Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Disability rip-offs: You want me to pay 30 bucks for a spoon?


What I needed was a few teaspoons with big handles, of the kind Max uses at school. Specifically, a Vertical Palm Self-Handle Utensil. That's it on left above. So lovely to look at, right? Its charms include: It can be bent to 90 degrees. Dishwasher safe. Latex free. Phthalates free. Best of all: It enables my son to feed himself.

The OT at Max's school twists it then adds padding, customizing it so Max can better target his mouth. Like this:



The online stores that sell these utensils are typically geared toward people with disabilities and people in need of rehab. The results of my comparison shopping:

$30.18 over at United Health Supply. On sale from $60.70. Wowza. I will take 32 of them, please! At that price, it better well come with someone who will make the food for you. And someone who will clean up. And someone who will give birth to your next child for you.

$28.87 at Berktree.com. Retail price, it says, is $30.80. So they're giving you a deal.

$26.66 at AAAWholesaleCompany

$23.64 over at DevineMedical

$19.00 at Southwest Medical

$13.85 at Wisdomking.com, where I finally bit the bullet. I got four spoons (plus $9.95 shipping) for $65.35.

I'm pretty sure my wedding silver cost less than that.

Price gouging is, of course, not unique to special needs equipment and tools. It's inclusive, really, when you think about it—companies game to rip you off no matter what your (or your child's) disability is! But fools, we're not.

Don't get me started on adaptive toy rip-offs, like the 16-inch Giant Gears toy that sells for $399.95 (NOT A TYPO) at Enabling Devices. Or the large sensory room they've helpfully assembled ("more than 70 items that cover every sensory need") for $19,999.95 (REALLY NOT A TYPO). That could work out, if you purchased the room and moved your entire family in there, although it's unclear whether you could mortgage a sensory room.

Listen, I'm not expecting to find adaptive equipment dirt cheap; I get that this stuff costs more to manufacture. And they're specialty items; it's doubtful Target's coming out with a line of Carolina Herrera adaptive tableware anytime soon. But you want to take advantage of parents desperate for their children to develop? You want to charge people who likely have plenty of extra medical expenses $30 bucks for a spoon? Well, then, bite me.

37 comments:

  1. I know the feeling. I usually go on a rant when I need an item and I see the price. It makes me so angry that anything that is special needs is more than double if not more. I can see paying a little more but really does it cost that much. The problem is that we need those items so our child can function better and they know it and have us in the corner. This is a subject that gets me going!

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  2. I know the prices they can charge for adaptive things is crazy.... i had to pay 70 dollars for 6 pack of AFO socks,,, and that was on discount! Talk about a big mark up for socks!

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    1. Oh, yah, we've also blown a bundle on socks! But then I found a place that has a better deal on them ($5 a pair) and they're good quality, www.afosocks.com

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    2. Awesome!!!! I am going to check out that site! That is so much better!

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    3. Just checked it out! And they have colors!!!! Love it!!!

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    4. I just buy regular socks at Target that are tight. They have several brands that are like that, they are more expensive than the super cheap and more loose tube socks but not crazy like the afo socks.

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    5. Yes! We just got a call from our orthotist office, "your ins co will only pay for 2 socks, did you want to pay for the additional 3?" I *almost* said yes- they are nice socks, but then I said "How much?" and she said $57 A SOCK. Not a pair- that's the price PER sock! I about died laughing. But in all seriousness, it is outrageous, and it is so wrong of these companies!

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  3. find someone in the maker community. they could make some of that stuff for less $$
    http://makezine.com/maker-community-groups/

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  4. You're right the spoons are a rip off

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  5. Ellen,
    I just saw that Paralypic snowboarder Amy Purdy will be on Dancing with the Stars. I haves never seen the show but think that's pretty cool.

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    1. Kathryn....
      Really?! Paralypic snowboarder Amy Purdy will be on Dancing with the Stars?! That, to me, is inspiring!! ;-D
      --Raelyn

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    2. yeah I saw it on msn. She'll be paired with the guy who choreographed Meryl Davis and Charlie White's short dance.

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  6. Ellen....
    "What a rip-off!" --Michelle from "Full House"
    --Raelyn


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  7. Hate the cost... but I could really use this for one of my little girls here in India! Just posted a link to the site you used on facebook and asked a friend to sponsor and send us some of these!! :)

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  8. If most of the people on earth is disability, then the spoon will cost less then the normal spoon that we have now. Find a way to make it cheap if you have the real drive to help them. The business at least managed to manufacture the spoon for these small group of disability people. The rest of the society don't even care to think about it, which is worst than a $100 spoon. Making 10,000 spoons for $10,000 does not means that making 1 spoon cost $1.

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    1. Too true. Alas, helping people isn't the guiding force behind these businesses!

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  9. I have experienced this for a hand braced that I need it costs 100 dollars and I have no toys. And the thing that gets me is people with disabilities likely make less money then people without and they expect us to make all of these expensive purchases.

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    1. Tooner....
      "And the thing that gets me is people with disabilities likely make less money than people without and they expect us to make all of these expensive purchases.". I can't but agree!! ;)
      --Raelyn

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  10. We've been shocked at prices, too! Will be checking out the sock site soon. :)

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  11. Seriously? $30 for a spoon with a large handle? I'm sure pouring silicone into a mold isn't that much work!

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  12. Here is one for you, first I will show you this on B&H Photo's site: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/325440-REG/Manfrotto_143_143_Magic_Arm_Kit.html
    This arm is amazing, as a photographer, I have been using them for years for various things. Turns out, it is perfect for mounting iPads (with another part from another company) and cameras on wheelchairs. I have helped a couple people with them for their wheelchairs. Recently, I found them on several websites for adaptive equipment. I have seen them for price around $200 up to $600. I emailed the company and asked them one the arm was $600 and they told me because it was being custom built in very small quantity. So I replied with the above link and told them exactly what I thought of their business practices.

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    1. Busted!!! Shame on them. Please feel free to name the website charging $600, if you'd like, so we can steer clear of it.

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  13. Yeah, paying $25+ for onesies/bodysuits gets pretty old. And the place I get them from has been out of stock for months. Gah!

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  14. It's just another thing that the rest of the world doesn't get :(

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  15. It is just ridiculous...utterly ridiculous. And on top of that the majority of things are so cheaply made with cheap material and zero advanced engineering or design... fabrics, metals, plastics. Certain mobility aids in peds do not have to weigh 800lbs. Use lighter metals so it can actually be transported. Rifton uses heavy metal, drills, and velcro..calls it a fancy name and charges thousands of dollars for something with very poor engineering. Design something with more practical function!!!! Ugh I could go on and on.

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  16. My price gouging peeve is the price of boardmaker software by mayerjohnson- it creates the picture symbols my nonverbal students on the spectrum need to communicate. Basic $200!- upwards to $700! Families/Educators complain about the cost in the review section but are forced to buy to help children communicate. What a racket!

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  17. So the follow up to this post needs to be one where you list all the places we've found that DON'T price gouge so we can A) get better deals and B) support the decent among us out there.

    For instance, we bought the Nickel Bed Tent for our son. I know it's not the right option for every family but it's working for ours and I loved supporting a business offering an affordable option for special needs kids!

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  18. University of Michigan Health System just published something similar that helps people with shaky hands to stabalize their utensils! http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140228121128.htm

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  19. Two words for you: chewy tubes. Pretty sure the dog's Kong toy is made from the same stuff...

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  20. I hear ya! There's all kinds of stuff I would like to get for my daughter but there is now way we can afford them. I will have to check out those spoons though. Maddy can sort of use regular ones, but not really well.

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  21. Have you ever looked through the adaptive catalog from Abilitations? Everything is marked up 5-10X. The prices are outrageous. I actually called them last year to say that they should be ashamed of themselves for their prices.

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    1. I agree, especially is their customers have other expenses to deal with (medical bills, insurance, etc.).

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  22. "Bite me"- I love it! Shame shame shame. I have parents to be be pretty resourceful and common sensical in coming up with their own adaptations!

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  23. I am an OT and this is so true! The only spoon we were happy to pay 30$ for is the Caring spoon - it was then discontinued and we are not over it yet as some students could eat only with it. I don't see many good new products either - Sammons has the same chrome and brown things for more then 20 years. As for wheel-chairs, Everest and Jenning had a monopoly in the 70' and got away with a crappy product.I'll stop now and be ever hopeful.

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  24. Many of these items can be charged through insurance because they are considered DME or adaptive equipment. There is also a much smaller market for these so they are not produced in large enough quantities to manufacture them cheaply. The real ripoff is those of us who have our insurance premiums gouged year after year in order to pay for your special needs kids, or having our taxes hiked to pay for all your disability and welfare payments.

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Thanks for sharing!