The Checkout

No-Show Fees

A colleague recently complained when she was charged $35 for missing her hair appointment. As she explained it, there had been a mix-up in appointment times, and after she realized she missed hers, she called to see if she could come in later that same day to get her hair cut. It was then that she learned that she had already been charged (her credit card number was on file from previous visits) and would still have to pay for her missed appointment, even if she came later that day for a cut that would cost an additional $35.

I'm telling you this tale not to rant against that practice. I know doctors have been doing this for some time. But I do wonder how widespread this practice may be. How many times are you asked for a credit-card number when you make an appointment or reservation? And who's asking you for the number? Let me know at thecheckout@washpost.com.

I understand how upset professionals must be when they are stood up by the very customers on whom they depend for their livelihoods. On the other hand, I also wonder if there should be a first-strike policy, with businesses assuming customers, especially longtime ones, are not going to stand them up until they really do.

This topic is open for discussion. I'm sure you won't disappoint!

By  |  March 13, 2006; 7:50 AM ET Customer Service
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Comments

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I get my hair cut at Bang Salon & Spa on U Street. You can schedule your appointments online, and they require that a credit card be provided for booking in the event that you do not show or cancel with not enough notice. I don't generally miss appointments unless there's some sort of major event like a vehicular accident or death- but I provided them with a credit card that I knew was cancelling soon for two reasons- the security factor related to them storing my financial information and so they can't charge me unless I agree to it. The invalid card is still on file for the bookings, and since they swipe my actual card when I come in, it hasn't created any problems! Oh yeah, Bryce gives good hair! :-)

Posted by: Shhhh! | March 13, 2006 10:05 AM

I get asked for a credit card anytime I make reservations at high-end resteraunt and dr. appts. What disturbs me about today's post is that she realized her mistake and tried to reschedule for the same day. If they had the time to fit her in, then the office isn't going to loose out on any money for the day. Customer service is the real question in this case. If it wasn't so hard to find a good hair dresser, I'd tell her to find a new beautician!

Posted by: new times | March 13, 2006 10:28 AM

You can't win. You show up? You don't show up.

Antother realtively new practice is to charge you extra for a theater ticket or concert when you buy at the door. It can be as little as dollar or...

It is called a service charge?

David Plumb

Posted by: David Plumb | March 13, 2006 10:31 AM

I wonder if the salon called to verify the appointment (doesn't sound like it, otherwise she would have remembered)? Doctors will do that a day or so in advance. I also wonder if the salon lets people know when they call (or book online) that they will be charged if they miss their appointment? Sounds shady.

Posted by: Curious | March 13, 2006 11:25 AM

I think this is a highly unreasonable practice for hair/nail or any other frivolity place of business. How many times have you walked in with an appointment of which you were early for and still had to wait past your appointment time to be seen? This is unacceptable and people with appointments should speak up when their appointment time has lapsed, even with doctors. At this point patrons should take a stand. If you owe them money they are on you like bees on honey. If they owe you, it is within their right to take their time. Let's take back our lives.

Posted by: Taking a Stand | March 13, 2006 11:34 AM

The pediatric practice to which I take my daughter charges a fee if you are over 15 minutes late for an appointment. Of course, they don't pay me for the 45 minutes I often have to wait there with a restless toddler to see the doctors!

Posted by: Annoyed | March 13, 2006 11:41 AM

I think policies like this one are a great way for businesses to drive away loyal customers. If this had happened to me and the salon hadn't tried to call me to confirm my appointment time, I would be writing an angry letter to the salon owner and finding a new hairstylist.

Additionally, I NEVER give my credit card information to anyone unless I'm specifically paying for a service. If they need my credit card number just to make an appointment or reservation, I'll take my business elsewhere.

I have to wonder if the woman in Caroline's story was ever informed of the salon's no-show policy? If not, I think she should dispute the charge with her credit card company since it was an unauthorized charge.

Posted by: Carolyn | March 13, 2006 11:47 AM

I have to speak up a bit for the personal service providers. All they have to sell is their time. If someone fails to cancel, then that creates a hole in the schedule, and if they are appointment only, that opportunity to earn money during that one hour is forever lost. (I think this could be different if the profession is one where other work could be done during the time slot, or there are walk-ins waiting to be slotted in.
Similarly if a high end reservation only restaurant takes a reservation and there is a no show at the last minute, and it has declined other patrons, that is a real loss to them.
So I think the cancellation fees make some sense in these limited situations.
(I am not in either of these industries by the way).

Posted by: Lindy | March 13, 2006 11:53 AM

Shhhh!'s (first commenter) idea may not be as clever as she thinks. All it takes to reopen a canceled credit card account is to use the card. So, if her salon charged her card for a missed appointment, the account would be reopened, and she would be quite surprised to receive a statement. (If she's moved since she closed the account, she might not even receive the statement, thus accruing interest and late fees until she found out!)

Posted by: Not so fast... | March 13, 2006 12:48 PM

I once had a doctor's office try to charge me a no-show fee when I missed an appointment due to a car accident. I called as soon as the dust cleared and the receptionist tried to avoid charging me but the doctor insisted. I argued the point with the doctor, and it wasn't until I offered to show a copy of the police report and pointed out the window at my still-damaged car that she relented and cancelled the fee. I no longer see that doctor.

My pet peeve is businesses who confirm an appointment the day before and have a 48-hour cancellation notice. Confirming the appointment is of no help and only a waste of time at that point!

That being said, the salons, doctors and other businesses at which I have been a long-time client have always been understanding if I have been late or (on the rare occasion) missed an appointment.

Vote with your voice and your purse.

Posted by: G | March 13, 2006 1:03 PM

Actually I am surprised at the responses, I think that charging no-shows is fairly reasonable, although you should be warned about the practice first. But then I am one of those people who thinks it is extremely rude not to notify someone if you are not coming, to a party or a dinner date or any appointment. I haven't been charged a no-show fee because I haven't done it, I have always given notice as soon as I know I can't make it or if I am going to be a little late. I tend to be understanding about most of the consumer issues discussed here but not as much with this one.

Posted by: Catherine | March 13, 2006 1:19 PM

First, Ms. Mayer, I enjoy your articles. They "hit home" from a consumers perspective.
My approach, especially with doctors who seem to "overbook" as a matter of practice, is to give them a 15 minute grace period for not meeting their appointment commitment. I then leave. If they dare (and some have) attempt to charge me for a missed appointment, I then send them an invoice for my time to include travel back & forth, waiting time and then a premium for their inconvenience. Upon receipt, most (but not all) doctor offices call me back and apologize and reschedule at a mutually convenient time, all at no "charge for a missed appointment". If more patients did this, I suspect that front-office schedulers would be more realistic.
My suggestion.
BradJ

Posted by: BradJ | March 13, 2006 1:24 PM

What bothers me about this story is the company kept her credit card information on file and used it to make a charge she had not agreed to. Isn't there a rule about storing credit card information like this?

How can they ethically keep credit card information on file without customers' permission?

Posted by: Lea | March 13, 2006 1:42 PM

I can understand the practice of charging for no-shows, given ample notice to the consumer that a charge will be made. However, in the case of a hair salon digging in their records to find a credit card number you once used and making charge to it, the salon violated credit card merchant rules outright, if what they did could not be considered fraud under the law. Feed them to your card issuer or directly to Visa or MasterCard oa American Express... you'll have you money back quickly!

Posted by: bigolpoofter | March 13, 2006 1:52 PM

I think the craziest thing is the 48 hour notice. If you get sick who the heck feels like going to the dentist or hairdresser. In fact, I am sure they wouldn't appreciate you going there. And who knows two days in advance if you are going to be sick.

Posted by: Kathy | March 13, 2006 2:09 PM

I agree this is a customer service issue. When the dentist makes me wait 45 minutes past my appointment time to even sit me down in the chair I really have no recourse. Yet if I miss my appointment time I am to be charged? Completely unfair. Things happen. The doctor has emergencies that push them behind schedule and sometimes their patients have emergencies that preclude them from making their appointment. It's all part of doing business. If some one is a habitual offender don't give them any more appointments. But if somebody misses one appointment they shouldn't be treated like a criminal.

Posted by: Glenn | March 13, 2006 2:28 PM

Hmmm... I agree that there should be a one-time no show grace period. Sometimes even the most organzized and courteous person may make a mistake and forget an appointment, or think it is on the wrong day, get stuck in traffic, etc. I agree that at some point a fee should be charged for the service-provider's time, but everyone should be given at least one opportunity to make a mistake.

Posted by: Grace | March 13, 2006 2:42 PM

In January several friends made spa appointments for the same day. One of our friends was in a car accident that morning and was rather banged up. She called the spa and was told that she violated the 48 hour cancelation policy and would be charged anyway. So she came with us to the spa, where they refuesed to do the treatment do to her injuries. But the spa still charged her for the full price. The rest of us had our treatments but it was hard to enjoy ourselves and we will certainly never go back. It just seems like a bad practice to be so obstinate about a policy that you allinate 5 customers.

Posted by: Ameilia | March 13, 2006 3:25 PM

I'm pretty firmly on the hairdresser's side here. If your colleague realized on her own that she had missed her appointment, that suggests the "mix up" was on her end and was not a mistake by the salon. So, okay, she biffed the appointment time, it happens -- but she left her hairdresser hanging, and the penalty should be on the person who screwed up. Maybe someone tried to get a walk-in cut (or was hoping for a morning cancellation) and was turned away because the hairdresser thought your colleague was going to be there.

She used up $70 worth of the hairdresser's time. I don't see why it's so terrible for her to pay $70 for that.

Posted by: Sheila | March 13, 2006 4:24 PM

There has to be a better way. If the consumer misses an appointment due to factors beyond their control, or misses a 48 hour cutoff, and is charged full price, they are highly likely to become resentful and never go back. On the other side the service provider needs to bring in revenue for the time. Maybe charging half the rate is a good compromise?

Posted by: Brian G | March 13, 2006 4:49 PM

I don’t think the salon can charge for a service that wasn’t rendered unless the patron knew their policy. I think if you don’t show for hair appointments, etc. you should be charged a nominal fee (exceptions should be made) but the no-show policy should be clear.

I moved back home and had to find a new Dentist and Gynecologist - during my initial interviews one of the things that I made clear is that I don’t expect to be kept waiting. Since then I have NEVER had to wait and I’m ALWAYS on time. One time a guy asked me; “How is it you come in after me and always end up seeing the Dentist immediately.” I told him I refuse to wait. I once had a gynecologist appointment – which I was told was the first in the day but several of us were chatting in the waiting room and 4 of us had “the first appointment”. Because I was there first I got the “first..” appointment – I can’t imagine what the rest of the day was like for the other patients. I changed Doctor’s immediately! As consumers I think we should be outspoken against some of these policies.

Posted by: jlr | March 13, 2006 4:51 PM

Another solution might be for the service provider to figure out how many appointments are missed on average, and factor the cost into their regular charges for all customers. Make it clear that missed appointments raise everyone's rates.

Posted by: Brian G | March 13, 2006 4:54 PM

As long as businesses don't pro-rate their fees according to how long CUSTOMERS are forced to wait beyond their scheduled appointment time, this is just wrong. I'm quite sure this salon would not have charged this customer any less if she HAD arrived on time and then had to wait for her appointment beyond the scheduled time. So business get no sympathy from me on this. It goes both ways, but so far, only businesses get to have it THEIR way.

Posted by: lily | March 13, 2006 4:56 PM

I totally understand this practice for medical practices etc, however I think it needs to be made very clear to customers that this is going to happen...i.e. what they are using the card number for, upfront.

Several years ago I had a problem with my dentists office. I had made an appointment 6 months in advance. I got no reminder and missed the appt. They called me after I missed it to reschedule and told me I owed a fee. Then they told me a time for my new appt. Unfortunately they told me the wrong time by 30 mintues. I showed up for my appt. and they said I had missed it again and would need to pay ANOTHER fee.

I was understanding the first time (even though I would have appreciated a reminder call after 6 months). But when I missed the rescheduled appointment because THEY gave me the wrong information (and this was confirmed by my roommate who was listening as I made the appt and wrote down the new time and repeated it back to the office), I was furious. I went that time them promptly found a new dentist.

Posted by: hmm | March 13, 2006 5:04 PM

We are a dental office. Our business is to fix teeth and NOT to remind grown adults of their scheduling obligations. When time permits, we do call patients to remind them. Our policy does include 1 strike which we use to remind the patient that the next time this occurs, we will bill them the last minute cancellation/no show fee. I try to kindly explain why we charge this fee and most people understand. We are not like a restaurant where there's people sitting around waiting to be seated when someone doesn't show.

Then, we reschedule them out 3-4 weeks. If they no show again, we bill them and tell them that we will not reschedule until that fee is paid. This is usually enough to flush these inconsiderate patients out of our practice. If they don't get the hint at this point, we will verbally and sometimes with a lettter, dismiss them from our practice.

One of the replies nailed it on the head. We sell our time. We, also, value it enough that if you as the patient don't respect our limited time, you're welcome to become someone else's headache. I've read alot of posts about threats of going elsewhere. Trust me, they're thankful you're leaving. This isn't tiny town USA where your spot can't be easily filled.

Posted by: Ben | March 13, 2006 5:53 PM

I have never missed an appointment at a beauty salon or was late for one. But I have been kept waiting many times. It's definitely a double standard if they want to charge customers a fee for not showing up if they don't give you even one penny for making you wait and wait because the customer before was late, and they decided to accomodate him/her and make YOU sit there and wait and wait and wait. One time, I booked a leg wax with L followed by a pedicure with J. I showed up on time, and L told me that her previous appointment (for a haircut) was a no-show, and she wanted to wait a while for him to show up, and then if he showed up, she would cut his hair and THEN she would wax my legs. She said that she hoped it wouldn't inconvenience me. Another salon employee overheard her and said, "That won't do, because she has an appointment with J afterwards for a pedicure, and it will throw J's schedule off if she can't her pedicure on time." I was annoyed that that employee couldn't have cared less about inconveniencing me, that all she worried about was inconveniencing J, but I kept my mouth shut, because I wound up being taken care of at the proper time.

Another time, my hairdresser wanted the shampoo girl to do my hair. I strongly objected, because I had made the appointment for HIM, and not the shampoo girl, to cut my hair. He said that he was just doing me a favor, because he knew that I hate to be kept waiting. His previous client had asked if he could dye her hair (she hadn't booked it ahead of time), and he had the great idea that he could dye her hair, and the shampoo girl could cut my hair. I'm not sure if he understood me when I said that what he should have done was cut my hair, because I made the appointment in good faith, and have the shampoo girl dye the other woman's hair.

Posted by: Fed Up | March 13, 2006 7:05 PM

If professional people or people with scheduled appointments (and I am one myself) have more patients/clients/customers than they know what to do with and want to weed out the "bad" ones who waste their time repeatedly, I say more power to them. If they're fair about it and only stick it to those who deserve it, they won't have any problems.

On the other side of the coin... I recently saw a doctor on a recurring basis for an injury that required multiple office visits. The first time, my appointment was at 8:15 (intentionally scheduled early in the day to avoid delays stacked on delays), and the doctor walked in the room at close to 9:00. The second time (also early in the day), I waited 20 minutes and then got up, took the chart off the door, and started to walk out. One of the nurses was absolutely stunned and asked what I was doing. I said, "I have to go work, I can't wait around any longer." She begged with me not to leave. I backed down. Surprise, surprise, the doctor came to see me within 2 minutes. He never was more than 5 minutes late on successive occasions. If people are tired of getting jerked around by professional people, they have only themselves to blame. Half the time I suspect doctors don't even know how far behind they're running because their staff are too timid or lame to tell them about it. It's only when the patient engages in self help that things get better.

Posted by: Joe | March 13, 2006 7:06 PM

I wonder if the fella up above who smugly said people who missed appts can gladly leaves works at a dentist's office that takes each and every patient on time every time? I find that hard to believe, so, in my opinion, your smugness is more of the "I have the power and you don't" attitude that as the majority of the posters worked up. Please, list your practice here so that I can be sure never to patronize it. Thank you

Posted by: enufsaid | March 13, 2006 7:22 PM

I agree. Ben, tell us where you work. Either we'll decide we don't want to patronize your office or we'll think you must see all your patients on time and will want to patronize your office.

Posted by: Agreed | March 13, 2006 8:18 PM

Its remarkable that only the service provider's time is valuable. The hordes of people waiting to be serviced on time's (now long past) time has no value. Please get real. This is a two way street. I respect your time and you respect my time. This does not mean that I condone breaking appointments deliberately or repeatedly... or you not letting me know that you are running an hour late. I after all am paying you for your services, not asking for a favour.

Pretty funny "hmm": If the customer is not on time he/she is disrispectful. If the dr runs late and does not warn the customer, the customer is a headache.

This is why the medical industry calls customers patients and the airline calls them passengers. That way they don't have to provide customer service.

C'mon, show a little of what you ask for - respect.

Posted by: Funny | March 13, 2006 10:17 PM

Did anybody see the "Seinfeld" episode where George has the same problem and is charged for a missed appointment, and then, when the specialist later cancels her appointment with George, he charges HER the same amount?

Posted by: Dan in Alabama | March 14, 2006 9:27 AM

To Ben and other "service providers":

Fine, I'll pay a late / no-show fee if I'm 15 minutes late or can't show up due to other circumstances. But in return, you the provider will have to waive YOUR SERVICE FEE if you make me wait outside for more than 20 minutes. There, I'm even giving you an extra five minutes.

That's right! If you're going to charge me $85 - $125 for a visit and penalize me full or partial price for failure to show up at a reasonable time, then that same amount needs to be deducted from my bill if you're late calling me in.

There needs to be an understanding that if you expect me to be on-time to your office, then you should be ready to see me within a reasonable amount of time. Why should I show up at 2 P.M. if you're not going to call me in until 2:30 ? Why not just show up at 2:30 ?

Sounds fair enough.

Posted by: Let's Make A Deal | March 14, 2006 9:40 AM

I went to a specialist's office once and was kept waiting for 1 hour in the waiting room, after which I caused a little fuss. They showed me to an examining room and I was put in a gown, where I waited for another hour. This specialist was a 1 hour drive for me and was booked 6 months out. I hate his office now and don't recommend them ever.

Another time, my gynecologist was delivering a baby and I got left in an examining room for 2 hours. This was a medically necessary appointment (not just an annual or something that could be rescheduled). I finally got seen by another doctor, but only after I walked out to the receptionists desk in a paper gown and asked what the heck was going on. This was the same practice that charged a malpractice insurance surcharge for each visit.

I don't go to either of these practices anymore.

Doctors don't have any respect for other professions. My time doesn't bill as highly as a doctor or lawyer, but my job is pretty darned important for my customer base (I work in a non-profit organization). Any time I am kept waiting by a doctor's office, I just ask them if it's a class issue, education issue or money issue that leads them to have so little respect for my time.

Posted by: BGRN | March 14, 2006 11:16 AM

It should work both ways. When doctors can charge for missing an appointment, we should be able to charge for waiting and waiting and waiting.Why is my time less important than the doctor's or who ever.

Posted by: SAK | March 14, 2006 12:08 PM

My Bottom line? My time is worth $125-$175 per hour depending on the kind of work I do as a consultant. If someone can't keep their schedules with me, I do indeed bill them and it goes both ways. If I can't keep my appointment with you, I deserve whatever I get and will happily discount my services or pay accordingly. Your time is valuable.

Ultimately if you do wish to bill someone for your time and they choose not to pay, just remember the "small claims court" and that the jerks who made you wait have credit reports that are just as vulnerable after a few hours (or minutes) of work on your part should they choose not to pay.

Posted by: Trav | March 14, 2006 12:50 PM

I charge for missed and late appointments -- which ends up applying to only 5% of my appointments.

Should a specialist pay you for waiting? Absolutely not. It's supply vs. demand folks. There are few doctors and many sick people, so yes, their time is more valuable than yours.

Posted by: Ray | March 14, 2006 5:52 PM

Supply vs. demand. I live in a small rural city and there may be more sick people but most doctors are not the only game in town. I sure hope you are not in a service oriented business.

Posted by: confused | March 15, 2006 9:39 AM

But what's the name of your practice Ray? Please, put it out here as I want to be absolutely sure I don't give you one dime of my money, ever.

Posted by: Still waiting... | March 15, 2006 11:21 AM

I was kept waiting nearly two hours (past 11:00 AM, I might add) for a fasting blood draw that was to occur before my annual gynecological exam with my family doctor. I raised a fuss, at which point I was treated in a condescending manner, but seen within a few minutes. My doctor's office charges the co-pay up front, so if I had decided to bail, I'd be out $30.

Posted by: Alison | March 16, 2006 10:35 AM

Is it legal for a doctor's office to charge you for a missed appointment? Also,
can it be collected or turned over to a collection agency/credit bureau?

Posted by: Joel O'Neal | April 28, 2006 9:04 AM

I'd like to know the answer to Joel O'Neal's question. One doctor explained I owed a $130 missed appt fee for "services rendered." But no service was rendered? It's like going to a clothing store, walking around with a shirt you might buy, then putting it back on the rack--do I owe the store money for that shirt? It was time during which someone else couldn't buy it.

I can sympathize with respondents who claim what they sell is time, but time does not equal money--that's a metaphor not a fact. I'm not paying for a doctor's time, I'm paying for expertise, care, etc. Time may be a part of that, but it's only a part.

Also, missing an appt with a doctor does not always mean that time goes unwasted. How else are last-minute appts made? Doctors sometimes profit doubly from the practice.

Posted by: Joseph Tate | April 29, 2006 8:57 PM

Courtney,
We are in the market for a house too, but have been advised by friends who are realtors, to wait until the end of the year when prices will come down more. It won't be a drastic drop, but it should help some.

Also, isn't there a law prohibiting dentists and doctors from charging patients for missed appointments? Please advise.

Posted by: Mommaof4 | May 24, 2006 3:38 PM

while i agree that all out missing a visit is rude and takes away from certain business owners profit, I don't see them reimbursing us for any of our time when they make us wait. Some appointments are made months in advance. If they don't offer a courtesy call as a reminder, i think it's their bad and they should eat it. If my appt is at 1 in my Dr.'s office I can guarantee I will not see a Dr. until 1:45. If I show up at 1:15, I won't see them till 3, I still have to pay them. This is a practice that should work both ways, so until it does, I would dispute and fight w/ every ounce of my being before paying a dime. Call your local news station as soon as this practice occurs. Especially if there is no courtesy call or reminder via mail. Nobody likes bad publicity, trust me I've employed it many times, people should not lie down and take this fraudulent abuse.

Posted by: jamie | June 9, 2006 9:24 AM

Doctors often end up being the most annoying patrons of other services: law, hair, or my field, architecture. They don't understand waiting and frequently show up to see progress unannounced and do not understand when other projects are more pressing than theirs.

Posted by: kik | June 11, 2006 4:37 PM

I have been fighting a battle for more than a year with a doctor who is charging me a "no show" fee for an appointment I did not make. How can I prove I did not make it? She gave me a REFERRAL to another doctor at our appointment two weeks before the one I supposedly missed! Now, why would I make a follow-up appointment when she gave me a referral to another physician?

I have called six times, written three letters and had the billing department tell me the doctor is refusing to cancel the fee. Today, I got a collection notice in the mail.

I warned her in my third letter that I would take action and, while I'd think I should file a complaint with the Virginia Bureau of Medicine, I'm concerned it will be dismissed because it isn't a quality of care issue. I am contemplating filing with the Bureau of Insurance. Any thoughts?

Posted by: CL | June 26, 2006 9:05 PM

Almost every visit to a medical office involves a wait well beyond the scheduled appointment time. This is understandable, as how can a practitioner know precisely how much time each person will require? So, a small number of cancelled or missed appointments actually might restore some balance to an already overbooked schedule.

Posted by: Jon | July 4, 2006 9:57 AM

Being in the personal care service industry, I believe that the no-show policy is a must. The fact that someone would not show for an appointment, admit that it was their fault, and still not understand why they should pay a fee is unacceptable. In most salons/spas, the technicians work on commission alone. Even if there was a later appointment in the day, that is still time that the technician lost in the morning when they may have had another service. We are very fair with our policies when our clients are sick or have had a personal emergency, and would never think to charge in those situations. We also explain fully to our clients upon booking all of our policies, and that the credit card is kept on file for all future appointments. Anyone who runs a service/commission based business should understand these types of policies. I think that comparing Dr's offices to spas/salons is like comparing Apples to Oranges. They are two completely different businesses. We are also more than fair to our clients if a mistake has been made on our part, either by offering a complimentary service or a discount for any confusion. It is a two way street. If we are asking for them to respect our time, than we had better respect our clients time. Once in a awhile we run across a client who has no respect for our time as a business, and I would just as soon weed out those clients. Someone who does not repect your policies or time as a business will only cause problems in the future.

Posted by: EL | July 8, 2006 6:35 PM

I work in a dr's office, eventhough we remind patients about their dr's appt one day before and they confirm, they end up not showing up. This is very disturbing, specially if you have a cancellation list for patients who want to be seen earlier than their regular appt or sometimes even emergency appt. . Then when patients get a statement for the missed appt fee, they get upset.

Posted by: Suzanne | July 27, 2006 7:47 PM

In regards to the comment about dr's being late. I can tell you most of the time is because of patients arriving late for their appts. No matter if it's 5 or 10 minutes. This will for sure make him/her behind and it is always hard to catch up, unless you cut someone else time. And instead of spending 15-30 minutes with someone who arrived on time you cut her/his time to 10-15 minutes instead, does this sound fair? I do not think so. Now, what if we cut down the time on the patient who arrived late?.or perhaps reschedule the appt completely, then this patient would not agreed. So, dear friend this is like a chain, it is a no end of story, perhaps this patient, will say "last time I was here, I waited 15 minutes past my appt time to see the doctor, here we go again, same story, most likely, a patient before this one was probably late. And so on and so on.

Posted by: Mary | July 27, 2006 8:01 PM

I recently made an appointment with a office to get my eyes checked. I admit that I did not make it for the appointment. I did call the office to inform them that I was not going to make the appointment and called the office twice each time the number was busy and with the progression of the day I forgot about the appointment. I recieved a bill with a no show charge on it. I was not informed at the time when I made the appointment that I was going to be charged a no show fee, if I did not make the appointment. I work in a doctors office and I know that we do at times charge a no show fee, but at the time the appointment is made we inform the potential patient of our office policy. We also confirm all our appointments. The patient must also leave a credit card number in order to reserve a time. We still have no shows but our numbers are very low. We also tell the client that if they would like to still come in after a no show that we will apply the no show charge toward there sevices that they recieve. I have no intention of paying a charge that I was not told about. When I reserve a hotel I am told the poss. charges and agree to this policy, but only when informed.

Posted by: Bea Sarver | August 8, 2006 7:08 PM

It is (or should be) unlawful to charge for a service not rendered.

There are no laws against not keeping an appointment.

This is the USA not a dictator society. I will challange anyone charging me for a service I did not receive.

Logic and manners should be applied in notifying an establishment if one is running late or unable to fill an appointed time.

How many times have I waited on a serviceman to come and doesn't show or is late. Can I charge or deducte those hours? My time is valuable, too.

Posted by: virginia | August 14, 2006 7:19 PM

Being charged for missed appointments is flat out wrong! Especially if you have traveled to the particular business only to find out that you have to agree to missed appt fee's. It should be disclosed upfront before you even make the initial appt on the phone. When I arrived for my fist time visit the Dentist had me fill out all the paper work and then hands me a consent for to be billed for missed appointments. It was the second to last form I had to fill out. I now know why there was hardly anybody in their waiting room. My daughter had a fever due to an abscess. I took time off work to make that appointment only to find out I would have to sign this consent to be billed for missed services form. I was livid. I should have billed them for my time and mileage to the appointment. I think it should be considered a lesser form of duress. My daughter had an abscess with a fever and I didn't want to wait another day. I signed the form knowing that their would most likely be a problem down the road. I expressed my disgust with having to sign the form. I had no choice If I wanted her to be seen that day. I had also gone through the trouble of getting time off work. The time off work to make that appointment cost me money.

I have my own business. I get lots of no shows myself. It's just an accepted cost of doing business. If I tryed to bill these people or make them sign something ahead of time I would end up on the news or reported to the Better Business Bureau. In fact I would probably be out of business. Where does the medical community get off thinking that their business expenses are more important than any other type of business?

Here I was bringing this Dentist a family of four. A family worth of business that they could have had for years to come. We are a young family. They decided to bill me for a missed appointment. They have lost my families business to a Dentist that understands and values their patients more than their paychecks. A Dentist that understands that they are in business because of their patients. : )

I encourage everyone to write their congressman. Ask your congressman to do something about this. We are being pushed around by the medical community. It's time to push back. These missed appointment fees can even scar someone's credit. Stand up for yourselves and remember we don't have to agree to any missed appointment fees. If they do charge you, ask them how important your business and your future business, and all the business you can refer to them is. If they are business minded they will waive missed appointment fees

Posted by: Jeff | August 24, 2006 10:48 PM

Caroline,

I saw your article and thought I would send you this
short note.

I recently visited a local dentist near my home in
Arlington, VA. He performed a basic exam, ex rays and
cleaning. His charges were reasonable and my dental
insurance covered most of the charges. At that time,
he also scheduled me in the future for two more
appointments (one for another six month cleaning and
another to do some minor filling (composite) repair of
a chipped front tooth). Because two appointments were
scheduled far in advance, I confused the two dates and
failed to make it to the first appointment. I was at
fault for the missed appointment.

A week or so after the missed appointment, I received
a bill for $ 150.00 "no show" fee. There was no
explanation of any material costs or workmanship costs
incurred or an explanation of loss profits. While I
believe the dentist is entitled to charge me a
reasonable fee for a missed appointment (because it is
a scheduling inconvenience), I feel $150.00 is
excessive. This is especially true in light of the
fact that the work planned to be done (which I had not
fully agreed to yet) was minor and may have cost less
than the $ 150.00 even if I had appeared. I have
consulted with the VA State Dental Board and State
Ethics Board and they could not advise me whether such
a fee was legal or ethical but simply advised me to
file a complaint in order to start an investigation.
Prior to filing such a complaint, I wanted to seek out
whether my views were off-base. I simply have trouble
paying a fee where the hours of work or materials used
(no materials or supplies were used) have not been
itemized to justify or support the fee. In fact, this
particular dentist often has multiple patients in his
office during an appointment, and I find it hard to
believe he really incurred the type of losses that
would amount to $150.00.

Any guidance would be appreciated.


Posted by: Bill Buick | September 5, 2006 2:41 PM

I would like to say something about the hotels (and other service providers) charging for "no show" or for "not cancelling the reservation by the deadline". The extreme example would be if a hotel has 40 rooms and all are booked for a certain date, hotel staff would not be taking any more reservations. Now if all guests decide not to show and expect that hotel should not charge them "No Show", how unfair would it be? For hotels, doctors and other professionals where a service is provided, time is money. Unlike retail stores their "time inventory" has no shelf life. They can not sell their "time" later if it is gone past. They can not bring another customer in, at that short notice and thus are right to process the "No Show" charges. Accidents, weather, breakdowns and other such situations are in now way fault of the service provider. They deserve to be paid for their time that they specifically set aside for a customer. Just cancell the reservation in time and if something unexpected happens, sorry tough luck.

Posted by: Andy | September 11, 2006 10:14 PM

I was to called to have a normal yearly gynological exam and was covered by tricare and would be covered 100%. I was called on my cell phone. After getting the date and everything was ok I was then asked for a credit card. I was so confused. I asked why? The receptionist said just incase I didn't show up for the appointment. I was stunned. Being a prior Office Manager to a Dr I know that before I even step foot into their office that I havn't signed anything so they have no write to charge me anything (1) and (2) I'm not giving any credit card over the cell phone (not safe) and (3) I will owe them nothing and I will NOT miss an appointment unless I have an emergency and then it should be understood (my Intern Dr. is in the same clinic). It was then that the Dr. (the actual Dr. got on the phone and wanted to talk to me). She told me that she had to make sure that that she took take of her business part of her practice and I told her well it looks like your having some problems keeping some patients if your having no shows. She didn't like that comment and I explained to her what my background was in and I explained sugar was much nicer than salt and she was full of salt. I told I didn't even believe in the rule of billing someone unless the missed two appointments. I did offer to bring her over a $50 check and let her hold it and if I didn't show she could cash it. She said how did she know that the check would be good... All this as my husband and and I were sitting waiting to go sign on our brand new house well over $225,000. The humor in the whole thing is somehow she has lost her patients or they have stopped returning. But, she is not a hotel, I do not give out that information. I was absolutely stunned and I turned her in to the appropriate Tricare (military) people.
I Understand my hairdresser - I would pay her 100% - I understand even my Dr. if I was just blank and missed an appointment but normally with a dr. the squeeze you in your more can be moved in just a bit better and it's business. It happens. But the one person that said $150 for the VA you shouldn't be paying for anything but the TIME and that's it and no Dr. is spending two hours with you.
Just my two cents. Oh and that Card on file signature isn't valid unless signature is actually on file ;)

Posted by: Micki | September 26, 2006 3:48 PM

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