I may never get some of you to agree with me on this but there you have it. I don’t now and won’t ever offer discounts to my clients for either owning many pets or bringing in more than one pet at a time.
I know that many of you rely on your veterinarians’ multiple pet discounts by way of saving significant amounts on your pet bills. I would never begrudge you your right to seek such discounts, just as I would be hard-pressed to recommend that vets providing such niceties rescind their offers.
I do, however, have an issue with clients who expect financial consideration for their large, multi-pet households. Herein lies the point of this particular post.
In case you’re unfamiliar with this particular brand of veterinary savings, here’s some background on this issue, via two examples:
Roger owns six dogs and, on average, fosters a couple more. He lives on an acre in Miami and says he spends $300 a month on food and products, on average, almost as much on veterinary services. He relies on his vet’s “one office call charge only” whenever he brings in more than one dog at a time. He saves by never bringing less than two in at a time, waiting for more than one to require services before he’ll trot them over to the vet’s. He says he saves BIG on her annual exams by bringing ‘em all in at once.
Marjorie has four cats and manages a small stash of “outdoor kitties” who reside in her back yard. Her vet’s 10% discount for owners with three or more pets is a Godsend, she says.
With these fine examples in mind and the wind of a withering economy at our backs, how could any self-respecting creature-loving veterinarian decline to offer multiple pet discounts for those of us who adore animals so much we’re willing to take on several at a time?
Indeed, that was the position one client adopted last week when she argued against my two exam fees for two patients policy:
“I’m doing you a favor by bringing in two cats at one time and you punish me by charging me double? That’s not right. Most vets offer multiple pet discounts. Your policies are unfair and inhumane for those of us who have so many pets to take care of.”
Here’s my measured answer to her hurled invectives, in six easy pieces:
Numero uno: Your choice to bring pets into your life is yours and yours alone. If you elect to care for more pets than you can reasonably afford it’s not my responsibility to take up the slack. (Ouch—I know that sounds harsh.)
Dos: Bringing more than one animal in for an exam is not more convenient for me. If anything, clients say it’s more convenient for them—and that’s why mine tend to do so (since I offer no discounts for more than one at a time there ain’t no other good reason). In our small office space, clients who bring in multiple pets at a time are discouraged from doing so—especially if they can’t properly handle them in the waiting room (a too-familiar experience).
Tres: As a clinician, my personal preference is to deal with one client and one patient at a time. Based on the way I practice medicine, more than one patient at a time often means that someone’s getting shortchanged in some way, even if it’s only because most clients can’t readily internalize my recommendations for multiple pets in one visit. Why would I provide incentives for offering less than what I believe each patient deserves?
Cuatro: I believe most pet owners do a far better job of caring for their pets when they only have one or two pets. They can typically afford to keep more pets in better condition if they don’t shoulder the work three or more pets require. Of course, that’s not always the case (as many of your personal experiences will doubtless prove), but why should a veterinarian offer further inducements to the blanket “mo pets is mo better” policy?
Cinco: Vets tend to offer multiple pet discounts because it helps build loyalty with clients whose penchant for keeping many pets at a time means continuous business. But if your vet is offering multiple pet discounts (especially the across-the-board percentage for big animal families), does it not stand to reason that those with fewer pets are effectively subsidizing those who have more? Based on what I know about the economics of small animal practice, I think it does. And I don’t think it’s fair to those clients who either know their personal financial limits or choose to keep one or two pets at a time.
Seis: As a medical provider, I believe my approach to charging for my services should be in my hands. Those who would consider me unfair in my ways have a whole world of alternative providers to choose from. Sure, I’d rather keep my clients—and I often will once they understand my reasons—but not everyone will agree with me.
On that last note, it’s now your turn to tell me how you’d handle my no-discounts rule.