Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Dog-Eat-Dog Business - Part 2

“Doctor Dolman is out of town. Could you speak to a guest at the Fairmont?”

That was a jolt. Dolman was an ambitious young doctor aiming to start a concierge practice. He had phoned months earlier to introduce himself and offer to cover my hotels when I wanted to get away. I declined but suspected he was poaching. For Dolman to instruct his answering service to send me to one of my regulars showed immense gall or perhaps immense confidence.

In private practice it’s unethical to solicit another physician’s patients, but hotels are a grey area. Established hotel doctors who want to remain on friendly terms do not step on each other’s toes, but newcomers have no inhibitions.

I had made hundreds of visits to the Fairmont. The staff knew me, and I took for granted that providing good medical care was enough to keep their loyalty.

After the visit, I stopped by the concierge desk to mention that a guest seemed to have called another doctor.

The concierge’s eyes widened. “Gosh, I don’t know what happened, Doctor Oppenheim. The guest never talked to me.”

I felt better. Maybe it was an innocent mistake. This feeling lasted until I passed the front desk, and a bellman called to me.

“Doctor! My name is Andre. I’m glad to meet you.” He hurried over, holding out his hand; we shook. “It was me that called you for the guest. Is he doing OK? This is the first time I called, but you’re the doctor I’m going to use.” I knew what this meant.
“Who do you think I am?”

The bellman cocked his head. “Aren’t you Doctor Dolman? People say I should call Doctor Dolman.”

“I’m Doctor Oppenheim, the hotel’s doctor.”

He looked confused. “Where’s Doctor Dolman?”

“He’s not available. You should call me in the future.” I walked away, pleased at frustrating the bellman who clearly expected a payoff. Bellmen were hopeless, I told myself. Concierges were the key to a hotel’s loyalty, and it looked liked they were still in my corner.

But this happened some time ago, and I haven’t heard from the Fairmont since. 

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