Living with a neurodegenerative condition that leaves her in constant pain, Betty Myatt was looking forward to a new wheelchair that had been recommended to provide her more comfort and support.
The 72-year-old former nurse did not think twice about paying a $5,000 deposit in advance, after dealing with the person she was buying from, Ed Schijns at Dragon E-Bikes in Halifax, for about 20 years.
That was in December 2019.
She was initially told delays were due to parts for the wheelchair coming from China and soon after that the wait was being caused by COVID-19, in addition to Schijn's health issues.
But after several months passed, she began to wonder what was going on with the wheelchair and the $5,000 she had paid toward it.
"I was starting to feel really anxious about it, very concerned. We were contacting him every other day and my condition was worsening and I was in more pain and getting nowhere," Myatt explained, referring to numerous emails and phone calls that had gone unanswered.
'He's just never available'
Because her condition of adrenoleukodystrophy has deteriorated, the current mobility scooter she uses is no longer the correct fit.
"My posture is off," Myatt said. "I'm in pain, I'm constantly trying to hold myself up from falling over."
Her partner Tom Mulrooney ended up making several visits to the Gottingen Street location of Dragon E-Bikes in Halifax to try to talk to Schijns to try to figure out what was going on.
"He's just never available. Either not there or he is busy with a client, so he has just decided to totally ignore us," Mulrooney said. "Had he sat down with us and said 'Can you help me out here?' we were perfectly willing to do that."
Mulrooney began doing his own research, checking with other wheelchair companies how long it normally takes for them to be manufactured and delivered.
He discovered that delays beyond a couple of months were a clear sign something is wrong.
The last email they received from Schijns apologizing for delays was in May 2020.
It was not something they wanted to do, but with no contact or any sign of the wheelchair or the money, they decided to go to small claims court.
Ed Schijns did not show up to the hearing, which was over the phone in June.
A written decision was issued, ordering Dragon E-Bikes Ltd to pay $5,000 in addition to $299.35 in costs.
It seemed like a big breakthrough.
But so far they have still not been able to recoup the money.
"I can't believe how difficult it is to get $5,000 when the other party is not willing to pay," Mulrooney said.
Schijns says he's working on paying back the money
When approached by CBC News, Schijns acknowledged it has been "way too long" since he last contacted Betty Myatt. His recollection is that it was sometime in the spring of last year.
However, he said he intends to pay back the money, which is why he did not contest the small claims court action.
"I'm working on it. It has been a bad year because of COVID. Everything is suffering. The supply chain is killing us," Schijns said.
In fact, Schijns claims he has also been let down by his suppliers in both Toronto and China.
That's where he says different parts of the wheelchair had been ordered from. Some parts are now in his office he said and he has been chasing down the others.
He admits he could have done a better job explaining the circumstances to Betty Myatt.
"I'm embarrassed. There have been a lot of headaches, I should talk to her," he said. "I'm not arguing with this. I know I owe Betty the money, I promise I am going to pay that money back."
Dragon E-Bikes is not currently running, Schijns said. He has been forced to lay off eight people he said due to challenging times.
Meanwhile Betty Myatt and her partner have gone to a different company to get a replacement wheelchair. It has now arrived, giving her the support and freedom she has been longing for.
Its design means she does not need help getting in and out of the wheelchair as much, giving her more independence. And it is helping with her back pain now that her posture is properly aligned.
Nonetheless, the energy and time it has taken trying to deal with the issue has been stressful.
"We have been going through hell, it's been terrible," she said.
In spite of what Schijns told CBC News about paying the money back, she does not believe that, describing it as another delay tactic.
"That is his game. He never appeared in court. This has been very upsetting emotionally and physically," Myatt said. "We don't see our money coming."
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