Yesterday we had a customer come in to buy batteries, but was skeptical about whether our batteries were brand new or used.
This is not the first time I've heard such questions over the years. It seems that there's a widespread belief that old batteries are being sold by unscrupulous vendors to cheat people of their money.
But having been in the industry for 9 years, I don't think this is true, and I would like to dispel some myths today.
I don't think there are vendors in the market selling old batteries. At least, I've not come across. The mobility scooter and motorised wheelchair industry in Singapore, fortunately, still follows a basic code of ethics. I don't believe anybody, not even my competitors, are selling old batteries.
But why is there such a widespread belief in the market? I think there are 3 main reasons.
Firstly, there are people supplying cheap, but poor quality batteries. In the early days of Falcon Mobility, we also tried various brands of batteries (mainly China brands), and QC'ed them thoroughly before selling to the customers. The batteries were good and performed within their specifications when we first received them.
But within 6 months, most of the batteries came back for replacement under warranty. So even though the batteries were cheap, our cost was double because we had to pay for 2 sets of batteries for every set that we sold. And there was a loss of customer trust and goodwill, which was priceless.
I will not name anybody, but the supplier that sold me those batteries previously is still in the business, selling cheap batteries that can't last 6 months to poor, ignorant customers. How do we know? Because those customers came to us after their poor experience, paid a bit more, but got good batteries from us that last way beyond the 6 months warranty period.
The second reason, I believe, is shelf life. There are about a dozen or more different sellers of mobility scooters in Singapore at any point in time, but most of them have very low sales volumes and few customers.
Falcon Mobility has several thousand customers in Singapore and abroad, we replace between 350 to 400 pairs of batteries every year. In 2014, 2015 and 2016, we did a total of 15 battery import shipments, so our batteries stay in our store for an average of 2.4 months.
Furthermore, they come direct from the factory in Taiwan, so they didn't spend any time squatting in some wholesaler's warehouse waiting to be sold.
In other words, we have have the economy of scale to ensure our batteries are sold within 3 months of production.
Batteries left on the shelf need to be re-charged every 6 months to prevent degradation. But for vendors that don't have our kind of volume, their batteries will easily stay on the shelf for up to a year or more. And would they actually remember to charge the batteries twice a year? So there's a high chance that if you bought batteries from such a vendor, your batteries are already degraded.
The third reason is the myth that every problem with the scooter is battery related. Often, people who encounter stoppages with their scooter assume that it's a problem with the batteries, so they change the batteries. But if the scooter has some other problem, changing the batteries don't help, and the problem comes back. At this point, the customer gets angry and accuses the vendor of selling used batteries.
But what's the reality?
Yes, most problems are battery-related. But it's only a sizable majority, between 40% - 60%. It is not an overwhelming majority, like 80% - 90%.
After batteries, the 2nd biggest source of problems are contact problems i.e. poor electrical contacts, resulting in the electrical current being cut off intermittently. This could be due to loose wiring, rusted metal contacts, frayed wires, blown fuses, worn out carbon brushes etc. Every scooter has dozens of different electrical contacts, which means dozens of possible problems.
This is also what makes the diagnosis of problems so difficult, and why we need to impose such a high diagnostic fee. We need to do continuity checks for all the dozens of electrical contacts to find out which one(s) is(are) causing the problem. It takes just 15 minutes to change a set of batteries, but contact tracing is a tedious process that can take a several hours.
Therefore, please don't assume every problem with your scooter is related to the batteries. If you have changed your batteries recently and your scooter still has problems, most likely it has other underlying problems that you don't know about. It's time to contact Falcon Mobility for help.