Is Selling Used DME on the Web a Good Move for You?

If you’ve been a mobility dealer or rehab provider for any length of time, chances are you have accumulated a lot of used equipment. So what to do with the power chairs, scooters and ADLs that end up in storage in your parts department? After all, you can only use so many demo and loaner units, right?

At a time when many HME providers are understandably looking for ways to not only control their inventory, but perhaps turn some extra inventory into cash to help their bottom lines, a Web site called usedHME.com says it offers a solution: low-cost ways for dealers to advertise used home medical equipment to other dealers, medical facilities, advocacy organizations and end-users both locally and nationwide.
So could this type of Internet site work for you?

Here’s How It Works
Gordy De Wane, president of usedHME.com, says he knows the challenges of today’s HME dealers because he used to be one himself. Asked how his site helps to address current dealer needs and industry challenges, De Wane says, “This is a very difficult question because it all comes down to predicting the future. Everything from competitive bidding, what equipment will be covered, reimbursement… These are conversations I have with dealers and dealers are having with each other every day.
“I do know that increased cash sales are vital to the success of your dealership. usedHME.com is a critical venue to increase the exposure of your dealership and increase cash sales.”

De Wane says it takes a minimal amount of time for a dealer to get going by posting an ad onto the site: “It takes about five minutes for a dealer to get started by submitting a free ad,” he said.

Free ads allow only very brief (25 characters maximum) product descriptions, no product photos, and are placed at the end of the product category list that appears when a consumer or other potential buyer does a search.

Because those free ads give little information, sellers are given the option of an “upgraded Corporate Ad for a $50 fee. A corporate ad is bigger, has a colored background, you can add a photo, and has about 300 characters for description.” De Wane adds that Corporate Ads are placed at the top of the product category ads that buyers see when they do a search.

Buyers visiting the site can search product categories ranging from scooters, power chairs and pediatric equipment to oxygen equipment and beds. Search results can be displayed by proximity to the buyer (via a ZIP code function), or buyers can view all equipment available in that category.

Consumer Competition?
Of course, being able to advertise a potentially valuable and expensive piece of home medical equipment for little or no cost also encourages consumers to sell and buy directly with each other, without involving a dealer at all.

De Wane says usedHME.com has “no restrictions whatsoever” regarding who can use the site, but insists the site’s goal is “to become the number one free service for dealers to sell their used home medical equipment.”
He suggests dealers can use the site to find what they need, without having to personally keep a huge inventory of used products. “Say someone calls your store looking for a used scooter, and you do not have this equipment,” he suggests. “Do a search on usedHME.com to see if you can find the equipment and resell it. This happens all the time.”

The site also offers paid sponsorships for dealers, and De Wane says, “We pass referrals on to our sponsors via your banner link or direct calls to your dealership based on ZIP code proximity.” He offers local and national banner ads to dealers for additional fees.
De Wane adds that the site encourages visitors to seek the professional expertise of an HME dealer: “We stress throughout usedHME.com that home medical equipment is very complex. Everything from properly fit equipment, choosing the correct equipment for a particular diagnosis, prescription requirements, insurance eligibility, service and warranty… The viewers of usedHME.com need to consult their HME provider.”

Does Internet Selling Help or Hurt Today’s DME Provider?

An examination of usedHME.com did indeed find multiple brief suggestions that consumers consult professional HME dealers. Said a paragraph at the top of the Power Chairs page: “REMEMBER the best value takes into account all aspects of buying a power chair, including insurance eligibility and prescription requirements.” The reminder is accompanied by a request for consumers to click on the buttons of the site’s sponsors.
But will such brief and occasional reminders truly drive consumers to HME dealers for assistance, or will consumers just brush off such advice and deal directly with each other, regardless of their probable unfamiliarity with much or most of the equipment and technology listed on the site?
“usedHME.com is not a threat to the dealer because people are already selling their used HME via newspaper ads,” De Wane says “They will also place their ads on usedHME.com. But as a dealer, you know what price the market will bear. People tend to overprice their equipment. This is a tremendous advantage to the dealer in selling and reducing your used HME inventory.

“Again, we stress that dealers are the experts. We want our viewers to go to their dealers for their expertise.”
Used wisely, De Wane says, his site can help dealers to reach new customers, with the end goal of establishing an old-fashioned, face-to-face relationship of the brick-and-mortar variety. “A dealer places a free ad on usedHME.com,” he says. “Someone in your area looking for a used scooter, for example, would do a ZIP code search in the mobility scooter equipment category. Someone seeing your ad would give your dealership a call. When they call you about the scooter, you would then invite them in to see everything you have.
“We have been in operation for four years,” De Wane adds. “This is all we do. It is our passion to support the HME industry and dealers.”

Do you believe selling via the Internet can help or hurt a provider’s efforts? Tell us what you think: E-mail lwatanabe@1105media.com.






This article originally appeared in the July 2008 issue of Mobility Management.

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