First, says Jan Miller, a consultant with Veterinary Best Practice in Hillsboro, Ore., most practices, if they quote prices
to a phone shopper, will quote only certain fees, such as vaccinations, exams, and spays and neuters. Most of these services
tend to be market-driven or priced at or below cost to attract customers. Trying to mystery shop other fees with any specificity
is nearly impossible; it's difficult to know what's included in the price unless you're comparing actual invoices.
Consider a dental cleaning. Some hospitals charge by the pet's weight and some by species. Some charge extra for anesthesia
induction and some bundle it with anesthesia. The type of anesthesia makes a difference—some are more expensive than others.
And finally, the hospital may tell you the charge for scaling and polishing, with other charges added and expressed as a high-to-low
range that depends on what the doctor finds upon examination under anesthesia. Consequently, it can be hard to compare apples
to apples—or dentals to dentals—by simply asking, "What do you charge?"
All practices have clients who price shop and bounce from one clinic to another. Is this practice not already offering the
best medical care? The doctors should identify their standard of care and consider whether they need to improve it. Then they
need to figure what it'll cost to deliver the desired quality of care. Finally, they need to decide a reasonable profit margin
for these services. Then this hospital will be in a much better position to determine what effect competitive hospitals might
be having on its client base.
Being known as the "cheapest" practice in town isn't only about what you charge, Miller says. It's also a perception of the
quality of care you deliver. If you provide high-level care and compassionate, honest service, most clients won't get worked
up about fees.