Tuesday, April 1, 2014

In my humble opinion: Banfield

So it's been awhile since I updated.  I think part of the problem is I started to think too much about what vet subject I wanted to shared that I just bogged myself down.  So we're going to keep it simple.

This is based off the comment about Banfield.  So not really about animal health, as to more about the opinions I've formed about the company.  Disclaimer: I am not a huge fan of Banfield, and this post will probably reflect that.  If you don't like that, I suggest you stop reading.  I did a small internship through a Banfield when I was in school.  I'm not going to go into details about the internship, but I did get a look at how they run things.  A lot of people think that Banfield is the cheaper place to go.  Not true.  The truest thing you can say about it, is that it is corporate.  The have wellness plans that they are forced to sell, and they have a way they have to do things.  The end feeling I get, is they have a bunch of mandates as to what they "have" to do, that you don't get a lot of personalized care, so much as you get put through the "hospital machine" and hope you come out fixed.  Most problems are common, so 95% of the time this model works.  It doesn't work so well if you happen to be in that unfortunate 5% that has a really weird disease process or problem. 

The other factor with Banfield being corporate is they charge a lot for everything.  I feel I have to address this problem delicately, so I'm going to frame it.  The main complaint I get from people, is the impression that veterinary clinics are gouging you for money, and if we really loved animals, we'd do all this for free.  I am all for getting paid for doing the work I do.  Even then, the important part that people don't realize is, we don't get paid a whole hell of a lot comparatively.  I get paid maybe a half to two-thirds what a human nurse's average salary is.  And (this is not a negative comment against nurses) I have to know how to do a lot more than a nurse, in many more species.  This comparison is the same for vets and human doctors.  And for them - vet school is just about as expensive as medical school.  Please, I invite anyone to come look at the parking lot at my clinic.  99% of the cars our staff (two of our doctors included) are maybe one good wreck from being junked and are at least 8 years old.  The only nice car we have is the doctor that owns the clinic - and he's a few years from retirement after being a successful businessman for years and years and being married to a lawyer.  It may seem that I've gone off on a tangent, but I just really feel like people outside the field don't understand the problem.  They just see the bill and resent the vet clinic.

All that being said, there is no shame in us charging for our services.  There are a range of vet clinics from cheap to more expensive.  There are cheaper ones that will do a dental with just sedation (no anesthesia, no pre-op bloodwork, no proper patient monitoring, no x-rays with extractions, and no endotracheal tube) for barely a $100, but if your pet gets aspiration pneumonia, you're SOL.  There are clinics that are more expensive because they take all the precautions.  So there's no problem in dishing out the bucks, if you know you're paying for quality.  Banfield unfortunately is not always like that.  They have a price tag that goes across the board.  However, quality can range widely.  At one, they may have excellent services and licensed staff that are well worth the price.  At another, they may have mediocre services with some half trained staff that they got off the street - not worth that same price tag for the much better medicine you would have gotten at the other Banfield down the street with the better staff.  So I'm not saying that high price tag = terrible evil, money grubbing vet clinic.  I'm saying that the price tag should equal the quality you're paying for.  If you pay $20 at a vaccine clinic - don't expect more than a couple shots a from a tech (you probably won't even see a doctor).  If you pay $150 to $200, your doctor better do a full exam on your pet and answer your questions, in addition to your shots, etc.

So hopefully that sheds a little light on the Banfield business model.  I'm sure there are some great ones out there, but overall, I feel like they get lost in the corporate structure.  Besides, I'm all for supporting your local businesses and going to a local vet clinic.  You'll get more personalized care and the staff there will appreciate your business more.  And if you find a good local vet clinic, they'll treat their employees better, and happier staff means better care for your pet!


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  2. I hope I didn't come across in my comment like I didn't think I should pay for quality service or like I resented that! Definitely a difference between paying for quality service, and being charged $25 for "glove disposal," amongst other dumb things that were obviously just padding, so that when it was "discounted" because you had the puppy plan, you felt like you were getting a good deal (the estimate literally said that the baby tooth extraction would cost almost $5000, but hey you have the puppy plan, so we'll discount this and this and this so that it's *only* $1000!). Or being told your pet has problems that s/he definitely doesn't have, just to sell bullcrap treatments and medicine (which was also 2x or more the cost than at other animal pharmacies, even the OTC ear cleaning stuff).

    I didn't realize that about the dental stuff though; I just thought "WOW $100 YAY" after being told over $1000 by Banfield... Glad his teeth came out without incident, after reading that! I have no idea if they used anesthesia or any of those things. I like my local place (that I switched to after Banfield) but I guess I don't really know enough to know if he's getting good quality care. They did work past their business hours so that they could give him an emergency barium-thingy-xray when he ate the blanket, though, so I think they're pretty nice people at least! :)

    You're right though, you guys definitely deserve more! More pay, and more people being nice and understanding!

  3. Nah I didn't mean to make it sound like I thought you meant that. I was trying to objective because I haven't seen their pricing scale in depth. And I just tend to get defensive about vets and money anyway. And don't worry too much about the baby teeth removal. If all they did was pull teeth, no cleaning which is where the hazard of water in the lungs comes from, sedation is more than adequate. And he's young enough that his teeth shouldn't need a cleaning anyway. They may not have done an xray (should always have one with adult tooth extractions to ensure removal of all the root). But with baby teeth if small pieces are left, the body is designed to absorb them, so the pup shouldn't have any issues. One more piece of advice: don't get Rx's from online pharmacies! There's no regulations in place that makes sure that the pharmacies store them properly, get them in a none shady fashion, that it's not expired, or even that it is the right drug!