My Dentist Locked Me Out

Yesterday I had a 2:00 PM dentist appointment. Being the time conscious person I am, I arrived around 1:45 to make sure I was on time. When I got there, the parking lot was completely empty and there was a sign on the door that said, “Sorry, we’re closed!”

I was confused a little bit, as I had never seen a “closed” sign on the door, but since I was early I decided to wait. Around 1:55 PM another patient pulled into the parking lot. At 1:58, a third patient arrived. After 2:00 PM came and went, I got out of my car and went to the door to see if the sign had been placed in error. It hadn’t. The door was locked and it was clear no one was inside.

Confused, I called the office and received the dentist’s voicemail. I left a message explaining I had a 2:00 PM appointment, it was 2:05 PM, and the door was locked. I asked for someone to call me back so we could discuss the matter.

At that point I headed home, a bit frustrated that I had taken time off work, only to be met with a locked door. At 3:30, after still not hearing from the office, I gave them a call. At this point I was starting to wonder if the office had moved locations and no one had told me.

A receptionist answered the phone and when I told her my name and why I was calling, she said to me in a bit of a snide tone, “The reason the door was locked…is because we all went to lunch!” I was silent, trying to process what I had just heard. She continued to tell me, “We had an appointment that was supposed to end at 1:00, but it didn’t end until 1:10 so we were late going out to lunch and that’s why we weren’t there at 2.”

Trying to keep my composure, I explained to her that I appreciated her honesty, but I was frustrated because I had taken time off work for this appointment, and yet no one was there at the time of my appointment, no one had bothered to tell me things were running late, and no one called me back after I left a message.

The receptionist copped a bit of an attitude and said, “Well…sorry” in a tone that made it sound like I was being unreasonable. I paused and waited, seeing if she was going to offer to reschedule my appointment. However, once she gave me an “Is that all?” type of answer, I knew my time on the phone and with that dentist was coming to an end.

While there’s a part of me that wants to blast that office all over Facebook, Yelp, and Google, I’ve tried to step back and ask what I can learn from this incident. There are three principles that have stood out to me the most:

  1. Time Is Valuable. Respect Your Time and Respect the Time of Others

We’re all busy people and we all have a lot going on. It’s important that we mind our time wisely and make sure we’re doing what we need to be doing. Likewise, we need to respect the time of others. We should be somewhere when we say we’re going to be somewhere. We should be mindful of holding unimportant meetings that waste the time of others, or extending meetings past the expected end time.

  1. Communication Is Essential

You can never over communicate. If people are confused, work hard to clarify. If people are ignorant, work hard to inform. If plans change, work hard to notify others. Never assume people know what you’re talking about or what’s going on.

  1. Say “I’m Sorry” and Say It Like You Mean It

Elton John was on to something when he said, “Sorry seems to be the hardest word.” We have a tough time apologizing and owning up to our mistakes. When we mess up (and we will mess up), it’s important we say we’re sorry and say it in a genuine way. Deflecting blame, making excuses, or trying to project blame on the other person will never do us any good. Apologizing with a humble spirit will go a long way in righting a wrong.

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