Monday, April 15, 2013

Between Starbucks and a Dizzy Place

These days, it seems that every store has a customer loyalty program. Since I am, by nature, a loyal customer, I appreciate these programs, especially when they help me save money. One day last week, I got $9 in free merchandise at CVS, courtesy of their Extra Care program, followed by my usual star toward a free drink at Starbucks.

But my continuing patronage at these businesses has more to do with the way they treat me a a person than whether or not they offer me coupons. Make no mistake, I like getting free stuff, but coupons and offers are worthless to me when customer service is lacking.

The employees at my local Starbucks and CVS seem to understand this. They don't need me to point out that there's another Starbucks just down the street, or a Walgreen's on the next  corner.

How I wish the courtesy these baristas, pharmacy techs and cashiers show so routinely was, indeed, common.

The day before my $9 windfall at CVS, I'd called a physician's office - a specialist - to reschedule an appointment. The appointment was a check-up, and, in their defense, one I had left floating in case my symptoms flared. The receptionist, apparently insulted by the number of times I had rescheduled (which she exaggerated in a rather obnoxious manner) was not satisfied to chastise me on her own. She felt the need to put me on hold prior to honor my rescheduling request in order to call the physician's assistant to the phone so she could enlighten me as well.

I'm rarely at a loss for a retort, but I felt myself grow livid and tongue-tied as the assistant proceeded to assure me that she knew just how it felt to walk in my skin and feel the symptoms that I found so debilitating. Somehow - given the fact that we were even having this conversation - I doubted that she did, but it was clear that there was no point in arguing.

I hung up the phone, upset and muttering a few choice words, and though I tried to push my indignation aside by turning my attention to other things, it refused to subside completely. Even now,  nearly a week later, my heart pounds and my stomach churns as I type this, wondering how I will go back to this office and trust them to care for me.

Were they wrong in philosophy? I guess that depends upon the philosophy in question. The message I received - loudly and clearly - was that their for-profit philosophy trumped their patient care philosophy.

Did they have the right to refuse to reschedule? Absolutely. Was it necessary to belittle me and condescend to me in the process? I suppose the answer to that question depends on which end of the phone you're on.

Unfortunately, this office is a specialty practice - one where I like and respect the physician and, until last week, his assistant. But this isn't the first time I've been treated coldly by office staff. I suppose I could call the office manager to complain, but I'm afraid that if I do, there will be repercussions. And since I don't know the name of the person who answered the phone, let alone whether or not she'd be working on the day that I register the complaint, I don't want someone who has treated me kindly in the past to bear the brunt of my complaint.

And so I'm left wondering two things: Do I find another doctor?

And why do I get better customer service at Starbucks?


  1. Hi Lisa, I read your post with great interest. Living in France,I've gotten accustomed to very bad customer service and nasty people, absolutely everywhere. It's just a given here. I can't even count the number times in my life that I have been verbally abused by doctors or other professionals. My solution over the years has been to "grin and bear it". You only have to see these people occasionally, and even though they are nasty to you, they are usually competent in their fields, or at least competent enough for your needs. Lately though, I've decided that life is too short to suffer even for a few minutes, so as soon as I encounter a toxic personality, I start looking elsewhere. It may not be convenient to change, but you probably won't regret it in the end. Now to be fair, things in France have gotten better in the customer/patient service area than they were 27 years ago, but I just recently got abused again by a young,very pretentious physical therapist so I walked out after the second session and told the G.P. who recommended her that I was very dissatisfied.(I'm probably going to change my G.P. too at some point but for the time being I'm still grinning and bearing her).

  2. I'm sorry to hear you've been treated so rudely, Karen - particularly since I know you don't treat others that way!

    I do like the doctor, but this isn't the first time I've been treated poorly by office staff - and it varies widely. I've gotten some lovely people when I've called, too - guess it's true that intermittent positive reinforcement is the most powerful kind!

    I'm still undecided. Unfortunately, proximity will be important if my symptoms flare, and I think my closest alternative is about a thirty minute drive away...right now, I'm just hoping I don't need them again!