Come on, Bayer

A while ago I mentioned that I had been having trouble with my Contour USB Meter.  Here’s the history in a nutshell:

  • I used to use the OneTouch UltraSmart meter.  I loved it.  But then I had the opportunity to get a Contour USB meter, and I took it.  The small size was great, the small drop of blood required was great, and the accompanying software was pretty impressive.  I started to love it too.
  • A few months ago, my USB meter started acting up.  Every now and then it would count down to zero, pause, and then give me an error message instead of my reading.
  • I called Bayer and was dealt with by a gentleman who was very polite, if not a bit slow to understand my problem.  In the end, he arranged for a new meter to be sent to me as a warranty replacement.  (Note: I had to send the malfunctioning one back.  I’m not collecting USB meters.)
  • Within a week of starting to use the replacement meter, I was finding that test strips were often “clicking” on insertion – as if something was catching inside.  When this would happen, the meter would not turn on.  In some cases I had to try to insert the strip so many times that I started to worry it wasn’t going to work at all – but then it would catch correctly and it would work and all would be fine.  It did, however, make me lose my trust in the meter’s ability to function when I needed it to, so I set it aside, started using a regular Contour meter I had on hand, and made myself a note to call Bayer again.

So finally last week I got around to calling them (don’t judge – I’ve been really busy!).  This time I dealt with a woman who really didn’t seem to understand my problem – nor the ins and outs of actually living with diabetes.  The first process with Bayer “Customer Service” is to go through the troubleshooting process.  I explained quite thoroughly that sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t, and that I couldn’t make it malfunction on command, but that this didn’t mean that it was working.  She seemed stumped by this, and continued to try to force me to prove that it currently wasn’t working.

Then she asked me about the vial of test strips: lot number, number of strips in the bottle, etc.  I explained that I had stopped using the meter weeks ago so this was not the same vial of strips that I had been using when I had the problem.  I also explained (when asked) that, no, I did not still have the vial from those strips – as I go through multiple vials a week and don’t hoard empty test strip vials.  (If anyone sees a Hoarders episode like that, someone has to let me know.)

She then told me that I should phone them back the next time it malfunctioned – and that they’re open from 9AM-9PM.  This got my blood boiling.  I’ll admit, it may not have all been her fault – I’m pregnant and had high bloodsugar at the time, plus I’m very sensitive about people in the D-Biz not understanding what it’s like to have D.  Still, come on.

I explained to her (less patiently at this point), that my meter was malfunctioning in the middle of the night, at the grocery store with my toddler, at work immediately prior to important meetings, right before sitting down for dinner with my family…etc…etc…etc.  All times that do not facilitate an immediate phone call, including troubleshooting, to Bayer.  Basically, I told her that it was unreasonable to expect me to use a faulty meter until it inconveniently malfunctioned again – particularly since it’s been so hit-or-miss.  After being put on hold for a while, I was told that there was nothing she could do.

Come on, Bayer.

I informed her that I would continue to use the USB meter until it malfunctioned again, but then instead of phoning Bayer, I would be switching back to my OneTouch UltraSmart and taking my business elsewhere.

She asked if there was anything else I needed.

There wasn’t.

I’ll admit that, once I cooled down a bit, I was able to partially (but only partially) understand Bayer’s side of things.  They don’t want to replace a meter if it’s not truly malfunctioning.  That’s fine.  And maybe my recent warranty replacement had flagged me as a trouble-maker or something.  (“Watch this one.  She’s shady!”)  I don’t know.  But really, when you consider the cost of a meter – even a sleek USB meter – compared to the huge cost of the strips (I go through about 100 strips/week – more when pregnant), doesn’t it make sense for them to just say, “Okay, reasonable or not, we want your business, so here’s a new meter”?  Doesn’t it?  The cost of that meter to them is probably no more than their revenues from 1 week of strips from me.  Seriously.

Come on, Bayer.

But I think what bothered me more was the major lack of understanding of what it’s like to really rely on these meters.  Especially now that I’m pregnant (but even when I wasn’t) I need that meter to work when I need it!  I can’t be guessing as to whether I’m low or as to how much I need to bolus with my lunch.  I need to know with certainty!  (Don’t even get me started on the meter accuracy issue.)  Plus, with all of my logging and trend analysis that I’m doing lately, I need all of my results on one machine – I can’t be switching back and forth when one doesn’t work.  This isn’t a television or a printer or a cell phone…it’s a medical device!  My health and the health of my baby are depending heavily on it right now.  “Call us next time it doesn’t work” isn’t an option for me.  I just need it to work.  All the time.  Right now.  Maybe it’s a lot to ask, but I feel like the people working in Bayer “Customer Service” should get that.

Come on, Bayer.

So, just in case it was a test strip problem instead of a meter problem (which, I’ll admit, I hadn’t considered), I’m going to give the Contour USB meter another try.  But I’ll happily switch back to my OneTouch UltraSmart that actually has some pretty cool features (even if it is a bit bulkier) the minute that USB meter even looks at me funny.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mario on October 21, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    It is strange that some company told to their customers that they don’t need them to be alive … In a certain way …
    Maybe 2 suggestions :
    1- Next time, ask to talk to the manager. Don’t hesitate to escalade the problem.
    2- Copy-paste this blog entry and send it to the customer support at Bayer. Maybe someone there will be more empathic to your problem. It is 10 times harder to get a new client for a company than to keep existing one.
    Good luck with your USB Contour !
    p.s.: I’m still with the traditionnal Bayer contour as the USB doesn’t communicate with the pump 😐


  2. I’m a former IT tech, now newly-minted RN, and I’ve had a few customer service jobs along the way. I’ve never worked for Bayer, but after hearing that I don’t think I could have. That’s rather poor customer service for something that’s incredibly important to your health and wellbeing!

    Good job posting about this. It’s nice to know what companies are reliable and good to work with.


  3. they should replace fully functioning meters. why? because they are worth pennies. the meters themselves are nothing without the expensive strips as you said. they make SO much money off us (I use more than 300 strips a month) and no matter what the problem, the meter should be replaced without question. I wonder if you got a stupid customer service rep but it seemed to happen to you twice.
    kick bayer out. if that happened to me I’d switch without question. the only sucky part is that the Bayer USB is so “sleek” as you put it.
    I like the idea above about sending Bayer your blog post.
    this post bums me out, sorry about your misfortune with the customer service folks.


  4. Posted by Sylvie on October 23, 2011 at 9:47 am

    I think you are right on ALL accounts! ‘Come on, Bayer.’
    I like all of the above suggestions. If I was Bayer I’d be giving you 10 meters.
    Just a side note. I have had both those difficulties with my contour USB in the past (and just ignored it–I am a little lazy), but not recently–so maybe the test strip problem theory will save you from having to experience this again!


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