Outtakes, Part 5: A Client Screwed me Over….Creatively

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:

Rob,

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.

Mrs. Generous/Angry

I went over to the bartender. “Mark, did you put that bottle of champagne on my tab?”

“Yeah.”

“Right. So…why?”

“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.

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15 Responses to “Outtakes, Part 5: A Client Screwed me Over….Creatively”

  1. Katie says:

    Ooooh, well played, Mr. and Mrs. Generous/Angry.

  2. Donika says:

    Before my first therapy appointment, I had a conversation with my mom about why I was going, etc. It ended like this.

    Me: “Well, she charges $___/hour, so I’m certainly not going to make any topic off limits.”
    My Mom: “You’re going to PAY her?!”
    Me: “What? Of course I’m paying her. She’s a professional. This is how she makes her living.”
    My Mom: “…”

    She still doesn’t understand this concept. I feel for you.

  3. Celestine says:

    Wow. For a guy who had several extra hundreds to fling around, his overreaction is a bit astounding.

  4. […] the rest here: B-Sides, Part 5: A Client Screwed me Over….Creatively Promote this […]

  5. Nik says:

    Now that’s something. Even though the bottle cost $200, he still overpaid you by $275. In the end, you probably had to pick up the dinner tab (which I’m sure wasn’t cheap), but he still paid you to have drinks with his hot wife. I’d say you still came out ahead.

    Also, he either knew where your watering hole was, or he/she waited the rest of the day outside your office and followed you. Either way, creepy.

    Plus, it teaches you a good lesson about hubris. If the woman is too hot to be true, she’s probably a hooker (or part of some crazy revenge scheme). “Know thy self”.

  6. BL1Y says:

    “Buy me a drink?”

    Hint: Run.

  7. Julene says:

    I’m willing to bet she came up with the plan. We’re pretty good for that diabolical use of alcohol to lower your inhibitions thing.

    I agree with BL1Y, for future reference never let a woman ask you to buy her a drink.

  8. Wayland says:

    The lesson was to not give women value based on their looks…

  9. In The 415 says:

    Wow. That story is almost unbelieveable. Dude is a certifiable dickhead and his wife a raging biotch. What assholes. What goes around comes around. They’ll get theirs- for sure.

  10. Marie says:

    Okay, totally creepy and stalkerish.

    And, honestly, if he had all that extra money to throw around, why not just pay the fee increase? Hello?

    He was a client for THREE YEARS???!!!! And he couldn’t pay an extra ten bucks a session?

    Crazy.

  11. Catherine says:

    Holy cow!

    Not that that client could be counted among them, but is it weird to have fans?

  12. BL1Y says:

    I like how many people missed this part: “This is a short story…”

    I occasionally showed up to my short story writing seminar drunk, but I’m pretty sure than means fiction, right?

  13. DrRamblings says:

    It sounds like he doesn’t value and/or fully respect the service you provide. Part of the therapeutic relationship involves some level of mutual respect, and it seems like there is something else going on. A $10-$15 increase per session is nominal for NYC. Why didn’t you ask him about WHY he had such a strong reaction to it? Going right to a “rules based” response was just going to make him defensive because it probably felt manipulative, even though your point was technically correct.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Just wish to say your article is astounding.

  15. agun says:

    With an increase in the cost of living of roughly 5% a year, has the value of your therapy gone up the additional 5% of your 10% fee increase? Because I’m pretty sure your clients’ wages havent gone up 10% in a year.

    Has the cost in living suddenly started to increase? Surelly you saw this situation coming. Why did you not make it your policy to increase your fee 5% a year to cover the cost of living?

    But let’s take it a little further: isn’t rising your fees due to increase in cost of living a cause to the rise in the cost of living? Is such an increase moral? You are effectivelly causing your patients cost of living to rise. Is it ethical to abuse because you’ve been abused? Aren’t we supposed to stop cicles of abuse? Not only are you continuing this cicle of abuse that is the increase in the cost of living, but you are making it worse with an additional unjustified 5% over the 5% for the cost of living.

    No wonder he got angry at your lack of morality and empathy.

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