If you have a few hours to spare, check out the Banfield Pet Hospital page on the Consumer Affairs website. Seriously, we’re talking hours here folks, because what you’ll find is an endless pit of complaints by people who were left feeling far from satisfied, with pets who seemed worse-off after being taken care of by the national vet chain that’s found inside PetSmarts across the country.
Many people avoid chain stores like the plague, while others are a bit more tolerant. When it comes to your animal’s welfare, you might think that the name recognition and clout of a national chain (PetSmart and Banfield) is a plus, rather than going to a local vet. But if you read any of the complaints on the Consumer Affairs page, you might think differently.
What’s one reason people don’t like chains? The lack of personal attention certainly rates highly and that seems to be a common theme in the complaints vs. Banfield and their Wellness Plan. Banfield’s Wellness Plan has as many friends on the Consumer Affairs forum as Howie Mandel has hair…
There are countless testimonials claiming that Banfield ignored customers’ requests to cancel the Wellness Plan, meaning that these folks kept being billed monthly. One testimonial, from Susan of Wellington, FL, explains: “I specifically asked if I could cancel (the Wellness Plan) at any time, and the answer was yes. This is totally untrue, as they will continue to charge you until the year is up.”
This is the problem with large chains. They have protocol. They have processes. They often times don’t have the time to look at each of us as individuals. Sometimes a little heart (often shown by a local vet/business owner) will go a long way. Just listen to what PJ of Columbia, S.C. had to say: “The fourth month into my plan, my dog and I were hit by a car. Emma was unable to recover and passed away … I called Banfield to let them know about the situation and to see if I could get refunded any of the year that I had prepaid. The customer service representative said that if I canceled the account that they would charge me even more money …”
Is this technically wrong of Banfield to do? No, they run a business and are in their right to operate it as they see fit. But is it right?
No. Business isn’t always business. People (and in this case, animals) are involved. This is where chain operations fail miserably, time and time again, showing heart. Just that phrase alone – Customer Service Representative – rubs me the wrong way. This is my pet’s health we’re talking about! I want to talk to someone with a more humanizing title than Customer Service Representative. That’s just one step away from an automated voicemail service.
You might think that you save money by going to larger chains, and in some cases that might be true. But sometimes that’s not always the case. Complaints regarding Banfield include extremely high medication costs, nearly impossible-to-pay procedures, and (just as I see when I go to my national-chain dentist) the attempt to convince you of the need to get more procedures done than is required (the up-sale).
Are all local vets bound to be more inexpensive and caring than Banfield and other chain vet clinics? Not necessarily, but what you will usually find in a vet clinic that only has itself to answer for is the ability to be more flexible with you and your specific situation. More flexibility (in our minds, as consumers) means compassion. With national chains, there’s too much protocol put into place to allow for flexibility. No flexibility means no compassion, as we see it.
You might save a few bucks on your TV, or a few cents on your gallon of milk, by going to a chain store. But your pet’s more important to you than either of those things, right? In a world where every city’s beginning to look the same because of streets aligned with the same chain stores from LA to Long Island, why not support your local vet? In the end your pet might be better off for it.