The Taming of the Screw

Rory asked a couple of weeks ago if I could list the ways customers try to screw us at work. I can’t get a handle on organising the issues we see, other than just piling them into a giant “how to be an asshole” list, so here it is. Please note that we offer animal care services, rather than sell stuff, so straightforward theft and product-dependent swindles are not an issue.

  1. “I need what you have but can’t pay for it, so you have to give it to me for free.” Sometimes the poverty is genuine (e.g. people on basic pensions – though the issue then is “why did you get a dog that needs regular professional care if you can’t afford it?”). Sometimes it’s obvious bullshit (e.g. people going on a two weeks family holiday to Disneyland who somehow just can’t afford kennelling for their dog). The common thread is that their need somehow creates a moral obligation on our part. If we don’t oblige, we’re demonstrating that we don’t care about their animals, and any suffering on the animals’ part will be our responsibility.
  2. “I want the cheapest, most basic model you offer. But I want it with these 52 added extras.” People negotiate a price, then try to add extra features, for that same price. When we explain that it will carry a higher price tag, it’s we who are trying to screw them.
  3. “I want a quote for a regular weekly groom.” And then they come monthly, or every three months, and expect to pay what we originally quoted. Similar to point 2 in its impact on our workload.
  4. “It’s cheaper/faster/better over there, rant rant.” Yet they never seem to go over there, even when we suggest it to them. It’s uncanny.
  5. “You did this thing X months ago and it didn’t last so I want it again for free.” Turns out dog hair grows. Turns out that’s somehow our fault.
  6. “Can you please look at X medical problem.” No, what you need is a vet. “But the vets charge £15 for a basic consultation!” You still need a vet. “But can’t you just tell me what to do?” I did. Go see the vet.
  7. “I have an entirely unconnected problem so you must give me VIP treatment because.” We have a lady who has been demanding emergency appointments for the last five years “because she has cancer.” Bear in mind we groom her poodles. I’m unsure as to how this interacts with her chemo, but apparently it does.
  8. “I am sorry for doing this thing that I am actually doing right now and have been doing ever since I became your customer and will continue doing until you physically stop me but I’m apologising so it cancels it all out.” Classic ones are ringing us at ludicrous hours or turning up stupidly early or massively late. (I now have a policy to not only not ring back, but automatically bar potential kennel customers who ring at antisocial hours, because they invariably turn out to be total tools and having their dogs in our care is a nightmare.)
  9. “You groomed/kennelled my dog and now it’s sick so it’s your fault and you need to pay.” This includes ludicrous time gaps (if we “mutilated” your dog two weeks ago, why didn’t you go to the vets until today?), conditions we couldn’t possibly have an effect on (the best to date was diabetes), and routine treatments (worming, vaccinations).
  10. “You told me that my dog had a medical problem, so it’s your fault and you need to pay.” Most common ones are lumps, ear infections, and arthritis, though we’ve seen all kinds.
  11. “My lack of planning is your emergency.” Some people apparently don’t have a calendar, because they’re shocked by things like the coming of summer, or Christmas. So they’ll ring us on the 23rd of December wanting the dogs done by Christmas Day, and when we can’t oblige they flip out and threaten to go elsewhere. We normally see them in mid Jan, tails firmly between their legs.
  12. “I have this problem that I absolutely can’t solve.” We can solve that for you, but it will cost you X money. “Oh, actually, I can solve it after all.” The classic one is people who can’t pick up their dogs on time, or at all. When we offer them kennelling or transport for a fee, they suddenly become able to make alternative arrangements.
  13. “I’m booking my sister’s cousin’s daughter’s husband’s dog…” Every time someone books a dog that isn’t their dogs and feels the need to tell us, it is their dog and it’s in such a state it’s borderline reportable. One guy does that with a different dog each month. We suspect he’s a puppy farmer, but have no proof.
  14. “My dog was in kennels last week and now it’s in a terrible state.” Yes, love, but your dog has roughly 12 months worth of knots, which would make sense as we last groomed it 12 months ago, when you told us that same story.
  15. “My dog doesn’t bite” = my dog bites. Every time someone states that their animal doesn’t engage in an aberrant behaviour, it means that it absolutely will. It makes sense, really. We don’t feel the need to mention all the behaviours we shouldn’t engage in that we don’t engage in. I don’t introduce myself with a “my name is Anna and I will not stab you in the eye with a fork.” But people seem to think that if they describe reality a certain way, it will make it so.
  16. “It’s shy with strangers” = it’s gonna try and eat your face off.
  17. “It’s a bit fluffy” = it’s matted to the eyeballs.
  18. “It does X horrible/obnoxious/dangerous thing, but it’s in the breed!” Apparently a valid explanation even when people bring two or more dogs of the same breed, only one of which engages in the behaviour.
  19. “I’ve lost the vaccination certificates” = the dog is unvaccinated. People whose dogs are vaccinated who lose their certificates either get a copy from their vets, or offer to ring their vets so they can confirm the date of vaccination. People who don’t volunteer to do any of the above and just turn up have unvaccinated dogs. Apparently they believe that if they turn up at our doorstep and leave themselves with no time to make alternative arrangements we will go along with it. That belief is incorrect.
  20. Omissions: people will withhold all manners of information in order to secure a booking. This can include critical, life-or-death stuff, like their dogs having serious medical conditions, or behavioural issues that could result in us getting savaged. I’m now not booking any dog for kennelling I’ve not met before, because it’s just not worth it.
  21. “I need to leave at 6am, but you don’t open until 8:30, but if I drop my dog with you the night before I’ll have to pay for an extra night, so can you open at 6am for me instead?” So you’d like me to start work 2.5 hrs earlier so you can pay me less money? “That’s not what I meant!”
  22. From ‘friends’: “I don’t want you to think that I only ring you when I need you to look after my dog, but I need you to look after my dog.” Repeat at 8 month intervals, with no calls in between. Oh, and they offer to pay, as if it was an optional extra, then don’t.
  23. “I absolutely need to make X booking.” We don’t have any spaces. “But I need that booking!” But we’re full. “But I neeeeeed that booking!” The only way I could book you would be by cancelling someone else’s appointment. “Oh, that’s great! Will you do that?” No. Oh hell no.
  24. “Your girl said X completely incorrect thing, so the consequences are your fault.” This is always amusing because I work in the same room as the Minion. I hear her side of any conversation. It’s even more amusing when “my girl” was actually me, with my phone voice on.
  25. “I know you said you needed my dog picked up two hours ago because you closed/ you didn’t have space for it, but I haven’t set off yet. When do I have to come to pick it up?” Apparently the same happens in childcare settings. People are aware that we can’t throw their dogs/children on the street, so they take advantage.
  26. “Can you send your Minion down to my house tonight so I can show her how to give my dog his pills?” This was from an elderly ‘gentleman’ with whom I’d already had a quiet talk because he was being a creep. I suggested his needs would be better served by an escort agency and banned the bastard.
  27. “I can’t pay because you don’t take cards.” There’s a cash point in the village. “I can’t get any money out because I don’t have any money in the account. Will you take a cheque?” I give you three guesses. And no, I won’t release the dog until I’ve seen the money, and I don’t book them again.
  28. We’ve once had a dog booked in who had been subjected to fairly horrific long-term abuse by his owner. We reported it to the relevant people and it was taken into care. The owner wasn’t prosecuted. It’s counterintuitive, but if you’ve gone a bit too far with your abuse and you are now in an emergency situation, it’s easier to get away with it if you’ve booked your dog in for some outside care. Of course you didn’t know what you were doing was wrong… if you didn’t care about your dog, you wouldn’t be paying to have it groomed, right?
  29. So far we’ve had one abandoned dog. Apparently it’s quite common for breeds that are hard to rehome (pitbulls, staffies, rotties) to be left at animal care places as shelters are hard to get into. If we get a funny feeling about a booking (e.g. non-groomable breeds booked for grooming, or any kind of iffyness with an owner’s living situation) we don’t book them in.
  30. My personal favourite. We collect dogs for free from the village. So someone decided to lie to us and tell us that they lived in the village, so they’d get a free collection, when they actually lived about 15 miles down the road… That didn’t work too well for them.

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