You may have heard the old adage: 20% of clients bring you 80% of your business. The somewhat converse statement is also true: 20% of your clients provide 80% of your stress.


In our hospital both pithy versions apply. We love our top 20% for their willingness to pay without fuss, make their appointments on time without fail, and respond to our recommendations with intelligent questions and complete compliance—with nary a complaint in sight. Sometimes they even bring us brownies and coffee. God bless them.


The other 20% make us crazy.


  • They walk in the back door (our workspace) without an appointment.
  • They complain every time, without fail, about their bill.
  • A few (three) have even walked into the exam room to interrupt a doctor at work with another client!
  • Another notorious slacker pulled her own file from the stacks after slipping behind the reception desk (without asking) to use the staff’s bathroom.
  • Others arrive (late) and tell you what’s wrong with their pet and how they want you to treat them without waiting for the pet’s examination or your recommendations.
  • Some argue about your recommendations and flatly refuse to follow them—repeatedly.
  • They rudely dispute your diagnosis with ignorant assertions: My boyfriend is a [human] radiologist and he says bladder stones can’t be seen on an X-ray so my dog can’t have a bladder stone and he says I shouldn’t have to pay for anything you did today. (Wrong on all three counts—dogs are not humans, he does have a big stone in his bladder and, yes, you have to pay up. Would you like to borrow the X-rays to show your boyfriend?)
  • One guy drove up in his Ferrari, summarily dispatched his dog at the back door, and then later complained about his $400 bill for an anesthetic biopsy, bloodwork, urinalysis, and histopathology service. What?
  • The worst: a few clients owe us thousands (!) of dollars and still behave badly.


What is wrong with these people? My take on it: What is wrong with us? How can we continue to abide their behavior? IMHO, they all need to get a simple letter that reads:


Clearly we are unable to provide the services you require at the level you deem acceptable. We are therefore obliged to discontinue offering you our services. We regret any inconvenience this may cause you. Your pet’s records are enclosed.




Drs. X, Y, and Z


There are three of us vets where I work. Unfortunately we can’t all agree on my proposed policy change. You’ve got to pick your battles. I guess I’ll just live with the losers (and make sure never to forget to charge them for every penny of my services).


I once worked at a hospital with a remarkable annual holiday present for the staff: Pick a client, any client, and we’ll send them a huge basket of goodies. Pick a client, any client, and we’ll fire them. Most democratic, I’d say. And a welcome policy in my hospital, were I queen for a day.



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