Banned from the Dentist – Bad Business Practice? Or Normal?

About a year ago, I began the long, mildly painful, almost lethal, and expensive process of restoring my teeth. I had numerous issues including some teeth which required extraction, and a few cavities. Well, more than a few, but that’s beside the point. As someone had not been to the Dentist in probably 5 years, I asked for recommendations from my oral surgeon.

Enter Crovatto & Edwards. Their office staff were hospitable, and turns out, the Doctors weren’t scary! The Dentist isn’t all that bad, folks. You just have to find the right one!

Of course, not all that glitters is gold. At first, I had to see Doctor Edwards, which didn’t work out. I suppose I’m too fidgety or needy. Whatever. On the next visit, Doctor Crovatto, who was much more pleasant, and willing to work with me. In the end, we found my problem with Doctor Edwards was due to me being nervous. When you’re nervous, your pulse and blood pressure increase, which causes you to “eat thru” or “burn thru” the novocaine much faster than normal.

Also, scheduling with their office wasn’t the most pleasant. It was about 50% / 50% – they aren’t open on Saturdays and my work schedule isn’t the easiest to work around. So, I missed an appointment. Well, actually two. The first time they waived the missed appointment fee (thank goodness, $35 dollars would totally bankrupt me! /sarcasm). The second time, today, I wasn’t so fortunate.

But, how bad could it really be? Could a Dentist ban you from their office?

Actually, yes!

A quick call to the Dentist office today to settle whatever fee I had to pay due to the missed appointment would reveal much about the establishment who has drilled into my head on numerous occasions. While the next statement is paraphrased, I was told “We can allow you to reschedule/make another appointment, but there will be a $250 dollar deposit”. Sorry, but did you say two hundred and fifty dollars to make an appointment? With exception to a high end luxury rental car, I’ve never put a deposit on anything in my life.

It’s worth noting, while I’ve not been unhappy with the Dentist office or their care, I was planning to change Dentists when all of my fillings were done.

After thinking about a $250 dollar deposit, I weighed my options and decided it was time to transfer dentists. Referencing the Jacksonville Magazine Best of Jax: Top Doctors list, I found a Dentist open on Saturdays who is also highly rated: Dr. Martinez at Southpoint Cosmetic & Implant Dentistry. A quick phone call to their lovely staff, and I had an appointment, was able to fax over my patient registration, and get setup. All that was left was the transfer of medical records.

A call to Crovatto & Edwards revealed the darker side of Dentistry. On receiving their HIPAA request/authorization to transfer my records, I noticed a very unusual checkbox. (click for a larger image)

letterAfter faxing the document back, I called their office to ensure it was received and not lost. After all, I didn’t want the process of transferring to be tedious and painful. While on the phone, I asked the office manager to clarify what the highlighted statement meant… was I effectively banned from their office?

The response shocked me. “Yes, after talking with the Doctor to notify him you were transferring Dentists, we’ve decided to ask you not to come back” (again, paraphrasing, but that was the gist). With exception to a certain Bahamian casino, I’ve never been “banned” from any establishment.

I was angry, confused, and actually hurt. This is more unusual than asking for a $250.00 deposit to make an appointment, which makes sense because I’ve missed 2 appointments. And I was/am willing to deal with that consequence. However, I also understand a business books a client for a certain period of time, and they expect that income from the client visit, but never did I think any business would ask you not to return because you’re transferring care to another provider. That’s a little below the belt.

Needless to say, it’s a bit vindictive. What business, in any economy, turns someone away? Particularly someone who legitimately needs your services and has the means to pay you. I’ve missed a few general physician appointments in my day, and their office still takes my money and welcomes me as a patient.

When you ask someone not to return to your establishment, and the person in question hasn’t done something so horribly offensive to warrant it, it’s bad business. It’s unprofessional. I could understand if it was because someone was violent, or lewd, but changing doctors is no reason to ban someone. In my profession, when a customer cancels, we treat them just as we did when they became a customer – professionally and with kindness. Even if they are leaving because they hate us… you never know when they may come back, and believe me when I say, people remember bad experiences.

To the businesses out there: Don’t do this to your (ex-)customers.