Last week, the weather spit out a surprise 100 degree scorcher sandwiched between two gloomy overcast 60 degree-ers. It was on this blistering Thursday that I realized our air conditioner wasn’t working. So I waited the three days until the AC guy was available to come out, because of course everyone in the county came to the same broken AC realization on the same day, and let him poke around the unit while I sat in the living room with no idea what he was doing.
He came in 40 minutes later, after crawling into the attic, running some “diagnostics”, and writing a bunch of stuff down on a clipboard. “Well, for the most part it checks out OK,” Wes the repairman said.
“So why isn’t it working?” I asked.
“Well, I think your capacitor is worn down,” he said, launching into a 20 minute discussion about something that made zero sense to me because at that moment, all I heard was “flux capacitor” and I kept turning him into Christopher Lloyd in my head. Then I started picturing his van as a DeLorean and thinking about how cool that would be. As far as I was concerned, he could have told me I needed plutonium and a Mr. Fusion and I would have been helpless to protest. So I signed the estimate. What else could I do? It was hot out.
As he tinkered away on the AC unit, it all of a sudden struck me: oh my god, this is what happens to my clients each and every day when I’m trying to explain why their cat isn’t eating. Oh. Poor clients.
I can explain renal disease and the pancreas and intestinal tract until I’m blue in the face, but 95% of them have zoned out by the second sentence and are thinking two things:
- Can it be fixed?
- how much is it going to cost?
To this day I have no idea why my air conditioner needs a flux capacitor, what its normal lifespan is, and if the problem really was that or a $10 filter that needed to be replaced. I don’t know how important the other suggested repairs really were. All I can do is hope the person is trustworthy and is doing what I asked without padding the bill. Without a working knowledge of AC units, I have nothing to base my decision on other than a vague sense of “Well, he seems like he knows what he’s talking about.”
It really made me feel sympathy pangs for those people who question every single item on the veterinary estimate. I get it. We’re all used to being taken advantage of. So don’t despair, good people: I get why you do it, and I don’t have a problem with it. I have no need to be defensive if I’m recommending the proper things, and if I’m doing my job communicating, you’ll see why I want to do it in the first place.
And for the AC? I have cool air, but until the lightning strikes I won’t be able to tell how well he really fixed it. 1989, here we come.
Although I’d like to think veterinarians are slightly less predatory than auto mechanics when it comes to this sort of thing, I’m not so naive as to assume bill padding never happens. I’m curious as to what the public perception is of this: have you experienced what you think was an unnecessarily padded estimate from a vet? What made you suspect that?