Hearing Aid Rip-off of a Senior Citizens
by Richard Kirk
Has anyone had a problem with Beltone hearing aids or any other
manufacture? Enclosed is a letter I sent to the Attorney
General of New York State regarding Beltone hearing aids. At this point in time, Beltone has managed to take $7,000.00 out
of my 84 year old Aunt's pocket and labeled it health care. Read
the letter and respond to me at [email protected]
Richard Kirk takes full responsibility for this posting.
2728 Shamrock Road
Skaneateles, New York 13152
Dennis C. Vacco, Attorney General
New York State Department of Law
Consumer Frauds & Protection Bureau
615 Erie Blvd. West, Suite 102
Syracuse, New York 13204-2465
Re: Complaint Against Beltone Hearing Aids of Queensbury, New York.
I am representing my Aunt (Edna Olsen) in the following complaint.
The following is a schedule of the events that led up to this
May 13,- Eighty-four year old Aunt (Edna Olsen) sees an
advertisement for Beltone Hearing Aids. Beltone salesman
comes to Olsen's house, tests her hearing, and persuades Aunt to
purchase a set of Beltone hearing aids. My Aunt's hearing is
impaired slightly but not to the extent that the Beltone salesman
indicated. According to other medical audiologists, one hearing
aid would have been sufficient at that time.
Also, salesman uses monthly payments as an inducement to purchase
hearing aids. She only has to pay $75 per month. What
he neglected to tell her was that it would take 7 to 8 years to pay
off the hearing aid at a cost of almost double the purchase
price of $3120.00.
In addition, the salesman did not give her a copy of the finance
agreement. The only copy that she received of the transaction
was Exhibit A. Equally important, the Beltone salesman did not
explain the Return Policy or Medical Waiver in Exhibit A. She
was not told that it would be in her best interest to be examined
a licensed physician before purchasing a hearing aid. She
was required to deposit $200.00 on the hearing aid and place her
signature next to the x marks.
August 15,- On or about this time period Edna Olsen went in to
Beltone for extra hearing aid batteries. The salesman
was not there. At that time, Olsen told the salesgirl that she was not happy with her hearing aids, for whatever reason, and the
salesgirl said she would forward the message to the salesman ( d**k ?). The salesman called Olsen back and asked her to
come back to the store.
September 1,- Edna Olsen goes back to Beltone and the salesman
shows Olsen another set of hearing aids that were
more petite than the previous set she had purchased. At that time, he gave her another hearing test and told her that her hearinghad deteriorated such that she needed another set of hearing aids.
She thought about what he said, decided that she wasn't
interested in the new hearing aids and started to leave the
building. Immediately, the salesman walked up to Olsen and told herto take the hearing aids home and try them. He told her, "If you are not happy with the hearing aids you can return them and
you won't be under any purchase obligation." When she was told that she could return the hearing aids, she accepted the salesman's invitation and went home with them.
September 7-21, - Olsen tried the hearing aids for one week and
decided that she did not like them. She tried to return
them on four separate occasions but was told each time by d**k's
secretary, " You will have to bring them back when d**k is
here, I cannot accept them." Finally out of desperation, Olsen made an appointment with the secretary to see the salesman
(d**k). The morning of her appointment, the secretary called and
said that d**k was unavailable but that he would contact her
later to set up another appointment. He never called.
December, - Aunt Edna tells me about the situation at Christmas
time and asks for my advice. The salesman at
Beltone would never return her calls and she was billed for a
second set of hearing aids on 10/10/95 for $2500.00 (Exhibit B).
Olsen never signed a finance agreement for this amount and her
credit limit with Beltone was conveniently increased at this time
from $3000 to $5000 to cover the new hearing aids.
If Olsen had purchased, as Beltone claims, the hearing aids on
September 1 (Exhibit B, Transaction Date), why wasn't
the transaction posted on the September 9, 1995 invoice (Exhibit
According to Beneficial Finance, a week was more than
enough time to post the amount to their account. Could it be that at this time there was no agreement between Olsen and
Beltone. It was only at a later date that the salesman decided to finance the second set of hearing aids in my Aunt's name
without my Aunt's permission.. My Aunt never wanted the hearing
aids, did not sign or receive a finance agreement nor sign or
receive an agreement similar to Exhibit A.
- Talked to Jeff Bloom at the main Beltone Plant in
Chicago, Illinois. I told him about the situation and that the
owner (John Tolbert) of their franchised office in Plattsburg, New York would not return my calls. Bloom contacted the owner
and Tolbert told him that he had talked to me two hours ago and
that there was nothing he could do for me. I told Bloom that
the owner had never contacted me and that if they couldn't help me I would pursue the matter with the State Attorney Generals
Office as well as the local District Attorney's Office for fraud.
- I was contacted by John Tolbert. Tolbert told me that
this was all my Aunt's fault and there was nothing that
he could do to remedy the situation.
Conclusion: The bottom line on these transactions is that my Aunt, Edna Olsen, does not need two sets of hearing aids. Her
hearing is such that if you call her on the phone, you will not
have to raise your voice to speak to her; she will understand
everything you say to her and will respond in kind. This dialogue is all without the benefit of her hearing aids. She does not wear them. Other audiologists confirm the fact that she does not need a full set of hearing aids. She would be fine with one hearing aid and could easily manage without it.
Also, the salesman sold her one of the most expensive hearing aids that they manufactured. She was charged $3120 for the first
set and $2500 for the second set. The model that she purchased was a lower power level ODES hearing aid. This same model
can be purchased at another Beltone dealer in Rochester, N.Y
(Exhibit D) for $850. My Aunt was charged $1560 each for a
total of $3120 a set ( Rochester- $850 x 2= $1700).
In comparison to the Rochester store, she would have saved $1420.00.In addition, I received a price quote (Exhibits F and G) from John Pederson of the Massena, New York Beltone dealer, one of three stores owned by John Tolbert. Pederson's quote on the ODES hearing aid was $1350 each or $2700 for two of them.
This is still $420 less expensive than the Queensbury store and
they are owned by the same individual, John Tolbert. I
mentioned this to Jeff Bloom at the main Beltone plant and his
response was, " The dealers are free to charge whatever the
market will bear." I guess my Aunt was made to bear quite a bit.
To add insult to injury, if you look at Olsen's receipt (Exhibit A) you will notice that under total she was overcharged $100.00.
$2990 + 30= $3020 and not $3120. Her final bill after the down
payment of $200 should have read $2820 and not the $2920
that she was charged on her first billing (Exhibit E).
In short, Beltone solicited my Aunt's business in her home when all she really wanted was information and prices on a hearing
aid over the phone. The salesman convinced her that she needed the most expensive hearing aid on the market and sold her a
set when she barely needed one. They overcharged her on the
original bill and the billing statement by $100.00. Beltone then
turned around and convinced my Aunt to try another set of hearing aids a year later under the pretense of being returnable.
They would not take them back. Also, if you compare prices with
other Beltone dealers, she was overcharged a total of almost
$3000 on two sets of hearing aids of which she did not need the
second set. My Aunt is emotionally and physically drained
from this experience. This whole incident borders on fraudulent
behavior by Beltone and should be looked into by your office.
To take advantage of an eighty-four year old woman, a senior
citizen that is on a limited budget in her twilight years, is
reprehensible. All it takes is a call to a Beltone dealer, ask
about prices and models, and then listen to their sales pitch.
Your help would be appreciated in this matter. We would like a
complete refund of moneys paid out by my Aunt and we in
return will send back both sets of hearing aids.
Richard B. Kirk
cc: Peter McLellan, Attorney
William Reynolds, District Attorney, Saratoga County
Beltone Manufacturing, Chicago, Illinois