Sh*t Service – I’m not complaining, I’m letting you know!

It takes a lot for me to write a negative review about a business, company, service or experience. I like to reserve my energies to focus on the good things, the services I can compliment; amazing food, super friendly staff, efficient execution, reasonable prices, you know the things that make you want to return. I remember when I was a little tacker, being immensely embarrassed by my mothers unhindered tendency to voice her disapproval of poor products. If my twenty dollar sneakers from Target tore after the first week, she’d be the first to take them (and me) back to the store, expressing her disgust at the lack of quality and naturally, demand a refund.

As a child, this was a form of social suicide. During each such encounter I would pray to the Almighty Father that no child from my class would walk into the store to buy a tamagochi, a yo yo, pogs or any of the other whimsical popular crazes of the time. Fortuitously, I was never caught out but the experience left me tormented enough to be chronically cautious in everyday play and avoid ripping any clothing to prevent another embarrassing venture.

How things have changed since those elementary school years. They say time heals all wounds and I say it also turns you into your mother. Let me explain. Last week, I booked an appointment with a new physiotherapist, one that Mr. Google suggested specialised in a muscle that I had deemed was the underlying source of a long term hip and hamstring issue. I have an Ultramarathon in Thailand in a week, so in the hope of a miracle cure, I decided to pursue her treatment and try something a bit left-field. I booked my appointment and was surprised, actually horrified, to be informed that the initial consult was $130. That’s right people, 130 dollars, not yen. I bit the bullet and conceded that one cannot put a price on health, then checked my piggy bank to make sure the funds were there (they were).

I won’t disclose the name of the clinic, feel free to contact me directly if you would like further information, but to describe the treatment protocol as a scam would be an understatement. I arrived Friday afternoon, the last appointment of the day. The treating practitioner rushed me through the preliminary form I signed, requesting more information, then barking at me when I wasn’t providing one word answers.

Physio: “How long does it start to hurt after sitting?”
Me “it really depends on how long I ran that day but -”
Physio cutting me off “just give me a number, 10 minutes, an hour ??”
I hoped that this was just a personality issue, maybe she hadn’t scored high in the emotional quotient and lacked some people skills. Unfortunately, the actual examination left much to be desired.

This disinterested questioning was followed by some movement tests, where I was told to compare a few range of motion parameters between my left and right sides. I’m not sure if I could call them measurements, as they were rather estimations, each followed by a statement like “oh, that’s probably 80 degrees, these two are the same but this one is slightly worse, let’s say 87 degrees only”

Again I was barked at then entire time, given no opportunity to actually describe how my symptoms manifest, their specific location or their changes over time. It was abundantly clear that the physio had already made her diagnosis which, coincidentally perfectly aligned with her allegedly self created and unique treatment protocol.

The next 10 minutes were spent with her plonking me in front of a computer and delivering a scripted description of the basic anatomy of the ‘problem’ muscle, producing a computer graphic of its location and then comparing a well aligned, untainted body to one with dysfunction. Again there was no interaction with me, no eye contact, just a well repeated script underlying basic anatomy. Had she simply asked me about my understanding of the muscle we could have saved some time – I had previously commenced physiotherapy study at Uni SA and retained some anatomy knowledge, however I was not allowed to interrupt her prepared delivery.

The next step was to actually address the issue. Now, my problem side is on my left, but the physio decided we would treat the right, allowing us to look at the left ‘next time’. How ideal that the symptomatic side be considered in a future appointment, naturally requiring another outlandish consult fee.

Once the 2 minute treatment was finalised (a very dubious placement of hands over a muscle and some light hand movements) I was told to sit down while more comparative measurements were performed. It was interesting to note that the angles and position of my body was skewed by the therapist to ensure a greater range, leaving a sense of improved motion. Similarly, the application of force to measure ‘power’ improvement was not only substantially reduced, but exerted closer to my core, naturally leaving an sense of strength gains. At this point, I was quite frustrated at being treated like a servant and a fool. I was then prescribed two such weekly sessions for six to eight weeks after which I was assured to be cured. I really like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but sitting there, being extolled some costly bullshit protocol and repeatedly reminded that this was a unique cure invented by the miracle therapist really shirked me.
I replied to her prescription by saying that I would consider it, only to be given a response of “oh, OK but you better book in quickly as spots are filling fast”. I would chance it. I was then rushed out of the office and was told to quickly see the receptionist before she brought the advertising signs inside – again another customer focused interaction. As I scanned my credit card to pay for this charade, I continued to replay the consult in my mind, almost expecting a TV crew to jump from behind the pot plant and announce that I had been pranked. No such luck.

While training that night I could not stop reliving the incident, hell I was traumatised. I knew I wouldn’t go back but that alone did not quell the internal discontent I was feeling. My general approach to mental woes is to ‘sleep on them’ and if they continue to bother me the following day, action is necessary. Waking still frazzled, action was in order; I made the call.

I wasn’t a jerk, but remained calm and professional. I voiced my dissatisfaction with the consultation, pinpointing the factors that led to my poor view of the experience. I must admit, the Physio was actually very welcoming to the criticism, but alas, would not concede fault. Her responses were aligned with politically correct throw away terms such as “I’m sorry you feel that way”, “it is a shame you perceived this to be the case”, “I’m so experienced in this I know exactly what is wrong with a patient by just looking at them” etc. Nonetheless, once I was done I felt somewhat cleansed. It wasn’t about being rude, reprimanding the woman or demanding an apology, I simply hoped that maybe the next patient who may be more trusting, less critical isn’t treated like a money cow to be milked. She could at least apply her shonky methods with a smile and attention, letting the placebo effect kick in!

Once I was done, it hit me – shit I was turning into my mum. Was this an unavoidable genetic trait? Was I bound to forever voice my dissonance about each poor interaction or purchase made for the rest of my life? Which of my mother’s other characteristics was I destined to adopt. Would I become a lover of Bailey’s cocktails, addicted to rock and roll dancing, obsessed with clothes shopping…..?

The thing is, if I was slowly turning into my mum, I would not in any way be concerned. Sure, she’s a passionate woman that maybe isn’t the best at tempering her fiery, Polish persona, but she is my hero. Clearly I had picked up a few behaviours from her, but I didn’t consider them detrimental.

I realised that it is my right as a paying ‘customer’ to let the Physio know that her approach was not OK. Oftentimes, we accept substandard service, overlook a crummy product breaking immediately, avoid telling the painter that he left streaks on the loungeroom wall, in order to annul confrontation. But the thing is, to stand up for what is expected, what is paid for but not delivered is just a reflection of our self respect. Sure, it pales in significance to making a stand about socially relevant issues such as racism, marriage equality, ageism etc. However, it is a testament of one’s own value assessment. We deserve that which we pay for, that which we sacrifice for, and we owe it to ourselves to rebuke when treated like fools.

So what was the ultimate result of my encounter? I certainly didn’t return for any follow up treatment and I was offered a refund of my gap payment. Most importantly however, I made my experience known to the Physio, which I only hope will make her think twice next time she consults a new patient and at least administers the attention someone seeking healing deserves.