Where did I go wrong?: Losing clients can be ... satisfying


I tried to explain that six years and 60 pounds alters a lot of things. He was not in agreement.

Mr. Bicker was making quite a scene at the front desk, so my staff asked me to talk to him. When he saw me coming, he gave it to me with both barrels.

Michael A. Obenski vmd

"I have no intention of paying these high prices, doctor," he announced. "Butterball needs to be spayed, but I'm not going to let myself be robbed. I have a paper right here that you gave me when I got her. It says that a spay is only $75."

I took a look at the paper. It was six years old. Not only that, but Butterball was clearly one of the fattest Beagles I had ever seen. I tried to explain that six years and 60 pounds alters a lot of things. He was not in agreement.

"I read about you vets in Consumer Truth magazine. You're a bunch of crooks. All you care about is money. It's getting so that the average person can't afford to have a dog now a days. Poor Butterball has been vomiting and drinking lots of water since the last time she was in heat. My regular veterinarian ran a blood test and said that she has something called a "pie a meter." She needs to be spayed, and I can't afford these high prices. Believe it or not, the price he quoted me was even higher than yours. Now, are you going to honor the quote on this paper, or not?

I chose "not." Then when I tried to explain that I might need to take an X-ray and run some other blood tests, he left my office in search of a vet who wasn't so "money hungry." He took the six-year-old paper with him, vowing to show it to the Better Business Bureau.

Later that same day, Mrs. Quibble came to see me with her old Tom Cat, Mr. Cheeks. He had a lump forming on his right shoulder. Mrs. Quibble wanted to know why we hadn't noticed it before.

"You know doctor. We were just in here for his vaccinations a few months ago. Shouldn't you have seen this? You must not have examined him very well."

I looked at the record. She was right; it had been a few months since his last visit. Eighteen months to be exact. I pointed out that a lot can happen in a year and a half. Unfortunately, she was no more understanding than Mr. Bicker had been. The way she saw the situation, because we didn't see the lump when she feels we should have, it was now our responsibility and not hers. I was given a choice; fix the lump for free or watch her take her business somewhere else.

(Bye. Bye.)

It wasn't long before the third problem of the day surfaced. (My problems always seem to come in threes.) It was a phone call from Mrs. Seldom, and she was hopping mad about our examination policies.

"What's this nonsense about Poochie having come over there to get a health certificate? He was just there to get neutered last year. You know he's healthy. We're flying to Florida next week, and your office person said that you wouldn't give us a health certificate unless you look at him first. That's the most ridiculous thing I ever heard."

I explained that health changes from year to year. She did not want to hear it. "I've been coming to you for 10 years. I'd think that you'd be willing to break the rules once in a while for your regular clients. If I have to make a trip way over to your office, I might just as well go to a closer vet."

It was true; she had been coming to see me for 10 years. However, she was a pain in the butt both times. Anyway, she did as promised and went elsewhere for the exam. It had been quite a day, an exciting day. I had lost three clients, three terrible clients. It was a great day.

Michael A. Obenski VMD

A dvm contributor for 27 years, Dr. Obenski owns the Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.

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