I was just finishing my supper, when the call came in on the home phone. It was Mr. Izzy A. Payne calling about his dog, Yessiree
Bob. "I'm sorry to call you at home, doctor," he said. "I wanted to report that Bob is doing great since his surgery. You
and those other doctors sure did a wonderful job."
Naturally, I was elated to hear the news. However, it was the type of report that I enjoy much more when it comes written
on a thank-you note attached to a bottle of 30-year-old scotch.
"Anyway, doctor," he continued. "The reason that I'm calling is that we have a problem. Between your bills, the internist,
ultrasounds, surgeons fees and chemotherapy, we've spent over $3,000. So, money is a little tight."
I knew that the expenses incurred at my clinic were minimal, and that they were paid long ago, so I asked the reason for his
"Well," he answered. "We have six of those pills left. Can you take them from us and give us a rebate? We got them online
at petpillpushers.com. I'm sure you could use the pills for some other dog, and we could use the $12."
Let's be reasonable
It was a very reasonable request. Oh no! Wait! That was his opinion. I thought it was just plain stupid. I turned him down,
but I was so polite that he didn't even realize that I was calling him an idiot.
His call was still on my mind when Wanda Rebate called the next day. She was hopping mad and did not hesitate to give it to
me with both barrels.
"Doctor, I'm very upset with your clinic. I had my son bring our cat there yesterday because it was injured, and you wound
up having to put it to sleep. I can understand that it was necessary, but I can't believe that you had the nerve to charge
us for the visit. You may not remember, but, the same cat was in there for his annual vaccinations just four months ago. Those
shots are very expensive and are supposed to last one whole year. If my cat only lived for one third of the year, you owe
me two-thirds of my money back. The very least you could have done would have been to deduct that amount from yesterday's
I explained that her request would not be granted and why. She, of course, was not happy with my explanation and, though I
was extremely polite, I lost her as a client.
It was no great loss. Nonetheless, that conversation kept replaying in my head for the rest of the day. It made me feel bad.
Her request was inane. Her assumptions were asinine. Maybe I should have told her so. Perhaps my policy of always being nice
to everyone, whether they deserve it or not, is due for an adjustment.
I should have said something like; "Are you nuts? If you think I'm going to give you a refund for eight months worth of unused
antibodies, you haven't got both oars in the water."
I'd have lost the client anyway, but, perhaps I'd have gained the self-esteem of having stood up for myself and having said
what was on my mind instead of what was polite.
I vowed to give some thought to speaking my mind once in a while. Afterall, you're never too old to change. Maybe you can
teach an old dog (that's me) new tricks. For example: When I'm told that the check is in the mail, I might reply; "Of course
it is. Now tell me the one about Goldilocks."
When the teenage daughter is sent in with $20 to pick up a dog whose bill is $200 dollars, I could ask: "Which 10 percent
of the dog would you like to take home?"
Serving as evidence that such a change might not be bad, is my colleague Dr. Ken Tankerous. He seems to enjoy telling off
clients and he always seems to feel good about himself.
I spoke to Ken last week and explained that I might change my ways. "Good for you, Mike," he said. "Personally, I just could
never bring myself to cater to people's whims. Clients aggravate me and I let them know it. I don't see how you always manage
to be so nice to people even when they don't deserve it. Sure, I've lost countless clients to guys like you. Sure, your practice
has grown while mine barely survives. But, I like to get my own way and the costs are worth it to me."
His remarks made me realize something.
I am too old to change.