Tuesday, January 9, 2007
When Did It Become So Acceptable?
I had a doctor's
appointment last Friday afternoon. Nothing too serious. Just a follow-up visit for an old foot injury from kicking a parking
meter in Chicago many years ago. I tried to schedule the appointment for a slow time instead of, say, first
thing Monday morning. When I arrived at his office, everything looked good. Only one other person was waiting in the
(aptly named) waiting room.
My appointment was at 3:45. It was not until 4:05 that
I was ushed into an examination room. Some fifteen minutes later, now about 4:20, still no doctor. However, one of his
helpers ( a nurse? receptionist?) came into the exam room to retrieve some bandages from the room. When I asked her how
much longer it would be she replied "just a few more minutes". When I mentioned that I had already been waiting
for over a half hour she told me that she would let the doctor know.
As coincidence would
have it, as she walked out of the room, the doctor walked right past her and continued down the hallway. The nurse/receptionist
walked in the other direction and said nothing. So, I had a very late doctor who employed liars. Now, ordinarily my temper
starts to fizzle at about the 10 minutes behind schedule and it begins to boil at about 15 minutes. Typically at
20 minutes behind schedule I'm out of there with some terse words to whoever happens to be within ear-shot on
my way out. In this particular case, though, the doctor is a former neighbor of mine. It is the only reason that I go to thim.
Or, more accurately, used to go to him.
In the exceedingly inexcusable period
of time that I had to wait for the doctor to finally come in, I had time to read his diploma over and over again. He's
been at this doctor business since 1979. And, still, he cannot figure out how to schedule his appointments. Really, though,
that's not the case at all. It is simply a lack of consideration. An arrogance that we have become all to used to
when dealing with so-called "professionals". But it's not just doctors. For instance, yesterday I spent over
19 minutes on hold waiting to reach the "customer service" department of a multi-million dollar company.
My personal favorite is when you do finally reach someone on the telephone and you share your ire
with them about the wait and they simply hang up on you. They hide behind the anonimity of a faceless maze of voicemail
prompts and overseas call centers. Try to hunt down the simpleton who hung up on you in Indonesia and you're likely to
wind up connected to a call center in Bangledesh.
Like I said, though. It's not just
doctors or customer service lines. Many lawyers are just as bad. Just as arrogant. They think nothing of keeping
their clients waiting in the lobby for 20, 30 minutes or more. Or, they think nothing of showing up for Court at 11:00
even though the hearing is scheduled for 8:30. Meanwhile, the meter on my client's case has been ticking since we showed
up at 8:15.
I shared my contempt for such lawyers with another well-respected lawyer
here in town. He fully concurred, adding "the old-timers have always done it that way and they're never going to
change." I recall when I first opened my practice I rolled in a couple hours late for Court one morning. The Judge
had, by that time, sent my client home and directed his bailiff to bring me into his chambers when I arrived. He then
brought me into the Courtroom so that I could offer him some reason for not locking me up for contempt. Fortunately for me,
he was an old Italian Judge. I think my last name might have saved me on that occasion. I've never been late to Court
So, again...when did this type of behavior become, if not acceptable, tolerable?
Had this doctor not been a former neighbor, I certainly would have walked out with some choice words on the way. I certainly
will not go back to his office.
When you make an appointment at my firm, plan on being
seen with 5 minutes of your appointment time. (Usually 5 minutes early!) And, I tell you this - for each 15 minutes
that you are kept waiting past your appointment time, I'll pay you 25% of your hourly pay. Because as far as I'm concerned,
your time is just as valuable as mine.
Just one of my random thoughts.