Thursday, January 17, 2013

It's Not a Level Playing Field

I make no bones about it:   I'm disgusted with the public.  I'm disgusted with their sense of entitlement and their demands placed on those around them when most of them really don't contribute a damned thing to this country.   While there are still a lot of really good people out there, I swear I am coming into contact with more and more people who simply have no appreciation for what we do and are flaming assholes.

A little dog came in to my clinic a few weeks ago after being attacked by something and suffering from a lot of very deep lacerations, and the owner informed me he "had to go and get her from the back of his property with his Quad".  Okay, you own a quad and I don't.  That's perfectly fine.  I'm only a little jealous.  But then he went on a rant to me, telling me that the price I quoted him for wound treatment on his little dog (the wounds were EXTENSIVE) was "ridiculous".  So we did the best we could with what he had, which included treating for shock, cleaning up the wounds and getting the dog on meds.  Hey, sometimes that's all you can do.

Did I mention the dog had never had a rabies vaccine?  And it wasn't spayed?

Anyway, the dog did OK but the owner was ridiculous.   I wanted to tell him to sell his damned quad and maybe that jacked up 4WD truck he was driving.  Or, I dunno, maybe stop popping so many drugs that make you seem like a creepy weirdo to my staff?  I've seen enough of it.  I know.

Just last week I had a hairdresser tell me that $600 was an outrageous amount of money for the emergency pyometra surgery done on her 5 y.o. dog, and she was even more annoyed that the vet wouldn't give her a payment plan for this surgery.   Never mind the facts here, folks:

1.) Spaying your dog when it was a puppy would have been cheaper and avoided this emergency that you obviously did not plan for, and now expect someone else to pay for it until you are able to make all of those payments, if you even do.  
2.)  Perhaps you are living in an area you cannot afford to live in, if a $600 bill sets you back so much that you must make payments or be in a bad financial situation.  Perhaps you are living beyond your means.

I ask, why is this the veterinarian's fault?

I don't think she liked my question, which was: "Do you allow payments on that color and haircut you just gave?"

Her answer:  "No, because I charge a reasonable amount."

Well, then she went on to tell me how vets are doing well, and that perhaps we are charging too much for our services, that she "shouldn't have to care" about our debt loads and dropping salaries.  Yet, we are supposed to care that she doesn't have $600 for her dog's emergency pyometra surgery?  Which, by the way, was a HUGE bargain, IMHO.

My response was to make a bet with her.  I bet her that my cat spays cost less than a cut, color and perm at her place.

I was right.

The public is moving faster and faster towards simply not giving a shit about what we do.  We've lost a lot of respect and are now viewed as glorified techs by many.   Most don't even realize that most of us have 8 years of school under our belt.  (some have 6, I know - that's still a lot!)

How do we fix this?

When a hairdresser (and I am NOT picking on hairdressers so don't start with me on that one) makes more money off a freaking hair cut than we make on doing abdominal surgery...  something is royally screwed up, don't ya think?


  1. Some people are just butt-chunks.
    Overhead alone is incredible, add the drugs, schooling and, God forbid, you make a profit! Medicine, be it veterinary or otherwise, should all be pro-bono, right? (ahem...)

  2. $600 for a pyo and she had the nerve to complain? Granted, costs vary a lot according to location but, holy cow, $600 would get your work-up and pre-ops done at "my" hospital (I'm a tech working in an ER).I'd guess our typical estimate for a Pyo, assuming the animal is stable, probably starts around $1500.

    1. Someone I know had to have an emergency pyo spay for her middle-aged dog, and it cost $2000. (I did ride her a bit about getting the other dog spayed too.)

      People really have no idea how much human or veterinary medical care really costs. I recently had an UTI and comparing MY doctor visit and tests (co-pay + insurance payment) to what I paid for how much it was for the vet visit and tests to diagnose my cat's UTI, the cat's UTI cost a LOT less! However most people would only compare the co-pay cost to the vet visit, not what was actually paid to the doctor.

  3. Or treating dyfunctional primates, where how much I get paid for my services is controlled by neither me, nor the simian getting them. And has absolutely no relation to the actual amount billed (collecting 50% of the total charges billed is considered good in American medicine - and has been since at least 1998, when I started).

  4. I pay $110 for a haircut and color that costs my hairdresser, what $10 for hair color? I think she went to school for a year or two and makes about $100K/yr? $650 bucks for the pyo surgery is what most non-city haircutters make in two days.

  5. A pyo surgery around here is $1800-2400.

    If a stylist makes 100K a year, I am in the wrong profession.

    1. Oh that could happen easily. My hairdresser charges $20 a cut, which is dirt cheap. At that level, working less than full-time, she pulls in about $50K a year. She can do two cuts an hour, so that would come to 80K full time.

      Imagine what a high-priced stylist could make.

      Yes, we are both in the wrong profession.

  6. Sadly, my first thought at this is "Holy crap, you can afford a hairdresser?!?" Why is it that people in positions that require less schooling than we do expect that they should make a profit to live, but we should get paid zip and expect to do our jobs with a smile (which most of us do, to the public anyway)

  7. Sadly enough, in talking to a colleague who works for a low cost spay/neuter service... the clients still bitch and moan about the same things when they are essentially getting services for $25. Americans are amazing. The attitude in this country certainly has shifted away from hard working quality people to too many uneducated, ignorant rats.

  8. It's also amazing how often people want "guarantees" on treatment. Like their dog is a car or a TV set. When I was a student on dermatology rotation, a roofing contractor brought his dog in for very bad allergic dermatitis. He wanted to know if the Dr guaranteed her work, because when he fixes a roof he guarantees it won't leak for X years. Yeah, your dog is not a roof.

  9. Veterinary medicine is a service. We are service providers. Most of the public places a lower value on our services than it costs us to provide them. As service providers we can

    1) Increase the perception of value
    2) Increase actual value
    2) Decrease cost
    3) Get out

    Who picks which option?

  10. That woman is a tool and the guy is a jackass. The shitty thing is is they know it. They just want to push off their irresponsible behavior (which translates to cost in these instances) on to the vet. I know that other clients at my clinic give the staff a hard time because even as well as they know me (multiple pets/fosters means multiple visits), they still hesitate when they give me the total for services when it is high (and I don't mean too expensive, just what good service costs).

    For what it's worth, I love my vet and clinic staff. I recommend them highly because they are compassionate and treat me and my animals with respect. I don't bring them easy cases (do a lot of hospice/senior fostering) and they always try, even in the face of some pretty bad stuff. While that doesn't help the frustration of dealing with idiots, I hope that you and the other vets on here know there are others who appreciate and respect what you know and do to help us give the best care possible to our pets.

  11. Ok, median salary for hair dressers according to is $25k. Am I missing something here?

    Also, thank you, N, for your words. It is people like you that keep us from going over the edge of bitterness.

  12. I don't think you are. I never thought a hairdresser made that kind of money although I think there are likely some that do...

    I wanted to also thank N for the words. You are the kind of client that gives us a reason to go to work each day.

  13. Gah! I'm so thankful for my vet and his staff, and while I did twitch when a $75 kitty neuter turned into $600 of "fishing for testicles that never descended and found odd places in the body cavity to hide" it would never have occurred to me to blame the vet because my cat had defective testicles. -_- What is wrong with people?

    ...maybe the fact that I keep up on prevention, always have my animals treated promptly and without b*tching is why my vet offered to enucleate my last foster kitten's eye for free. I sure didn't ask for the break, but since I work retail it was much appreciated. I should bring them a pizza.....

  14. ^Indeed, hairdressers have to pay a monthly chair fee and, usually, a percentage of their money goes to whatever salon/company they're working for. An independent salon operator obviously has small business expenses. Never mind that few hairdressers are booked back-to-back. Actually kind of shocked at how uninformed some people are about basic salaries. :/

  15. ^ a vet doesn't get to take home all $600 of the pyo surgery either. There are drugs to pay for, utilities, techs to pay... they have overhead too. And vets also have slow days where they pay all of that overhead and see very few patients.
    Vet clinics are a service based small business much like a hair salon. (We could argue about who has higher overhead but I bet the vet clinic wins)
    The frustrating part is that the same person who thinks it totally reasonable to drop $200-$300 on a hair do, thinks it is unreasonable to charge $500 to anaesthetize a sick animal, perform a successfull abdominal surgery, wake it up again, and send it home healthy.
    And as far as being uninformed about salaries... the general public has a rather inflated perception about what a vets salary is.

  16. Grrr, I had someone tell me today that they read vets were the second highest paid profession in the US, at 148k per year average...!!!!! I flew off the handle, wigged out, started yelling, quoted compensation studies, then considered putting a gun in my mouth to prove its not really a problem with dentists too. Oh why oh why didn't I become a dentist? Perception is a huge issue. HUGE issue.

  17. You say you are treated like a glorified tech. Well as a tech, I don't even get THAT kind of respect from clients. I also went to school, earned a degree, and passed national boards. Most techs I know don't make very much money, yet we have a HUGE amount of responsibilities that clients don't understand. People often get pissed at us because we can't tell them what they want to hear. Clients love to pull me aside and ask me what I really think the outcome is going to be since the doctor can't give them any guarantees.
    Well, now let me get my magic 8 ball. I'll be right back.
    And when I don't dispense meds behind the vet's back or tell them that Fluffy is absolutely going to survive the surgery to put her head back on, I'm told I'm uncaring or a "spawn of satan."
    Look, I do care about your pet, and about you as my client. Its because I care that I cannot and will not lie to you or give your pet something harmful.

  18. There's actually quite a bit of CPD for management/pricing and making the client feel like they have got £100+ worth of consulting from their vet. Sometimes even though you've done a thorough clinical exam etc to the client it may have seemed like you were just playing with their pet so a little communication is a good thing :)

    Not sure if I can include this here or not but I am attending a webinar tonight with the webinar vet on The Colorful Consultation looking at exactly this