Mrs. Blastaway takes aim at those 'high" exam fees

Apr 01, 2006

I barely got a chance to say hello before Mrs. Blastaway gave it to me with both barrels.

"I just brought him in today for the same old shot that he always gets," she announced while slamming her little dog onto the exam table with almost cruel force.

"That unreasonable office manager of yours said I would have to pay an exam fee, even though you and I both know what shot he needs."

The lady (I use the term loosely) didn't look familiar. Neither did the dog.

I glanced at the record. It was blank. My first thought was that we had misplaced the records of an already irate client. (I hate when that happens.)

While gently picking up the petrified pooch, my technician was able to enlighten me as to the nature of the situation. "We have never seen Puddles before, Dr. O," she said. "However, Mrs. Blastaway brought records from her previous vet's office." (Now, we were getting somewhere.)

I looked at the computer printout from Downtheroad Veterinary Hospital. The last entry was dated 1998. Several notations indicated slow payment, refusal to authorize proper diagnostic testing and failure to follow directions. (Oh, goody. We have a new client.)

Unfortunately, the records did not indicate a diagnosis of any sort, nor was there any mention of the "shot" that Mrs. Blastaway demanded. She glanced at her watch, obviously annoyed that this office call was taking more than the 90 seconds she had allotted for it.

I informed her that I would need to ask her some questions and that Puddles would need to be examined. She had a question for me as well. "How much is that nonsense going to cost me?" (I was touched by the concern for Puddles.)

After a short examination of our office charges, I was compelled to point out that we might even need to run some blood tests. (She was not happy.)

"As you can clearly see from those records, I already spent a lot of money on this problem. When does it stop? The shot always made him well before. I don't see what good blood tests are going to do."

It was clear to me that the symptoms were entirely different from 1998, and furthermore, it wouldn't take Sherlock Holmes to see that this was a very sick little dog.

Following another furtive glance at her watch, she asked if there would be an additional charge for the blood tests. In a word, yes.)

This, of course, caused her a great deal of concern, until she came up with a money-saving plan. "My cousin is a veterinary technician," she announced. "Couldn't I get her to draw the blood, and I would bring it in. That would save me the part of the cost you get for taking the samples."

When I broke the news that I was not enamored with her plan, she quickly came up with an even better one. "Why doesn't my cousin just come in here to do it? She could draw the blood, and even run the tests in your lab. Wouldn't that save me a lot of money?" (Now, why didn't I think of that?)

I was getting nowhere, and it was taking entirely too long to get there. This lady needed to be straightened out. Unfortunately, I am the world's most non-confrontational person. Situations like this call for the big guns. I excused myself and sent my office manager in to tell this lady how things were going to be. (My way or the highway, came to mind.)

Moments later, while examining a cat in another room, I heard Mrs. Blastaway storm out of the building, while loudly vowing never to come back.

That office manager of mine had just cost me a client. That's why she makes the big bucks.

Dr. Obenski owns Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.