PRN: Consumer Alert

Physician's Money Digest, October31 2004, Volume 11, Issue 20

Sheep. Sometimes I swear we're justsheep. The American public is beingtaken advantage of by the huge boondogglethat is the real estate closingbusiness. By the time we get there,we're so weary of the process and anxiousto move into or out of our homes,that we just cave to the old "it's standard,""it's nonnegotiable," and "that'sthe way it's done." Boom, just sign thebig check and get out of Dodge.

Don't expect any help from realestate agents who feed at the sametrough. Record real estate inflation hasjust made things worse because this is apercentage-based industry, and realestate-based agents' incomes havesoared at the public's expense, all outof proportion to the effort expendedon our behalf.

Standard Wait

For another consumer-insensitiveindustry, how about the eye-opener thatis shopping in marts and catalogs forgood furniture and fixtures for your newhome? I suspect collusion when I orderan item and hear, "It will take 6 to 12weeks," or, "It will take up to 6 months"to arrive. How about selling me somethingI can take home now? How abouta catalog company saying somethingother than 6 to 12 weeks? What hasmade these dealers immune to gaining acompetitive advantage by carrying stockor by giving a discount on better goods,for that matter?

Maybe they think a long delay indelivery will give me time to see all thoseextra sore throats to make their low-overhead,high-margin prices.

Cable Guy

And how can we forget that late-nightcomedian staple, the cable guy,or any alleged "service" worker whocomes to our homes. How have theybeen immune to the market thatrewards the good service and penalizesthe bad? First of all, you can't get thembooked. If you can, it won't be soon orconvenient. When they finally doarrive, they're usually noticeably late.Didn't their mothers—let alone theirbosses—tell them that this behavior isunacceptable? How about a phone callto inform, reschedule, or even apologize?Don't we tell our children thereare consequences for bad behavior?

True story. I had a minor plumbingproblem and after the obligatory calls,holds, rudeness, and waiting, twice thefella deigns to come out. After whatturns out to be a minor adjustment, hethereupon has the gall to give me a billfor $250. In exasperation, I said, "I'm adoctor and if I make a house call I don'tcharge that much!" The plumber replied,"When I was a doctor, I didn't either."

Jeff Brown, MD, CPE, a practicing

physician who is a partner on

the Stanford University Graduate

School of Business Alumni Consulting

Team, teaches in the Stanford

School of Medicine Family

Practice Program. He welcomes questions or

comments at jeffebrownmd@aol.com.