Friday, January 25, 2013

How Tandem Diabetes Broke My Heart -or- Why I'm Not Getting a t:Slim

*A note to readers: Please keep in mind as you read this post that my experience with Tandem Diabetes is not typical. It's unfortunate I had such a terrible customer service experience, but you will more than likely not have a similar experience if you were to contact them. Based on conversations I have had with other t:Slim users, they are largely pleased with their service. Please also keep in mind I have never used the t:Slim, so my experience is in no way a reflection of their product. I still very much think the t:Slim is a sleek and sophisticated looking insulin pump. If a pump were capable of having sex appeal, the t:Slim definitely has it.*

When it comes to actually living with diabetes, there's not a whole lot to look forward to. For the foreseeable future, there's a lot of poking, bleeding, swearing, leaking, and face-stuffing going on. I do, however, get excited about new insulin pumps. As Ping Diddy and I approached the end of our 4-year warranty with Animas, I contacted Tandem Diabetes via email to see when their new pump, the t:Slim, would be available for purchase in the US. I was told relatively soon so, against my better judgement, I let my pump warranty expire and held my breath waiting for the announcement. For those of you who are unaware, when your pump warranty expires, you are liable for the full cost of the insulin pump should anything happen to it - including just normal wear and tear. While your warranty is in effect, any issues covered under the warranty are taken care of free of charge - which typically includes a new or refurbished pump being over-nighted to you. Also for those of you who don't know, insulin pumps are expensive. Almost no one has a few thousand dollars laying around to throw towards the cost of a new pump should it break outside of warranty.

The new t:Slim finally came out in September 2012 but circumstances prevented me from being able to upgrade at that time. So I held on until my new insurance kicked in on January 6, 2013. I checked into it and coverage was excellent for durable medical equipment (read: really good). January 7, I contacted Tandem to get the process started. I faxed them copies of my new insurance card, made sure all of my information was up to date with my new Illinois contact information, and filled out paperwork with my (new) endocrinologist's information as well. I was told I would be contacted in 48 hours and to call them if I wasn't.

I waited a week. Then I called them.

After a bit of confusion, I was eventually connected with someone named Anita who told me she would be handling all my information. She "verified" all my contact and insurance information - which was incorrect in the system. I updated all of it again and sent another copy of my insurance card. In a couple days I got a phone call verifying coverage, but for some reason coverage was verified with my previous employer whom I was laid off from in September. I, for a third time, provided my new information and faxed a third copy of my insurance card.

Then I heard nothing for a week.

So I called and left a message.

Then I heard nothing for another week.

Then I got a call from an endocrinologist in Iowa saying they got a prescription request from Tandem, but I'm not their patient, and I would need to contact a different office.

So I called Tandem again.

This time, I was told my case was in transition to another employee. I was transferred to someone whose name I can't remember - Ryan...Peter...something male - and he was a happy, peppy guy. I was feeling unpleasantly NOT peppy. He said he would be verifying my coverage with my insurance company - whom he inexplicably still had as my Iowa employer. Then he called me the wrong name. Twice. I corrected him and he responded, "I thought I was talking to someone else." To which I responded (in my head), "!@#$%^&" I made sure he knew who I was, had my corrected information, and verified I would not need to fax another copy of my insurance card - because I wasn't going to anymore anyway. I also asked why the verification with the correct insurance company hadn't been done already. He didn't have an answer.

Then, 30 minutes later, he already called me back with my insurance verification. I was simultaneously impressed with his speed and displeased that it took 3 weeks for a 30-minute phone verification to happen. Whatever. I sighed and continued - albeit apprehensively.

I waited a few days.

Then I got a phone call, again, from an Iowa endocrinologist saying they again got a prescription request and would need a different office to handle it since I'm still not a patient of theirs.

I called Tandem and cancelled my t:Slim order.

Ping Diddy has been out of warranty for over a year now. I'm lucky it's still usable - although I've been getting some weird alarms lately. Not to mention my dog used it as a chew toy. And the words are rubbing off the buttons. And the screen is scratched...

Customer service, especially when you are a company new to the insulin pump field, is vitally important. If my first experience with you as a company, before I even try your product, is negative - I'm going to have legitimate fears about what will happen after I purchase your pump. If I had a malfunction, would you leave me waiting three weeks without a pump or insulin? Magic 8 Ball says "Outlook not good."

I have spoken positively about Tandem before. They put on the Adults with Type 1 night at FFL12. It was a glorious evening - very well put together. I had a blast. And, let me tell you, those Tandem girls can dance. It was fun. In speaking with other actual t:Slim users, they are very happy with their product. I'm happy for them. I find it incredibly unfortunate I couldn't be one of them.

Tandem Diabetes, you broke my heart. It makes me sad.

"Well done is better than well said." ~Benjamin Franklin


  1. Man, that was a really bad experience you had!! I love your opening statement on this just being your experience to, very credible!
    Hope things look up for you and at the very least Tslim contacts you and tries to right the wrong. As they say, when their is emotion in the air, their is opportunity. In this case, Tslim has a lot of opportunity to fulfill.

  2. I had a similar experience... I also worked with Anita (assuming there's only one Anita in customer service). I was patient only because I knew they were a new company and I could tell she was new/nervous, etc. Countless phone calls, emails, etc. to verify my insurance, contact my doctor, submit the actual order, verify everything again and again and again. I was on the phone 2 or 3 times daily for a couple weeks, with emails in between. I was frustrated, I was annoyed, but it was worth it. The customer service was subpar at best, but after actually receiving the pump, the trainer was excellent, plus I received a follow up email about ordering supplies and asking how everything was going.

    If you still really want the pump, try going the other way. Have your new endocrinologist office submit the request. It might work better this way. Worth a shot if you really want the pump.

    As I said, as much as I was frustrated and annoyed, I wanted the pump. Plus if you talk to a Tandem manager or someone higher up and relay your experience, it would be helpful to them in order to better provide service in the future. They are a new company and all new companies need to start somewhere and learn from mistakes. It sucks, but in the end you get the pump you want and help others in the future not go through the same problems you did.
    Hope you can work things out!

  3. Tandem is actually not a new company. They have been around for about twenth years. This is just their first generation insulin pump. I am no longe interested in the t:Slim. Would have been cool, but it is not worth my frustration. I have been happy with Animas and my Ping. I will request an upgrade and stick with them.

  4. This really isn't that surprising to me. I've had similar experiences with pretty much every insurer and flex company, and all the D-device companies where I've either started brand new or inquired about switching. For some strange reason, most of these reps don't have the ability to at a simp,e computer screen and listen at the same time. I typically say SUPERVISOR pretty quickly, and that helps avoid the zombie-like reps at the entry level. Also helps expedite things some. Haven't dealt with Tandem D on this, but assume it's pretty similar - especially for such a young company with its first product. Tandem Diabetes is actually only six years old or so - not to be confused with Tandem that was a computer company that eventually became a part of HP. Of course, most of the higher ups at Tandem Diabetes came from other D-companies, and many reps likely have done this before (which could be the problem right there.) Anyhow, sorry to hear about the delays and bad service, C.

  5. I'm generally a forgiving person, but I've got a theory that I subscribe to: once is unfortunate, twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern. I apply it towards a former coworker who kept getting into car accidents, to deliveries that arrive late, and to customer service. The point is, if it happens three times, then expectations need to be adjusted accordingly.

    Sounds like you've been through three reps and not gotten anywhere towards resolution. I think that (along with Melissa's experience above) pretty much sets the bar as to what one might encounter.

    Now, I hope and expect that - in time - things will improve. If you've got the patience, the desire, and the willpower, you can continue to push the system and get your t:slim, but you'll probably always second-guess yourself when you need some sort of assistance.

    Maybe if you're daring and willing, you can wait a few months and try again. Or maybe you'll go with another Ping. Whatever it is, be comfortable with your decision. I'm sorry you had to go through this.

  6. Thanks, Mike! Sometimes I have no idea what I'm talking about.... :)

  7. Oh my gosh, it's not funny, but it's almost hard not to laugh at how ridiculous it is. I hope you emailed them to give them feedback.