Meet Al Newman and Carol — an aging couple that met the way "the kids" now do.
“We met online,” said Newman, smiling.
“Online dating,” Carol responds, steadying herself on her cane.
As young as this boyfriend and girlfriend might feel, they’re dealing with the realities of aging: including the loss of their hearing.
“My children are always after me,” said Carol, who asked to be identified only by her first name. “’You can’t hear mother! You can’t hear!’”
Newman's ears also aren’t as good as they used to be.
“My hearing loss, I think started when I was in the Marine Corps,” he said.
So, they visited a Miracle Ear location in Milpitas in March for his and hers hearing aids. The invoices they showed NBC Bay Area Responds list a price of $4,500 each.
Carol says the salesperson assured them that the purchases came with a money back guarantee.
“Are you sure we can bring them back before 45 days,” she remembered asking. “’Oh, yes. No problem,’” she says the salesperson said.
Since there was no risk, Carol and Newman took out a line of credit at the Miracle Ear office and bought the hearing aids.
But, within a month they weren’t fitting right and weren’t improving their hearing enough to justify spending $4,500 each.
“It was a little bit better,” Newman said. “But not that much better.”
So the pair then tried to return the hearing aids, but were astonished when a manager refused to take them back.
“I said, ‘Why don’t I just take these hearing aids and put them on your desk and you give me a receipt.’ And he said, ‘No, I’ll put them on the hood of your car.’”
They say they made calls and sent letters — and got nowhere. Then, the 45-day return window expired. So, they contacted NBC Bay Area Responds.
“Let us return them,” Carol asked of Miracle Ear. “Like you said in the agreement. Let us return them.”
First, we checked with the California Department of Consumer Affairs.
It told us the 45-day return policy for hearing aids isn’t a Miracle Ear bonus, it’s part of state law. The Song-Beverly Act says if consumer aren’t happy with hearing aids during the first 45 days, the seller must make adjustments — then, if a consumer still isn’t satisfied, give them “a complete refund.”
YOUR RIGHTS: Dept. of Consumer Affairs
So, what happened at Miracle ear in Milpitas? Why wouldn’t it take back Carol and Al’s hearing aids?
NBC Bay Area Responds called the company that owns the Miracle Ear franchise. It declined to discuss the case — citing HIPPA, the health privacy law. The very next day, Al and Carol told me they were invited to return the hearing aids.
“You finally put a little pressure on Miracle Ear,” Al said.
Next, we asked Miracle Ear whether Newman and Carol would get a refund.
The franchise CEO sent an e-mail saying: “All parties signed a confidentiality agreement. For any of us to discuss this with anyone else would put us in breach of our agreement."
After that, Carol and Newman told NBC Bay Area Responds that they could only say they reached “an amicable resolution.”
“Thank you so much for your help,” Carol said. “We really appreciate it.”
Just before our broadcast, we got some details from Miracle Ear — for the first time.
An attorney for the company sent Carol and Newman a letter and copied us as well.
It says Miracle Ear “does not accept the return of its products within the 45-day return policy period merely because the buyer feels he paid too much.”
However, the letter said “Miracle Ear made an exception to its policy,” and stated it gave Carol and Newman a full refund — $9,000.