filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland over its failure to deliver a $5,000 used ultrasound machine.
An Amerisource representative told the VIN News Service that delivery of the order was hindered by the bulky size of the equipment and the veterinarian’s remote location in northern Michigan. He said the veterinarian had been kept informed about the reason.
LaHuis countered that the company has not been forthcoming with news of the machine's whereabouts.
The dispute began shortly after LaHuis closed a deal Sept. 9 to purchase Sault Animal Hospital in Sault Sainte Marie, Mich. He had just returned from a year’s stint with the 719 Medical Detachment Veterinary Services, where he was stationed in Qatar in the Middle East. High on his agenda was expanding the services the hospital offered, and he began looking for an ultrasound machine to help with diagnoses.
After some Internet research, he called Amerisource and ordered a used Acuson 128XP, a machine that is about 2 feet wide, 3 feet deep and 4 feet tall. It weighs 465 pounds.
LaHuis said he spoke with Pat Jackson at Amerisource on Sept. 20, and mailed the company his check on Sept. 23, and the company cashed it on Sept. 28. The doctor had not yet been issued a credit card for his new business, and his personal card was tapped, as he was moving his family 600 miles to Sault Sainte Marie to be near his new practice.
The machine had not been delivered as of noon today, more than seven weeks after he ordered it.
“I’m writing this up as lost money,” he said. LaHuis estimated he has lost between $3,000 and $5,000 from clients who could have used the service had the machine been delivered in a timely manner.
LaHuis started posting on a VIN message board about the issue on Nov. 1, generating several suggestions. His colleagues suggested contacting the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or lawyers who might be able to help him.
LaHuis contacted a lawyer, who said he could help – for $300 an hour. The doctor passed.
LaHuis said he did file a complaint with the BBB in Greater Maryland. The VIN News Service was unable to reach a representative of the bureau for comment.
On its website, the bureau reports that it processed two complaints about Amerisource over the past three years. One complaint concerned contract issues; the second, delivery issues. One complaint is listed as “administratively closed”; the other as “resolved.” Details are not posted.
On VIN, many who commented on LaHuis’s predicament lamented that he paid by check.
“If you paid with (a) credit card, dispute the charge immediately. If you paid cash or a check ... well, let's just hope you paid with a credit card,” wrote Dr. Mark O’Hanlon of Animal Emergency Service in Kirkland, Wash.
The Fair Billing Credit Act offers some protections to consumers, and credit card companies may be able to intervene in a consumer’s favor, according to Bankrate.com, a website that reports on the credit card industry.
Jackson, the representative from Amerisource, told the VIN News Service in an interview Thursday that LaHuis was not listening to his explanations that Sault Sainte Marie is a difficult place to ship such a large machine. He said shippers would move the machine only with other material.
Jackson said the machine will be delivered, but could not specify when. He said he would contact LaHuis the next day.
But six days later, LaHuis said he had not heard from Amerisource. A string of e-mails from the company that LaHuis shared with the VIN News Service, dated from Oct. 29, say the company is having problems with shippers.
The last e-mail LaHuis said he received from the company came from Jackson on Nov. 9, saying he would call the next day with news. The call hasn’t come, and LaHuis isn’t waiting around. He’s busy seeking another machine he can use.
LaHuis said he’s no longer interested in doing business with Amerisource and has faxed the company seeking his money back. Part of the sales price included service on the machine, and LaHuis said he has no confidence the company will do any better on that front.
“I can’t have a machine that is down for two months,” he said.
In his search for a substitute, he noted, “Needless to say, I am going to look for service over price.”
VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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