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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Don't Feed The Trolls, Part 1

Last time I posted about m_michaels17 and their comments towards me.  What I didn't say was that I had a discussion with them via email.  I debated whether or not to even respond, as I typically believe in the internet adage of "don't feed the trolls".

For my readers not familiar with this terminology, let me help you. gives the following definition for "troll":  One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.  This can extend to emails also, and I immediately saw m_michaels17 as a troll.  "Feeding" a troll means trying to give them what they want and argue back, which encourages them to further their own point of view.

In a situation like this the best thing to do is ignore the person and move on ("don't feed the troll").  But I went against my typical procedure and actually responded back.  I became legitimately curious as to why they took such a strong stance.  Here is a transcript of our email conversation.

m_michaels17:  You should not be a vet. Your views are twisted and vile. Payment plans don't work? They work fine at my clinic. They work in every other business and practice. There are two professions that only except cash... drug dealer and veterinarian.

Dr. Bern:  So they work at Walmart?  At Olive Garden?  At your local grocery store?  At a florist?  For admission to your local zoo?  When you're buying tickets for a play?  When you're buying an engagement ring?  A band for a wedding must accept payment plans, right?  Yep, every other business accepts payment plans.

MM:  Wedding bands and most retail yes they do. It's called lay away. Some grocery stores do run tabs yes. As for plays and other entertainment.... I don't believe that really compares to emergency  medical care. Maybe you'll find out the hard way someday when you or a loved one need urgent care and you can't get it.

DB:  Layaway requires full payment before you pick up your product, so it's still not comparable.  But it's obvious that you and I will disagree on this point.
     Just out of curiosity, why did you feel that it was appropriate to make a direct, personal attack instead of trying to engage in calm and rational discourse?  I'm not personally offended, but it seemed like a rather strong stance to say that I am "twisted and vile".  Why is such language appropriate if you wanted to try and convince me that I was wrong?  Is this how you typically handle disagreements?

MM: No its not the way I handle most arguments but I'm extremely passionate about animals and I pray to God the people that work with me and in other animal hospitals around the city do not feel the way you do. Are you that money hungry that you would not help a lower income person with an animal on an emergency visit? Most animal hospitals take donations for this exact purpose but yet rarely use the money to actually help cover the cost of a surgery. You seem like you'd fall under that category. 

DB:  So passion is an appropriate excuse for insulting a stranger over a single point of disagreement?
Why would you assume that I'm the kind of person who would take donations and not use them to help people? That seems like a rather harsh judgement against someone that you do not know. Why would you jump to that conclusion? You don't even know if we take donations, let alone how we may use them. 
     You seem to be making some rather severe assumptions about me without knowing much about me. Should I judge your personality by your original email to me? If so I would say that you are an ignorant, hate-filled person who is more interested in insults than discussion. However, I bet that this sentence doesn't really describe you very well. It's very dangerous to go on a rant against someone when you don't know much about them and don't know all of the facts. Would you want people to make comments about you based on limited information as you have made about me? You are assuming the worst about a person without taking the time or giving polite consideration to find out more.
     I've been in the veterinary field for 32 years and over that time have worked at several clinics in multiple states and have known numerous veterinarians and business owners. You probably won't believe me, but most veterinary clinics have been burned and lost money trying to take payments, and those that do have their own in-house payment plans are the exception rather than the rule. I know that we always want to assume the best about people, but the truth is that enough people default on these plans that it becomes a huge financial risk for the practice. My viewpoint is supported by the vets who have commented on my blog in this regard, as well as the vets I've seen posting on sources like Veterinary Information Network. 
     Please understand that I'm not attacking you back. I'm trying to have a discussion and hopefully help you see how you came across so you won't do the same thing to someone else in the future. I'm also truly interested in direct answers to the questions I've asked you.

MM: I'm assuming nothing about you. You posted comments all over the Internet about what you really think of your customers. 

DB: Actually, you've made several assumptions about me. "Your views are twisted and vile." "Are you that money hungry" "You seem like you'd fall under that category." Each of these is a judgment statement about me without actually knowing facts behind who I am and how I conduct myself. Would you like me to make blanket statements about you, your life, and your interactions with people only on this conversation we are having? I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt that you aren't actually like you are coming across, and that there is more to you than how you are treating me. Because to be perfectly honest, you're coming across as narrow-minded, unwilling to have an open discussion, quick to judgement, and hateful. I'd like to think that this doesn't accurately describe you.
You also still haven't answered my questions, so I'll re-post them here for convenience.
     Why did you feel that it was appropriate to make a direct, personal attack instead of trying to engage in calm and rational discourse?
     Is passion an appropriate excuse for insulting a stranger over a single point of disagreement?
     Should I judge your personality by your original email to me?
    Would you want people to make comments about you based on limited information as you have made about me?
     Here are some new ones that I'm adding....
    What do I really think about my clients? Please base this on quotes from my blog posts so that I can see where you have formed your opinion. 
     Do you believe that attacking and insulting people is a good way to get them to change their views on an issue?
     Did you have a real purpose in your original email to me beyond a quick insult?
     How do you define "all over the Internet", and how does a single blog qualify as such?
     Seriously, I really, really do want an answer to all of the above questions and will be disappointed if you don't do so. Let's have an honest discussion on these issues. This can be an opportunity to learn from each other, but only if you are open-minded and willing to do so.

MM: If you don't want judged then don't talk trash about your customers and their pets on the Internet. Are you not judging them? Are you not assuming that the majority of people asking for help are dead beats? Isn't it more likely that these people go to work 40 + hours a week to make ends meet because their parents weren't able to help them with tuition for better careers? Isn't it more likely that these people would do what they ask of you, for you, if roles were reversed? Are they dead beats because they don't make as much money as you? You do realize the people you call dead beats are the same ones that provide you with electric, heat, clean water, gasoline, stock the groceries you need to survive, build the cars you drive, build the house you live in, make the clothes you wear, fix your car, serve you at restaurants, and make sure you don't have to s**t in a hole in your yard. So when their pet is met with a tragedy and they can't afford to pay 5 grand at the drop of a hat..... that makes them dead beats. Seems to me like you are the one judging the many and in turn you have been judged yourself. 

DB:  Two things.....
First, you have still failed to answer any of the questions that I asked. Why?
Second, please quote the parts of my blog where I stated or inferred that my clients are deadbeats. Once again you have made an assumption about me and I challenge you to support your view with actual facts.

DB: Also, you're again making many assumptions about me that are untrue. I have been working a job since I was 14 years old and continued to work through college and graduate school in order to afford my education, as well as taking the maximum amount of student loans (which I am still paying back). Most of my veterinary colleagues received no help from their parents and are dealing with incredibly burdensome loans in order to be in this profession. My father started his career as a mechanic, my mother was a secretary and then a housewife, and my wife has worked retail much of her life. I have friends and relatives in the very professions that you seem to imply that I am calling "deadbeats" (which is an extremely emotional and loaded term that I again challenge you to prove I have stated). You stated "the people you call dead beats", and I would like you to point out where I have done so. Please take the emotions out of this situation (if you are able) and rather than making broad statement and incorrect assumptions, support your views with facts and quotes. If you cannot do that then we cannot have a rational conversation.

DB:  Sorry for the multiple replies, but I have been thinking about our discussion and new things come to mind.
     For a moment let's take your premise ("Isn't it more likely that these people would do what they ask of you, for you, if roles were reversed?") with the exact same people that you have mentioned ("the same ones that provide you with electric, heat, clean water, gasoline, stock the groceries you need to survive, build the cars you drive, build the house you live in, make the clothes you wear, fix your car, serve you at restaurants,").  By your statement, if I have fallen on hard times and am on an empty tank of gasoline, if I go to my local gas station the attendant will be kind to me and let me fill up but pay them in a couple of weeks because they understand what I am going through.  If I go to my local Kroger or Publix I can count on the person stocking my groceries to let me pay for the food I need to live over the next month.  If my clothes are developing holes and I need new ones, I can go somewhere that makes and sells my clothes and they will give them to me that day and be perfectly fine with me coming back at some undetermined point to pay them back.  When I am hungry and go to a restaurant the person who serves me will allow me to pay a few dollars a week until I have paid them back.  If I fall behind on paying for my water bill I can count on the water company to float me a line of credit indefinitely, and I will pay them what I can when I can but they won't actually turn off my water.  And the electric company will do exactly the same thing.  According to you if the roles are reversed and I have limited funds, I can count on any other business to extend me credit or set up a payment plan, no matter what business that is. The only business I can't rely on is a veterinarian.  Is that basically what you are saying?
     Oh, and by the way I am still waiting for a reply to my previous questions so please don't let my most recent comments distract you from doing so.

Since this has been rather long, I'm splitting it into two parts.  Come back next time for MM's response and the last part of the conversation.


  1. Oh my goodness Chris... I hope you don't make us wait too long to read Part 2. I'm truly fascinated to see if you're able to get anywhere near a logical response from MM. Your arguments addressing his points have been excellent but I am starting to suspect that MM may not in fact be a vet? Maybe all will become clear in the final installment!

  2. oh my goodness...this guy has no real idea what goes into being a vet or working in the veterinary field! And I think he's assuming you're a private practice, which is not the case, and in fact work for a practice that's entire mission (the wellness plans) are based on being able to make preventive care affordable!!! Now that I'm a tech in a private practice, we don't advertise payment plans, but the owner of the clinic regularly tithes in the name of his Christian beliefs in the form of giving away services...including several thousand dollars of orthopedic surgery that at GVS would cost twice as much! I realize he is an exception, but MM's issues have to be stemming from some other issues that he's using to fuel his fire.
    I don't get his anger. 90% of clinics take care credit, if not are willing to work with some kind of promissory note...or have donations and trusts to help out clients, including your hospital! Didn't you guys even win an award for that at one time?
    Ugh. Idiots.
    On the flip side, your eloquent responses are so educated and poignant and perfect that they are quite a joy to read :D


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