Inconvenient Convenience

There are a lot of errands that a teacher must get done over the summer. Doctor’s appointments, car maintenance, pet vet visits, if it requires being someplace in person between the hours of 7am and 5pm it’s most convenient to get it done in the free summer months. Most of the things that I do in the summer have six month life spans, in that the next time I have to do this thing again it’ll be the two week winter break and I’ll have the time again. Sure I could take days off during the school year to do these things, and in emergencies I do, but I like to save those days for actual medical things or mental health recoup.

We have two dogs and two cats, all four of which are on the Banfield Vet Hospital Wellness Plans. For those of you who are unfamiliar with plans such as these, they operate as kind of a prepaid plan, not insurance. We pay about $20-30 a month for each pet, and in return we get all office visits free, routine vaccinations free, two comprehensive exams per year free (these include fecal exams, blood work, and a more in-depth checkup than a typical office visit), and in our current plans, free dental cleanings.

The dental cleanings only take a short amount of time, but the animals have to be put under general anesthesia to complete the process. We have to drop them off early in the morning so they can be prepped, and pick them up later in the afternoon after the drugs have worn off. It’s a day that is basically lost to driving and care for the animals so I like to make it part of my summer/winter break routine. When we made it out of this school year at the beginning of June and had our plans ironed out I called our usual Banfield location and made two appointments, one for both dogs in one day and another for both cats to go in one day.

Thursday afternoon I was dicking around on the internet and decided to check my email. I have a few gmail accounts and one yahoo account. The Yahoo account is the one that most of my auto-pay kinds of things go to, so imagine my surprise when I opened up the inbox and found two cancellation notifications, one for Daisy and one for Rosie, that said they were sorry we couldn’t make the appointment, but did we want to reschedule?

Banfield is a vet hospital that is usually found on the inside of PetSmart stores. It’s totally corporate and isn’t always the most reliable when it comes to scheduling. Lately, they have seemed to be understaffed, and the strain of that has started to show in their customer service. When Rosie had terrible diarrhea and vomiting at the end of May, I called to see if we could get her in as an emergency and they said they would have to turn me away because they were too busy. The fuck you mean? We got in at a different location, but they are our regular vet so wtf.

The appointments were cancelled somehow and I received no phone calls asking to to move the appointment, so I called to find out what was going on. The first time I called, it went to an answering machine message, and then to a busy signal. The second time I called, it was only a busy signal. The third time I called it rang through and a person picked up. I explained that I had received the cancellation emails but that I had not cancelled the appointments.

“Well, when we call, if you don’t pick up to confirm the appointment, we cancel it.”

No one called me.

“It looks like Rosie’s records were transferred to the Tampa location in May, maybe they called?”

The appointment was made over the phone at this location, I confirmed it in person when I brought Daisy in two weeks ago, and again, nobody called to confirm anything.

“Well, we’re all full up on surgeries through August so let me see when I can get you in next.”

No ma’am, the appointments were just cancelled twenty minutes ago, there’s no way you scheduled two surgeries on that exact day in that time, just put us back in.

“Well, we’re short on doctors and we’re full that day, let me see what I can do.”

She put me on hold, and then another person came on asking me what I needed, and finally I got the other lady back who said they had put us back on the schedule. Just in case, I asked her to confirm the cat’s appointment for the 27th, and she said yes, it was on the schedule. So fingers crossed that I’ll get all their stuff done before going back to school in the first week of August. Chances are that they were supposed to call me to ask me to reschedule due to the lack of doctors but cancelled without calling, but they weren’t about to admit that.

My biggest problem with how a lot of businesses deal with me is their inability to make up for when they make a mistake. We had several issues this week that seemed to all add up quickly – a doctor called in the wrong prescription so we had to call back and forth between the doctor and the pharmacy to fix it, the school district didn’t fill out a loan forgiveness program document correctly so we had to call around to fix it, the login for the husband’s AP scores wouldn’t work and when he called they said it was a server issue, then the pet appointment random email cancellation – and all stemmed from someone’s inability to do their job correctly.

If companies were more flexible or willing to fix the problem, I wouldn’t be so upset. But so often any “fix” that’s offered inconveniences me because they know that they have me over a barrel and I have to accept their arrangement. To avoid anything from issues with technology to human error, I find that it is necessary to call 2-3 times ahead of time for things, especially appointments, to confirm that what I think is going to happen is happening. I can’t rely on anyone to keep their word or do their job, and from what I’m experiencing it is only getting worse.

I think that my response to this is going to be to establish more of our activities with locally based vendors. There is a nice vet up the street that also does boarding in non-cage-type rooms and offers plans similar to Banfield’s Wellness plans. Our only hesitation is the difference in hours – Banfield is open every day of the week, this new vet is closed Sundays and only open until 6pm each evening instead of 7pm – but I think that would be something we could work with.

In this era of late-stage capitalism I find myself bending away from larger companies in favor of someone who actually needs and values my business. I have such limited resources (time and money) that I want to give them to people who appreciate that I have chosen to spend them at their business. As the pets’ plans expire with Banfield, I will probably move them up to this new vet under new plans. Another area I could go more local in would be ordering my books from local independent stores (I am guilty of getting most of mine from Amazon).

I would be interested to hear your stories in a similar vein. Have you experienced similar situations? Also, how do you shop local? Do you find that you get better value and treatment? What about quality? I would love to hear about different ways we can shop more locally and support our community. See you in the comments, or feel free to comment on Facebook or Twitter. Have a great weekend!