Free Advice Is Often Not Free

Be Wary of Free Advice

It would be quite easy to become cynical about the plastic surgery industry these days. Let me explain. A few days ago, a young lady called the office inquiring about our services. She seemed particularly interested in skin care, so we offered her an appointment with Dina. When she was told there would be a $25 consultation fee, she adamantly refused to pay for the consultation, but continued to pepper Julie with questions. Because of the complexity of her questions, Julie astutely offered her an appointment with me. Once again, however, she couldn’t understand why she would be expected to pay a consultation fee. In an attempt to bring clarity to the situation, Dina called the young lady later in the day. In addition to probing Dina for free advice, she proceeded to query Dina about other cosmetic offices in town.

On the surface, I find this situation odd, but unfortunately, Julie deals with similar callers far too often these days. This situation would not have happened five to ten years ago. What is different today? Do other professionals, such as attorneys and accountants, get approached for free advice as well?

As I thought about it more, I wondered if this young lady’s attitude is a reaction to what I see in the plastic surgery industry. That is, more and more physicians and non-physicians outside of the core plastic surgery specialties (facial plastic surgeons, plastic surgeon dermatologists, and ophthalmologists) claim to have expertise in either cosmetic surgery or aesthetic medicine. Their training, in most cases, amounts to a few weekend courses. In order to attract patients, these practitioners advertise liberally and invariably offer free consultations.

Perhaps this is the reason why our young caller expected free advice from me and my staff. She undoubtedly didn’t understand the difference in training and expertise between a facial plastic surgeon and someone who dabbles in aesthetic medicine. I have come to the realization that it is our responsibility to continue to educate the public as to the expertise and quality of the services provided at The Sullivan Centre. As to why we have never offered free consultations, it’s like my mother always told me, “There is no free lunch, and you get what you pay for.”