Friday, January 13, 2012

The bad review

So, if you've been reading along from the beginning, hopefully you've figured out that the VBB (who are many in number and kindred in spirit) really DO want to please our clients. After all, if we keep the pet healthy, or cure the pet's illness, or alleviate the pet's suffering in some way, then, hopefully, the client will be happy, right? You'd think so - but it's just not always the case.

Bad reviews are a problem for all service industries, and with the rise of the Internet and the many different review sites, it's easier than ever for a disgruntled, curmudgeonly customer to spread his vitriolic opinion to a wide audience. This can result in people behaving badly. It can, of course, also be a good thing.

I'm not only a veterinarian. I'm a customer. In the past mumbletymumble years of my adulthood, I've read lots of reviews. Restaurant reviews, house painter reviews, hotel reviews, plumber reviews, contractor reviews, cleaning service reviews, and yes - of course veterinarian reviews. It's the rare service provider who never, EVER, reads the competition's reviews, let alone his or her own reviews.

I appreciate that these reviews exist, but - well - as a customer, it's clear to me that not all reviews are honest. There are those who have a vested interest in making the reviewed party look good - either because they are a family member, or in their employ, or otherwise connected to them - and there are those who have a vested interest in making the reviewed party look bad - because they are in direct competition with them and are unethical, or because for whatever reason they had a negative experience that left them feeling angry or sad or whatever. It's that last type that really cuts to the bone.

I once read a review of my own self. That's right. I went to a local review site, and there it was. "VBB Vet Hospital - Dr. VBB." The review - which gave me one star out of a possible six - read (and I am paraphrasing, having no desire to reread it at this or any other time) "I took my dog Spanky* to Dr. VBB at the VBB Vet Hospital last week. First of all, the place is totally gross. It smelled like shit. Probably because there was a dog who had diarrhea in the waiting room. Someone came and took the dog away right after that, and then they mopped it up, but what the hell? I had to sit in that waiting room and wait to be seen and it was REALLY STINKY! Plus, who knows what germs were spreading around when they mopped. They probably didn't even use disinfectant. I don't think the doctor knew what he was doing. He asked me a lot of questions that didn't even have to do with why we came in as far as I could tell. Then he didn't even know what was wrong and wanted to run a LOT of expensive tests. He did say we could try some medicine, but he wasn't sure if it would work. What good is that then? Overall, I'd say - stay away. You can do better. The vet at ABC Vet Hospital up the street is cheaper, and their parking lot is bigger. Go there instead."

Now, when you read something like this, your natural response if you are like me is to want to immediately write a rebuttal. OF COURSE we use disinfectant! OF COURSE copious diarrhea leaves a lingering smell that no amount of air freshener will cover up immediately. It's GOOD MEDICAL PRACTICE to take a detailed history, and diagnosis can rarely be made with any certainty in the absence of diagnostic testing! My diagnostic testing fees are not overpriced - I use the same lab most of the other vets use and have LESS of a markup than is typical in the industry! And it is NOT MY FAULT the township keeps denying us a permit to increase the size of the &*$W@&! parking lot!!!

I recommend against this. It usually does not even help. I find that the people who write these reviews, honestly, are rarely influential in the community. As it happens, I was lucky - when I checked the review site again three weeks later (which, I know - just say no!), several of my happier clients had responded to that reviewer, even more vehemently than I would have, had I been able to explain myself without sounding like a big whiner. The good reviews are a balm to the soul (but for me - it's not even worth it to go looking for them, and risk seeing a bad one that keeps me up nights for weeks on end!)

Who else has felt the pain of the bad review?


  1. How about a bad review from someone that you know has never been to your practice? I had one where the person brought their dog in a described that the vet was a tall man... I am a short woman. The patient described was one that I had never seen.

    Imagine my surprise when I saw the *same review* on a number of other veterinary hospital pages. Seems like something that a competitor was doing.... spreading false reviews on other hospital pages. Stay classy!

  2. I've gotten to the point that I don't trust internet reviews because they are typically from disgruntled people who actually lie about the details of their experience. Like Dr. House says....people lie ( a lot ).

  3. Unfortunately, people rarely post objective reviews or take responsibility for their own actions snd they do lie. I still get nasty letters from an elderly client who has many health issues because her dog, that probably had cancer in addition to her other problems, died. Never mind that she declined referral, all diagnostic testing offered, and wouldn't bring the dog back because we might charge for something else...

  4. The only bad review I remember was eventually removed but occasionally pops up again.
    The owner of the dog ignored my verbal and written advice for care for years and years. When previously warned about issues developed the owners promptly continued to ignore recommendations for care, monitoring, etc. Then secondary complications developed and the owner again promptly ignored my recommendations.
    Eventually the owners finally decided to let the dog out of it's misery. An appointment was made and the details of what to expect, including having to sign the authorization and make payment was provided both on the phone and is available on my web site.
    The mister, whom I'd rarely seen came in and claims to have forgotten his wallet. He asked us to perform the euthanasia and have private cremation completed and he'd be by later with the payment.
    He didn't show. He didn't answer his phone. He didn't show the next day.
    Even then private cremation cost me about $80. It seemed the disgruntled owner, that still had wanted service from us didn't want to pay for said service.
    We elected to send a copy of the invoice to the owner. We continued to be ignored. So we elected to keep the body in the freezer - which BTW is the typical way bodies are stored before they go to the crematory.
    So then about 3 weeks later they call and ask for the ashes. Umm, no we are waiting for payment.
    The reviews and board complaint were in clear contradiction to the truth. The review pointed out that we missed the diagnosis. Um, no we didn't, client had declined (repeatedly) to allow the testing to make the diagnosis. Being a stickler for documentation our records showed all the recommendations we'd made over the years.
    That took several years to get cleared up through the board just because of their processes. I eventually had to have a cease and desist letter sent to the person to stop making the false accusations.
    Some people just have no grasp of reality. However, I also wonder how much a person may be lied to by their spouse. You see, when one spouse takes the dog in and the other spouse doesn't get the whole story then confusion can occur. Not all spouses tell the others the truth.

  5. My worst one was for an emergency where the rDVM had missed a penny in the stomach (per the owner, said it wasn't an issue) and I saw the lab on ER for peeing blood, collapse, and basically dying. We tried to stabilize and scope it out but the dog crashed under anesthesia.

    The review mentioned that "all the vets look like they should be on Grey's Anatomy" - I think he meant we were all young (and in his opinion, ineffective) women, but I took it as a compliment. Hey, those are professional actresses!

    Also, as usual, we were "all about the money" because I insisted on going over an estimate and getting permission before undertaking a procedure on a dog with a terrible prognosis.

  6. When job hunting, I look for reviews of vet clinics, but I read between the lines of negative reviews. Too expensive? Good, not giving away services and maybe I can earn a decent salary. Vet wanted to do "expensive" testing? Sounds thorough. Dental cleaning cost too much? Great, they do preventative dental care and probably include important services like pre-anesthetic testing, IV fluids, and dental radiographs. That's the clinic I'll send my resume to. Unfortunately, clients without experience of the business probably won't differentiate as well between valid and whiny bad reviews.

  7. I saw a review from an owner who had been at our emergency facility. I had been the DVM's assisting technician, and I overheard the vet recommend c-spine rads for neck pain. The owner insisted the dog had abdominal pain and could only afford one set of rads. I went over a medical care plan for services (estimate) and the client asked if I trusted her or the vet. Of course, I gave educational and sound answers as to why I backed the vet's c-spine recommendation (though the vet put both sets of rads on the estimated charges to satisfy the owner). The owner declined the c-spine rads and initialed as such on the estimate.

    the review complained about how clean the clinic was (huh?), how the clinic did not smell of a vet clinic (this is bad?), the cost of services (duh - ER), and how the vet never considered neck pain and let the client spend money that didn't need to be spent.

    Oddly, as a well-run ER with only licensed technicians and veterinarians (most of the techs are in some stage of obtaining a VTS in ECC).....we had a LOT of complaints about the cleanliness of the facility and the nice decor. :/ Like any of that had to do with how we practice medicine!

  8. My favorite was when a former employee of mine who left on *very* bad terms tried to schedule an appointment for her puking cat two years later. She had already been to another veterinarian in the same town, and I said that no, I wouldn't see her. (Mostly because I could not trust myself to be objective when all I wanted to do was yell at her for being a self centered idiot).
    Then she posted a very nasty review about us, most of which were lies. I rebutted it and made her look like a complete and total idiot.
    The bad part was that I found out she miscarried her first child a week after she wrote that review. And that was horrible.

  9. I am in the Army, and apparently any animal related issues has to be the veterinarian's fault, to include on-post housing yard not being large enough, no stable is provided, and the military police refusing to help an off-post sickly stray dog. Somehow they post all these complaints to our vet clinic which has absolutely no jurisdiction what-so-ever over what a military post decides to provide for people. In fact, we are often viewed as the bastard child most military post don't know what to do with nor care to know. But, it is always the veterinarian's fault! Like a small parking lot in your practice, it is your fault, no matter what you say.