Tuesday, August 23, 2016

What Would You Do?

I have told you that my life is a total whirlwind.

I wake up at 5:50 a.m., and sometimes, I don’t get home until 9 p.m. After I am done seeing patients, I usually try to write up charts, or I run out of the office to a school function, or to a practice, or to a meeting, or to church. (I say I write up charts, but that really means that I answer letters from other specialists, complete my to-do list at work, look up products I want to buy, call patients, and then maybe write up charts. This year, I have been up-to-date on my charts once — and that didn’t last long.)

All that to say that say that my life is busy. As I was getting myself and my family ready for our trip to AGD’s 2016 annual meeting in Boston, I was running out of time to prepare.

There was a lot to do, but the two main things were taking care of the lawn and pool. In Florida, the lawn has to be mowed at least once a week or you will not be able to see the front door, and, yes, I am that lawn guy. The sprinklers have to be working. The pool has to be balanced and, yes, I am also that pool guy.

As part of preparations for AGD 2016, I took care of the lawn, but the pool was a different story. I realized I was out of chlorine. If the pool doesn’t have chlorine, after four days, it looks terrible, and it would cost a lot of money to get the water back to blue. I put the four empty chloride jugs in the back of my truck, and that is where they stayed for three days. I kept meaning to get to the pool store, but I was too busy running to something else.

My daughter was leaving for high school church camp the same day that my wife and I were leaving for Boston, and my 12-year-old’s baseball team was leaving for Cooperstown to play in a baseball tourney the day before our trip. Oh, and I didn’t tell you that my oldest son was coming with us to Boston so he could take college tours. (One of them was in Middlebury, Connecticut, which is three-and-a-half hours away from Boston, where he was going to meet the football coach and participate in the college’s camp. He also saw Boston College, Amherst College, and Williams College during the trip).

The day came when I was going to be leaving for Boston, and I still had empty chlorine jugs in my truck. I was staying after work to tie up loose ends at the office, and I thought I would go to the pool store after that. I left myself just enough time to make it to the store, and, of course, there was traffic. 

I pulled into the pool store parking lot at 6:03 p.m. and saw the owner’s car pulling out of the parking lot. Arghhhh! I just missed him.

I started to make a three-point turn to leave the parking lot when I saw the owner’s reverse lights turn on. I pulled up next to him and asked what he was doing. (See, it is a Mom-and-Pop store, and the owner and I are on a first-name basis.)

He said, “I am going back to the store.” I said, “No, it’s after closing time; go home and see your family.” I also know a little about him. He has a wife and three daughters, one who is getting ready to go to college.

He continued to talk and back up his vehicle, saying, “John, I am in the service industry. I want to take care of you. How else do you think I managed to stay in business for 31 years? I just ask that if you have cash, you use it.”

I told him, “I haven’t carried cash in 15 years.”

He then proceeded to turn on the lights in the store, the register on, and the credit card machine on for my transaction. What do you think the bill was? $19.48. He turned his car around, opened the store, and turned everything back on for $19.48! I was taken aback.

What would you do if someone was pulling into your office parking lot as you were leaving? I will make it easier: What if all the patients were gone at the end of the day, and the staff members were already changed out of their uniforms, and everyone was saying goodbye, and someone walked in? What would you do?

I can tell you that at my office, I would tell that person to come back the next day. (We might — and I mean might — see the patient if it was an extreme emergency. I mean, blood gushing and everything.) As I sit here and write this, that last sentence sounds pretty bad. But I am thinking I am not alone in imagining that this is what I would do.

See, this guy — the store owner — he gets it. He realizes that there is a corporate pool store down the road that stays open until 7 p.m. and that I would probably have gone there instead. (And he would have been correct.) He realizes that customers have choices and that they can change loyalties like the wind changes direction. He realizes that he has to be on all the time. This speaks volumes about him.

But what does this say about me? I don’t even want to talk about it. Maybe I’ll save that topic for another blog post.

What would you do? Would you turn the lights back on for someone who was walking in after-hours?

John Gammichia, DMD, FAGD


Ed said...

If that person didn't want to be inconvenienced by coming to the office during their working hours and wait until after their work, I won't be inconvenienced by them unless it was someone who I had just treated and couldn't turn my back.
Just had a similar incident with a patient who disappeared 7 years ago to see another dentist. They call up on Sat morning and we tell them to come right in. Of course their new dentist isn't open on Sats. Ilook in his mouth and see many of his small occlusal fillings from 2009 are now shiny crowns. #14 (uncrowned) is hopelessly fractured. I give him a card for an oral surgeon and tell him to have a nice day. I could have easily pulled the tooth after hours at the end of the day, but frankly didn't want to go the extra mile for someone who deserted me and comes crawling back for convenience.

gatordmd said...


I totally agree.
I had a discussion with another dentist about having a great staff and respecting the staff's time.
We all have office hours and people need to respect that.

So many people don't respect our time and or what we are trying to do.
They don't deserve the bending over backwards.

But I am a good and loyal customer to this Pool Shop and he recognized this. He did what you and I would do for a good and loyal patient.

I appreciate the comment.

Jenifer Hadson said...

That is a good question. Where do you draw a line between professional obligations and burden on personal life. As the store owner turned around for 20$ profit and some future customer loyalty, any dentist can weight between personal tiredness and family obligations in contrast to business oportunity and obligation to help a person in pain. I guess a business and loyalty a dentist can gain are much more than 20$, so at the very least a dentist could forward the person to another office that could help them at this hour or suggest tomorrows appointment is the person is willing to wait that long. In the end every professional should decide on his or her own what is worth more to them in the moment.


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