Friday, July 11, 2008

Follow Up to Follow Up Visits

In news related to Jesse Jackson and other scams - especially the old "follow up visit" swindle...

We just took cat number five, Rex, in to be neutered - which is, at least for our feline friends, a rather minor operation (it did not even require any time in synodical or district politics). Not that it was cheap, but we were able to drop him off in the morning and pick him up in the afternoon. He has two tiny incisions, and no sutures. The surgeon did a superlative job.

Rex came back home as happy and rambunctious as ever. We didn't even need to administer any of the painkilling meds they gave us. It has been three days since his surgery, and he's still doing great.

But here's the shakedown attempt: when we picked him up from the vet, the clerk said authoritatively: "We want to see him again in about ten days to make sure everything's okay. That would be Friday. How about [whatever] o'clock on Friday?"

Wow. That's some slick marketing. I'm trying to pay the bill and get my pet home, and she's selling me something I don't need - and not even posing it to me as an option or a question. Very slick!

Using a technique of "priestmanship," I countered: "Well, I'll have to check my schedule, can I call you back?" "Sure, no problem." I could have launched into a tirade about the "follow up scam," but since they still had my cat, and I still had not paid the tab - it was certainly best not to rock the boat - and certainly not until the deal had been completed. Besides, like I said, I wanted to get Rex home as soon as possible, and an extended debate over avaricious office policy would have benefited nobody.

The next day, the vet's office called us on the phone to check on Rex, and I told them he was doing great. They were happy to hear that, but there was no talk of foregoing the unscheduled "follow up visit" that was still supposed to be more than a week down the road. Interestingly, my receipt does indicate that I do, in fact, have an appointment for Friday of next week. I'll be sure to call them and tell them no follow up will be necessary - lest they try to hoist me on the "appointments must be cancelled within twenty four hours" petard.

To be a consumer these days, one needs to combine the calculation of a chess master, the thespianic prowess of a poker player, and the shrewdness of a Baton Rouge politician.

Now, obviously, if Rex were showing signs of infection, were not healing properly, or had any symptoms of a bad reaction to anesthesia, we would be bringing him back for another visit. But we were not born yesterday. Rex is the fifth male cat that we have had neutered. Not one previous time has the vet asked for a "follow up visit" to this minor procedure. This approach to customer service (wring every last buck you can out of the unsuspecting victim) has become so embedded into our way of thinking about health care and business dealings in general - that it is just assumed that we're going to bring back perfectly healthy animals (and humans) to get a cursory once-over combined with a not-so-cursory charge on the debit card.

Look, I wanted my cat neutered, not my bank account.


Thursday's Child said...

I don't think I've ever been asked by our vet to bring my dog or cat in for a follow-up. Not even the horses, who require a farm call and those are nice and pricey. After reading your blog I'll have to make sure I pay attention to any new practices.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Thursday's:

It will be interesting to see if it starts. I bet they learn this trick from each other. In time, it just becomes accepted practice.