“I wasn’t satisfied with my visit, I want a refund.”

“The bloodwork was normal, so I can get my money back, right?”

“The treatment didn’t help. I want my money back.”

For anyone in the veterinary field, we hear this a lot. It seems like owners believe that if they complain enough they will get money back. I can understand why. With the current trends, many companies offer money-back guarantees on their products. Didn’t like the food? Here is a coupon for a free meal. Product was defective? Here is your money back and a discount on your next purchase. We are used to getting it our way but owners sometimes forget that medicine is not an exact science and there isn’t going to be a money-back guarantee.  

Examinations and laboratory work take time and money to complete. When the results are not favorable people tend to demand their money back. They forgot that they aren’t paying for a good outcome but they are paying for an expert to help them get to the bottom of their pet’s issue. This can be as easy as one appointment or as difficult as a long-term ailment. Sometimes it’s a bit of a trial and error concept when treating certain diseases. It doesn’t mean that if one treatment doesn’t work you get a refund though. Yet unfortunately, a lot of people will demand money back or a discount because they are frustrated.

A few examples of this are exploratory surgeries. Veterinarians are often faced with the decision to urge an owner into exploring an abdomen or waiting to see how they do on fluids. An exploratory surgery can give us a quick answer but it can also be an expensive answer if there is a negative explore. I have had owners ask if we will give them money back if the explore turns out to be negative when in fact it was a diagnostic test giving us a lot of information. The same goes for cases of parvovirus.  We can put an animal on every treatment imaginable but in the end, if the dog’s own immune system doesn’t respond we are going to recommend euthanasia or the patient may also pass away on its own. In those cases, I have had people complain they spent 2000 dollars for nothing. We understand the situation is frustrating but medicine is not black and white. 

Sometimes client frustration leads to blackmail. Yes, daily veterinarians deal with clients blackmailing them into discounts, payment plans, and writing off a balance because they threaten us with bad reviews. Many of those bad reviews aren’t valid – see my prior article on how to decode them. But unfortunately, people are so used to complaining to get their way that they use it to blackmail veterinarians into cutting corners or the bill. This doesn’t help the pet and leads to more frustration and anger.

There is a reason we don’t offer money-back guarantees. We aren’t god. Some animals don’t play by the book. Some animals respond adversely to medications. Some animals don’t show symptoms until its too late. Sometimes we can do everything correctly and the outcome is poor. Medicine is not an exact science. As clients, we hope that you understand this and realize we are doing our best to help you. We aren’t a restaurant where you can complain about the cut of meat or lack of salt in the sauce. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.


Nicole Palumbo, DVM

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Nicole Palumbo is a 2012 graduate from the University of Illinois. She is originally from the south side of Chicago but chose to move to Northwest Pennsylvania for her first job out of veterinary school. She works with small animals, exotics and also volunteers her time at the local wildlife rescue, typically performing surgeries and exams on the many raptors that are admitted to the facility. Recently she has taken a job with an emergency/general practice closer to Pittsburgh. With time she hopes to focus more time on wildlife medicine and also obtain specialization in feline medicine.

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