Like so many of us, I need to lose weight. My doctor at Kaiser referred me to a new in-house weight loss program, a low-calorie “meal replacement” program. The program appears to be a franchisee of Robard Corporation’s “New Direction” program.
The program itself is very good. The class materials are current and instructive, and the high-protein shakes and bars are good quality.
But Kaiser’s management of the program has been incompetent at best, fraudulent at worst.
Unfortunately, I have no leverage with them. I pre-paid for 16 weeks of product and weekly classes. My first meeting was on October 22.
Things were fine on the program. By my eighth weigh-in on Dec. 10 I had lost 18 lbs. On that day our contact warned me that they were out of the most popular meal replacements, but promised they would be available soon. Okay, I could suck it up and get by on some of the more boring shakes and bars for one week.
The Dec. 17 meeting was going to be a big one, because our group’s next two meetings would be on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. They would not hold meetings on those days, and we would have to pick up a three-week supply of product. Now the “shortage” of the popular flavors was a problem, because I would have to suffer through three more weeks of the Robard product I didn’t especially care for.
The Kaiser rep apologized sincerely, and offered to do what he could to trade in my undesired product for what I wanted. He gave me a phone number and an email address to reach him and arrange a replacement. Meanwhile everyone in my Monday evening class was told to enjoy the holiday and we would meet again in three weeks, on Jan. 7.
Over the next week, approaching Christmas, my emails went unanswered. I called the phone number he gave me to learn that he was on vacation and couldn’t be reached.
But wait, it gets worse.
Monday, Jan. 7, myself and four other weight-loss students waited patiently in a Kaiser Pasadena waiting room, only to learn that no one would be there for our class or to provide product. The five of us left our phone numbers, talked a nurse into letting us in to weigh ourselves unofficially on our favorite scale, and congratulated each other on making it through the holidays successfully.
One of the keys to successful dieting is developing good habits — getting on a roll and sticking with it long enough to be successful. We were now having our 16-week program interrupted, and all of that momentum erased for a week.
Finally three days later, someone from the program called to tell me that my class had been changed from Monday to Wednesday evenings, and our next meeting would be on Jan. 16. That’s nine days off program.
Finally we met on Jan. 16 and again were told that they were low on inventory and did not have my choice of the New Direction product. Somehow the manager managed to “find” one week’s worth of my favorite choice, and I crawled back on program.
Now we come to the final insult, at the Jan. 23 meeting, with four brand new weight-loss students, and a very apologetic staff. The regular program runner had called in sick, and they were out of several flavors of the available shakes and bars. They had someone there to fill in and take our orders. When she couldn’t give me first choice, she offered a replacement which I accepted, but then disappeared without ever delivering it.
So this past week I have again been off program.
At the Jan. 23 meeting, our meeting leader promised many times that we would be called the next day to make arrangements to get us product. As you can guess, I have had no phone call.
Sadly I have no leverage with Kaiser other than this blog post, and some effort to embarrass them publicly. Having pre-paid for the 16 week program, I know they will find some way to at least provide the physical product I paid for. Because of their change in class schedule, the Wednesday evening classes conflict with a class I am teaching for Pasadena City College, and I will not be able to attend the classes, only drop in, weigh in, and pick up product.
Like I said, the program is a good one. I can’t imagine how the management of it could have been worse.
My only recourse is to advise my doctor to reconsider before making any new referrals to the program. I will also copy the Robard Corporation with my complaint and recommend that they consider revoking their product license with Kaiser for the horrible service.