Tuesday, December 06, 2011

How not to invest £6000

So*, we were at my Mum's** the other weekend and I decided to tackle the stair lift.

This'll be the stair lift she had installed in 2007, used approximately three times and then decided she'd move a bed downstairs and not bother going up there at all. We came across the bill for it shortly after she moved into the care home. £6000. I researched the company that installed it, hoping that they'd have a scheme for buying them back. Yep, you guessed it. A flock of pigs just flew past.

Worse than expected, not only did the company no longer exist, they'd been the subject of a BBC Watchdog investigation into the shady practice of selling stair lifts for way more than they were worth to vulnerable elderly people, often with dementia. Disgusting. As my Nan used to say: "their hands should drop off." Another brief stint of Internet research suggested she'd been overcharged roughly double what it should have been.

Back in June I was reluctant to write off such a massive amount of money. Surely someone could make use of what was effectively a brand new machine? OK four years old, but hardly used at all and still in perfect condition. Three mobility companies were advertising in the local paper. Two of them didn't return my calls, one said they were only interested if it was a straight staircase. Well, it isn't.

It turns right 180° at the bottom, and again 90° at the second kite wind further up. I found an Internet stair lift trading site, snappily titled stair lift trader dot com, and posted this photo there. I received two phishing replies within a couple of weeks, then nothing.

There was a brief flurry of excitement in September when someone telephoned to ask about the stair lift, but it was just one turn too short. The guy's upper landing was another three stairs and a final right turn away from Mum's, so no go.

By the time the end of November was upon us, I'd pretty much resigned myself to having to write-off the majority of the cost of this damned device. But getting rid of it was another conundrum altogether. Professionals would charge for removal which was like throwing good money after bad. I decided to do it myself, so this particular weekend we arrived in Nottingham armed with a set of Allen keys, an adjustable wrench, Mole wrench and anything else I could think of that might help get it apart.

I'll spare you the details. It took me about six hours to get it down, starting on Friday afternoon and finishing on Saturday morning. The tricky bits turned out to be the "hidden" Allen bolt that held the rail sections together (one more bolt that the other 5 that had visible heads), and working out how the heck the seat/battery pack/motor/gear assembly was connected to the rail. But eventually it was a pile of (very heavy) bits. Nikki wondered whether there was a local scrap merchant who might be interested. At least we'd make SOME money back. Good idea! One Google search, one phone call and one short drive later and we were unloading the bits into a skip.

Skip was duly weighed, and the scrap man handed over our dosh. 102kgs of mild steel at £100 a tonne: the princely sum of £10.20.

*All the best posts, and replies to questions, begin with "So" these days. Just ask the Today programme. They've debated the phenomenon several times already. Usually followed by a package in which the interviewee begins all his or her replies with "So." So I'm only keeping abreast of the trend, before you start. What's that? You weren't going to start. I'm sorry. It must be the way you're sitting.

**Strictly speaking it's not my Mum's any more, of course. It's mine. But it still feels disrespectful to even think of it that way, so I think it'll be "my Mum's" for a while yet. Probably until it's sold and we don't have to refer to it at all.

1 comment:

Blythe said...

I love the tags on this post :D