Yesterday I spoke of those who expect others to do work for them at a wage they would not perform the task themselves. Today, I want to speak about those who charge more than what their services are worth, because they can get away with it.
Is it ethical to charge high prices for minimal services, or is it greed? Case in point, my wife had a ganglion cyst between two knuckles on her hand. Over time the cyst kept growing and became painful. Her primary care physician referred her to an orthopedic surgeon. The surgeon scheduled surgery to remove it.
Three days before the day of surgery, my wife had just gone in for her annual physical, but the surgeon wanted her to have another physical for surgery. The bill for the second physical was $300 and insurance would not cover it because she had just had a physical they did cover. The bill for the consultation with the surgeon was $30 after insurance coverage.
The day of the surgery, the surgeon came in and drew a couple lines on her hand and a circle around the cyst as if this was the only way he could find this bulbous protrusion between her knuckles. Then the anesthesiologist came in while the nurse inserted a catheter into her arm to give her drugs to numb her hand during surgery. Both billed us for ‘pre-surgery consultations’ which after insurance left us with a couple more $100 tabs to pay.
Then they wheeled her in for the procedure and 20 minutes later she was back in the recovery room where she had to stay until the numbness wore off. The bills that came for this part were another bill from the surgeon for the actual surgery which was post insurance $125.00 (but they billed over $3,000), another bill from the anesthesiologist for post insurance $80. We also received a bill from the out patient surgical center for pre and post operative care for a total of $280. Finally, we received a bill from the surgical center for the use of the operating room for $76 post insurance.
All together, after insurance, we paid out over $1,200, where insurance was billed almost $10,000 for the whole ball of wax and they paid out about $3,000. Personally, I believe this to be highly unethical. Had she travelled back to her place of birth for this procedure, it would have cost a total of about $500.
This would be like taking your car to the mechanic for an oil change. As the mechanic pulled the vehicle into the bay you get hit with a pre-procedure consultation for identifying the make/model of the car and the amount of oil and type of filter it uses.
After that, you get another bill from the mechanic’s helper for oil plug removal and used oil retrieval. But, you are not done! You now get another bill from the mechanic the introduction of lubricant into the lubrication introduction portal and reinstallation of the cap.
Thinking you are done with the ordeal, you then get a bill from the building owner for storage of your vehicle while the mechanic worked on it. Would this be acceptable to you?
Another example is the photographer. I take portrait shots as a sideline. When I do a shoot, I charge $50 per hour for my services which includes posing the person (or family), taking the shots, reviewing the shots with the customer, processing the photographs and supplying the photographs on a disk for the customer to print whatever they want whenever they want it. After the shoot, the customer owns the photographs they paid for.
I was talking with another photographer who asked what I charged. When I told him $50 per hour, he was aghast! “You can’t do that!” he exclaimed. “Everyone around here charges a minimum of $75 per hour!”
I replied that in normal circumstances I complete a shoot and process the photographs in less than an hour and to charge $75 was excessive to me. Where I could see charging $50 per hour and only charging for the time I am actively interacting with the customer, I would not pay $75 per hour for the service so I could not see charging others a price I would not pay myself.
He then told me that if the word got out that I was undercutting what everyone else was charging, other photographers would put me out of business.
I walked away while telling him that they could try, but I could easily drop my price to $25 per hour as I have low to no overhead and asked me if he could do the same.
So, once again I ask you; is it ethical to charge more than what your services are worth, just because you can get away with it?