Thursday, May 3, 2012

What's the time?

I don't know about you, but I'm a busy person. I have 3 kids, 2 pets (8 if you count the ones in the tank actually), and a husband. I do more than just blog and practice veterinary medicine and take care of family matters. I'm involved with the administration of the kids' school, at our house of worship, and my husband's business. No, I don't know how I do it - but the important thing is, I do in fact do it. And when I'm doing it, I'm respectful of other people's time, because I know oh-so-very well how irritating frustrating - well, if I'm being completely honest let me just say how INCREDIBLY FUCKING ANNOYING it is when people act like THEIR time is more important than YOUR time.


Seasoned readers will see where this is going, I'm sure.

So, yeah. The other day I had scheduled myself such that the last appointment was 45 minutes before closing, because I had somewhere I had to be, and I wanted to be darn sure I'd be able to be there (so as not to waste the time of the other 12 people I'd be meeting, who were going to be waiting for my arrival).  Of particular note is that the pet who held that appointment was boarding in our hospital, and required an examination, but the owner had wanted to be present for the examination and "to discuss a few problems" the pet had, so the owner had scheduled this appointment for the time he planned to pick up the pet at the end of boarding. The appointment time rolled around and the client was not there. As is our practice, the receptionist phoned the home and mobile numbers on file to see if the client was en route. There was no answer. Fifteen minutes went by, and the client was not there. After 25 minutes had gone by I figured I'd at least examine the pet, and just discuss my findings once the owner arrived. As I finished examining the pet, we heard our voicemail pick up (it does this on speakerphone - we stop answering the phone 30 minutes before closing. This fact, by the way, is well advertised) and the voice of my client came through. "Hi there! Just wanted to let you know I *do* still plan to pick up Fluffinator, and be there for our appointment, but you know, I'm not going to be there til about ten after seven, so, you'll need to wait for me. See you soon!"

Interesting message, there. The thing is that our office closes at 7:00 PM. This appointment had been made for 6:15 PM. The client just expected that we'd be more than happy to accomodate a 55-minute late arrival time for an appointment, after our normal business hours, without even a please or a thank you. Honestly it kind of blew my mind because although I may vent a lot about how people are so FUCKING ANNOYING all the time, for some crazy reason I still expect that people will actually behave in a civil manner to me. I know, I know - I'm the crazy one. Well, if you can't beat'em...

So anyway, as it happened, the Big Boss Lady was standing there and I looked at her and said "listen - my findings are written up, you can feel free to stay and discuss with her, or not, at your pleasure - but I'm leaving because people are waiting for me and I don't feel comfortable making them wait." She was fine with that. She said she was going to call the client and tell her if she couldn't come in before closing, not to come til the next day. I'm not sure if she actually did that or not, though.

Just to be 100% clear, by the way - my physical exam of this pet did not reveal any abnormalities. If I had picked up something potentially dangerous, I would have notified the people waiting for me that I had been unavoidably detained. But I saw no reason to do so in this case, especially given the massive sense of carelessness that had oozed through our telephone's speaker with the client's message.

So, yeah. That happened.
Please join me in the comments section with your answer to the question in the subject line!


  1. Sigh. That sounds so familiar. The only thing missing was "....and I'm in a hurry." Eight years into this profession I'm still shocked by the lack of punctuality/common courtesy directly followed by animosity that the perpetrator of the time crime is "in a hurry." I'm sorry *I* was here during your scheduled appointment time. *You* were not. Thirty minutes, an hour, three hours, seven hours later I've moved onto to clients who showed up as scheduled and we'll get you seen as soon as we can. When you show up late and THEN bitch about things.....I work more slowly.

    Sorry- digression into a personal pet peeve. You did exactly as I would have done and kudos for moving on with your personal schedule rather than caving as too many of us often do.

  2. I freak out if I am going to be 5 minutes late to an EYE BROW WAXING and I always call and apologize and tip extra. I had a Dr.'s appt yesterday and I couldn't remember if it was at 1 or 1:15. I showed up early for the 1, and found out that it was actually for 1:15. That is why i bring a book everywhere. People that are chronically late consider their time to be more important than anyone else. It can be a calculated power play on their part to show you they are more important or it can be unconscious. But ultimately, it is rude. I hate it too. And you did the absolute correct thing.

    1. I had to laugh at this: I actually WAS running late to my brow-waxing appointment last week. I hate being late. I called, let them know I was on my way, offered to reschedule, and when they were kind enough to still fit me in, gave them a nice tip afterwards. Sounds like we're on the same side of the coin. :)

      I know how valuable my time is to me - why should their time be any less valuable?

    2. Funny you two should mention this. Sitting in a hair stylists chair a few months back a woman breezes in apparently very late for her brow appt. Asks the stylist to do it NOW while I, who was early for my appointment and waited my turn, sits and waits for The Bitch to get done. No tip from me and never went back.

      I agree with you and not sure I would have even waited as long as you did, you were very gracious. Love the commenter who has a 15 min. rule. Think I am going to start living by that one.

      Yes, INCREDIBLY FUCKING ANNOYING when people have no concept of how their tardiness effects others.

    3. BTW in no way comparing you two to THE BITCH aforementioned. This woman was over an hour late according to the hairdresser and had big 'TUDE. She never apologized for being late, just expected to be done whenever the hell she got there. No respect.

  3. I'm not a vet, just a pet owner who reads this blog. I truly don't understand people who just assume you will be sitting around waiting for them. Just like in school, I would have given them the 15-minute waiting period, then left them a message saying the appointment would need to be rescheduled. You went beyond what I, as a customer, would have expected, though I wouldn't have been so presumptious.

  4. I can't believe the audacity people have. I remember clients being like this when I used to work in a clinic. I am a very punctual person but I remember one time I was meeting my boyfriend at the vet for an appt with his sick dog, and he had the dog and was running 15 minutes late. He notified the clinic how late he was running, and I kept apologizing to the receptionists. We had to wait about an hour to be seen, and it was just before closing and my boyfriend was like "what's taking so long?" and I shot at him "we are lucky they are still willing to see us, rather than telling us to go to the ER and spend a lot more money, they are probably really busy with other appts and the end-of-day things they have to take care of and are really trying to work us in, if you didn't want to be here so long you should have made sure to be on time!" So then he too became apologetic and was no longer ignorant, but I always thought punctuality is just an obvious common courtesy.

  5. Dear Busy Pet Owner,

    Ask not for whom the Clue Phone is ringing. It rings for thee.

  6. Once again, the people who really need to "get it" are too clueless to "get it" or are too arrogant to care. I have little patience for both. Thankfully, there are scenarios, such as that which Kerrie described above, where one who doesn't "get it" is able to be instructed by one who does. These times, however, are few and far between.

    There have been a number of posts here recently about how the public expects DVMs to give of their resources. For many, this also includes the DVM's time, and I'm growing tired of the disrespect and lack of manners.

  7. Oh yes. Punctuality. A mystical thing for most Pet Owners.

    I also love the people who call our ECC service at two at night, say they are going to be there in half an hour and then decide not to bother bringing their pet in after all. About the only ones who call up to let us know they won't be coming in are the ones where the pet *died* on the way to us - which are the only people I would forgive forgetting this basic politeness.

    Grrr. Argh!

  8. Ahh! I hate time wasters! The worst offender is my own husband, and we have frequent talks about respecting people's time. I HATE when people do this to me!

  9. Why is it that the punctual people are so often punished by the late people? Bless his heart, the priest at my church does this. He waits until 5:07 to start 5:00 Mass. I have started to arrive late just because it annoys me to no end to have to wait for the late people.

    You did the right thing by leaving. If everyone refused to accommodate late people, they might start showing up on time.

  10. Being in solo practice treating homo sapiens, I see it all the time. But I also have the luxury (and use it often) of telling them they'll have to reschedule. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they go elsewhere. And I don't care. After 15 years I am not running a walk-in clinic. I have a life outside of here, too, as meager as it is.

    Humans, like most animals, are trainable. You make them reschedule, and they learn to be punctual next time. If they don't, I make them relearn the lesson until they go elsewhere or learn.

    I run fanatically on-schedule. I respect their time, and they should respect mine.

  11. To me lateness shows a complete lack of respect to the "victim" of aforementioned person's punctuality. I have the utmost respect for the person who tends to my dogs. She is someone that I went to high school and college with before she went off to Penn for her vet training. Even if we weren't friends or former classmates, I would still adore her. She has always been there for me, giving me good news and bad. Hugged me and cried with me. Even if we didn't have history I would feel the same about her, same about anyone who has taken such loving and compassionate care of my pets. I can not imagine, ever, being late or treating her in any manner that is not befitting of the incredible respect I have for her and for all vets entrusted with our animals' care. And, Grumpy MD that goes for my docs as well!

  12. I'm with Doc Grumpy on this one. The client arrives 30 minutes late(I'll usually wait 20) and my staff lets them know that I waited, and have left, and offer to reschedule. They can be trained or are free to seek service elsewhere.

  13. I always wonder if these people ever show up at Target 10 minutes after closing and demand to be let in because they really need toothpaste.

  14. I'm still in vet school but my favorite clinic to do rotations in is a walk-in!! The clients have to show up and wait their turn ... they are great vets so most people are happy to wait and those chronically late clients don't matter because there are no appointments! The best is when someone who has been waiting awhile gets annoyed and the receptionist is like we're sorry but u can stay and wait or leave its up to you but you don't get to skip the line, it makes my day ;)

    1. A walk-in clinic... the horror! Seeing as it's the end of my night-shift I find it hard to put my feelings towards this (imho outdated) practice to paper.
      Let's try.
      It prevents the vet from being mentally prepared for the case at hand (it actually helps your differential diagnose if you have a few minutes advance notice).
      It promotes and rewards rushing appointments.
      It is a business model that is centered on bulk-turnover (often for a below-market-price), not quality for a reasonable price.
      It lacks the planning it takes to work up a patient properly (sure, the techs can handle bloodwork and basic imaging, but when an interesting case presents itself you will need time to work it up... that's not just what you were trained to do, it's what the people pay you for).

      Sorry about the vinegar. I'm sure that (especially for a vet student) the bulk of cases is very interesting. But I have yet to see the practice that combines this form of planning with GVP.

  15. Dealing with the client I refer to as Her Royal Highness, she expects to be treated as such...

    Me: Yes ma'am Dr. VBB can see Fluffy this morning since he is not himself, just come on up right now & we will get you in.

    HRH: I will NOT come up there & just sit in your waiting room & wait to be seen! You get Dr VBB & ask him if he can see me right now.
    Me: He CAN see you Mrs. HRH, just come on up, since Fluffy isn't feeling well.

    HRH: I am NOT going to just come and sit and wait for whenever he can see me after all these other people. I live five minutes away, you call me when you have an opening when I can come in!!

    Me: Mrs. HRH we do have an open exam room right now if you will please just come on in, however if the next appointment comes in I cannot just hold an exam room for you. (this was not any emergency) However we should be able to get you in very quickly.

    HRH: Fine! I'm on my way!!!

    Can I drink on the job?!? Please??

  16. I was going to go into a whole explanation of how this goes in the hospital where I assist. What I mean, though, is I'm sorry. I'm sorry that the hospital I work in encourages and enables exactly the kind of client that does this. I wish we as an industry, as colleague hospitals and support staff and doctors could present a unified front in showing clients that this is simply not acceptable behavior. Perhaps it's easier today to just accommodate Mrs. Latesteinowicz with Sharky, but to do it weekly or daily for ten or fifty of our "best" clients is bad for morale, isn't usually profitable (these are often the "I should have a room named for me" types), and interferes with what little personal life we may actually have. But that's just from a cog in the machine. What do I know?