For the background on the “Outtakes” series, click here.
The issue of fee increases can be a delicate one for many clients. Some become accustomed to their rate and lose site of the fact that their therapist has financial demands outside of the office. While some shrinks provide themselves with yearly raises, most of us keep our fees essentially steady and only increase to match the cost of living (if we raise them at all).
This is a short story I wrote years ago about a client who became very angry at me for increasing his fee and who definitely got his revenge for what he saw as unfair treatment. As always with the “B-Sides,” take the quality of writing with many large grains of incredibly strong salt, as I was just starting out:
Client: You’re raising your fee to $125? That’s more than a 10% increase!
Dr. Dobrenski: Yes, it is, I’m sorry.
Client: But most people only get a 5% raise per annum.
Dr. Dobrenski: I’ve never had a real job, so I don’t know if that is true or not, but your fee has been stable for 3 years. The rent on the office has gone up, as well as my living expenses. I’m not trying to raise your fee for the purposes of greed, but it’s not easy to keep up with the world’s price increases.
Client: This is an outrage. I never agreed to this policy.
Dr. Dobrenski: Yes, you did. You signed the consent form stating that this could happen at any time. I’m sorry that the policy doesn’t work in your favor right now, but surely your other doctors have a similar policy.
Client: Yes, they do, but they are real doctors.
Dr. Dobrenski: So because I’m not a physician I don’t have a right to a fee increase?
Client: This is ridiculous.
Dr. Dobrenski: I really don’t think it’s unfair to ask you to hold up your end of the agreement.
Client: You know what, here (taking out a bunch of hundreds). That’s $400: today’s session and an extra couple of hundred that you’ll probably need down the line, because you suck as a psychologist. I’m outta here.
He stormed out of the office, slamming the door so hard that a breeze almost blew the consent form out the window. The tension was still palpable as I sat there, wondering how things sputtered out of control so quickly. To calm the situation, I decided to grab a nice dinner (especially since I had some extra money to spend). I figured that if he came back to treatment, I would reimburse him for the excess payment.
Unfortunately, all of my friends and colleagues weren’t available for a meal on me (well, on the client who was now known as Mr. Generous/Angry), so I went alone. After gorging on Italian food, I went to a small wine bar near my office. I was still a little rattled from the controversy in the office, but that tension was soon replaced with anxiety/shock at the fact that a beautiful woman was walking toward me, sporting a large, seductive smile.
“Hi, I’m Dana.”
“Rob. I mean, I’m Rob. That’s my name. Rob.”
“Buy me a drink?”
3 glasses of very expensive wine (courtesy of Mr. Generous/Angry) later, she invited herself back to my apartment. Not being one to say no to such an unlikely offer, I accepted. I excused myself to use the men’s room before heading back to my place, thinking that today was, indeed, my lucky day. Extra income, solid handling of a confrontation in the office, a thick head of hair, and now a gorgeous woman wants to go home with me. “You, are a handsome, great man, Rob Dobrenski,” I said into the mirror.
When I came back out to the bar, it was empty. The place only holds about 10 people, but I was expecting to see at least one other person there: Dana. But no such luck. On the table, there was a note:
You have to learn to not be such a tight ass when it comes to your practice. Thanks for the drinks. I purchased a bottle of Dom Perignon for my husband and I, which the barkeep was more than happy to put on your tab. Consider it restitution to your last client, plus a little extra for the stress that you’ve caused him.
I went over to the bartender. “Mark, did you put that bottle of champagne on my tab?”
“The woman said that she was taking it back to your place and would meet you there. You said that you score with a lot of women.”
“Yes, that is true, I say that. But have you ever actually seen me with a woman?”
“No, but you said that once the book was published, you’d have tons of women to choose from.”
“THERE ISN’T ANY BOOK YET!”
Mark laughed. “Well, I guess you’re $200 in the hole until you become rich and famous. You want to put that on your Amex, get some bonus miles?”
“Sure.” Fuck you, Mark.
I concluded that Mr. Generous/Angry was truly diabolical. That was actually a fair amount of effort (in a very short period of time, no less) that he put in to teach me a lesson, and it didn’t even work. I wasn’t going to change my policy, because it’s not an unjust stance. However, the client did succeed in pissing me off (while taking back his money in the form of alcohol), and I’m sure many people who hate me are happy to hear such a wonderful ending. Clearly, behind every great man is an even greater (i.e., more evil) woman.