Tuesday, May 27, 2008

So, I go to the doctor. Nothing serious: I found something weird on the sole of my foot, and I'm not sure if it's growing out or burrowing in. After the guy finishes with me, I go to the receptionist's desk to pay the bill, but she's chattering away on the phone. She puts her hand over the mouthpiece and whispers, "We'll send you a bill," and I say okay, sure.

A few days later I get a bill in the mail for $125, which is actually pretty cheap for a New York doc. I write him a check and mail it off. And a couple weeks later I get another bill, this one marked PAST DUE. Office visit, $125.

I call the receptionist. "I sent you a check a couple weeks ago," I say after fifteen minutes listening to the Boston Pops.

"Did you?" she asks, not even pretending to sound sincere. "Are you sure?"

I assure her that I always pay my bills, but her condescension doesn't fade. I tell her I'll write them another, and flush with victory she says, "Drop this one in the mailbox, okay?"

Fast forward to a couple weeks later. I open my bank statement, and there it is in black and white: two checks to the doctor, each $125, both cashed.

Yes, and I'm the flake.

I call the receptionist back and only listen to fuzzy classical for eight minutes. "You told me you didn't get my check, so I paid you again," I declare. "I want my $125 back."

"Absolutely no refunds or exchanges," she snaps.

"I'm not trying to swap my foot cream for Percocet," I say. "I paid you twice for one visit. You should refund the money from the second check."

"We absolutely, positively never refund money. We can, however, credit your account."

I reluctantly agreed -- it's not like I had a choice -- and now I've got a credit burning a hole in my pocket. It's like having a gift card, and I hate gift cards. I put them in my wallet and forget about them, and when I finally try to use them the monthly fees and surcharges have sucked them dry.

Whenever I get a gift card, then, I make a special trip to the store, and I use it. Right away, whether I need something or not. I decide to do this with the doctor credit, but I'm thinking I can give this thing a positive spin. One free doctor visit! One free illness, one free misadventure, like a Get Out of Jail Free! card. I can do something dangerous, something foolhardy, something I've always wanted to do but never had the nerve.

It's Fleet Week here in New York, with thousands of hunky sailors in town, so I'm thinking first I'll head to the docks and try to make a new friend. If I get through that unscathed, I'm having lunch at Serendipity 3.


ted said...

This is when you ask to talk to her boss. And then, if that fails, write to the Better Business Bureau. I got money back from Priceline that way!

Yet Another Steve said...

I'm with Ted on this one. "No refunds" -- for their billing error? No way, Jose! That's definitely something that should go right to the Better Business Bureau if they don't adjust it pronto.

David said...

I third the motion. My blood was boiling just reading this. I would have ripped her a new asshole over the phone. Do not let this go. Call and ask for the doctor himself and inquire if it is standard procedure in his office to bill twice for one procedure and then keep the money.

Anatomicsd said...

I've been in private practice for 10 years. Although refunds may not be immediate (due to the technicalities of tracking insurance payments vs patient copays) any overpayment is returned (unless the patient has another outstanding encounter account and, with patient permission, we apply overpayment to the outstanding account).

Yet Another Steve said...

Serendipity 3? Isn't that where they filmed Ratatouille?