Yeah, ain’t it the truth! When a gatekeeper’s got it in for you you’re screwed. And your local veterinary hospital provides no exception to the rule.

Our receptionists can be surly or sweet, depending on the object of their attention’s attitude. I’m embarrassed to admit it but often that dictates how long they wait, whether they get the last box of Revolution or not and, not uncommonly, how much they pay.

No fair! Receptionists shouldn’t be able to demand you pay more just because you’re having a bad day!

But it’s true. All over the country veterinary receptionists are there to make sure no charges get missed on the invoice. If you’re nice—really nice—the front office staff may just gloss over it. And if you’re mean you can be sure it’ll be scrutinized with a flea comb. “Doctor K, didn’t you send out an additional titer on her?”

Another local hospital has a famous front desk gatekeeper who seems to make most of her decisions based on whether she thinks you’re god to your pets or not. Worried moms and dads wringing their hands over Fluffy’s surgery get hugs, candies, tissues, Diet Coke and prompt service.

Those who fret over their estimates with “It’s just a dog”-type comments get the cold shoulder and a reminder that the estimate may go up to 50% higher—“Oh, and we ask that you leave the full amount up front, sir.”

OK, so I’m not proud of the fact that our gatekeepers will occasionally levy the PIA (pain in the a$$) tax in all kinds of potentially unfair ways (usually without the vet’s knowledge), but let’s be honest—we all play that game.

While some of my vet friends were laughing over the antics of the Diet Coke wielding receptionist described above, others were shocked and angered over it. It’s not what we pay vet receptionists to do, they complained.

I countered that it’s not only exactly what we pay them to do…we also do it ourselves…every day.

How quickly do we get on the phone to speak with annoying clients? We stall, we’ll go take care of some paperwork, we’ll do anything to get away with not returning that call.

Same goes for their appointments: If the vet doesn’t like you for whatever reason (let’s say she thinks your pet ownership skills amount to borderline animal cruelty) she’ll not want to linger in your presence. Your appointments will tend to be shorter, your service less brisk and your bill a tad higher.

Veterinary receptionists do exactly what we do, only they don’t have the express authority to do it. But for what they get paid relative to what we make, they'll get a pass from me every time. After all, every job's gotta have its perks, right?