Today I had to take the elder of our two cats (Oswald) to the vet for an "emergency" medical examination. Both our cats are indoor-only, and Oswald had been throwing up consistently, plus suffering with diarrhea, for more than 24 hours. Rather than wait 'til tomorrow, and risk who-knows-what, we opted to go ahead and take him to a local emergency animal care center that keeps night and weekend hours. These are the things you do when your pet was, for all intents and purposes, your first child.
Oswald's bloodwork came out okay, thankfully. The vet's best guess was that he has a moderate infection going. The exam, plus bloodwork and medication, set me back $243. I wasn't gleeful to spend the money, of course, but the price you pay for good news like that is always better than paying nothing for bad news. Besides, it's part of the responsibility you take on when you have pets. (If you value their lives to the degree that we do, at least.)
But that $243 is what savings are for. And that's not the point of this post anyway.
While I was in the waiting room, plowing through this book and waiting to hear from the vet regarding my cat's bloodwork results, another family came in: Mom, plus three teen-aged kids, one of whom was toting a shaggy mutt in his arms. While appearance isn't everything, I would be remiss if I did not point out that these folks were the Webster's picture of ... unkempt. We'll just say that their appearance did not exude financial stability.
Now, when I'd arrived, the vet's receptionist had asked me sign a form stating that they were free to charge me the standard exam fee ($65) up front. I signed it, obviously, but as it turned out, they never required that I pay anything until it was time to check out. This family, however, was another story.
Apparently, while the teen-agers and dog had gone back into the clinic proper, Mom came back out to pay the base $65 fee. You can guess what happened, right? Credit card #1 declined. Credit card #2 declined. She then wrote a check, and wonder of wonders! — the vet's check verification service refused to guarantee it.
A less-than-affable confrontation ensued. The receptionist, to her credit, was quite calm and clear about the whole thing, but Mom was not. Eventually the vet himself came out, followed by the teenagers and their dog. Mr. Vet informed Mom that he was unable to provide any service for the animal if payment could not be provided upfront. Mom's response was that obviously there was a problem with the office credit-card machine, and that what needed to happen was that the vet should just go ahead and take the check from her — or even one of her card numbers — and try running them again the next day.
As wonderful an offer as that might have been, for some reason, the vet declined. Go figure.
After a few choice expletives, Mom and kids took the dog (at least he wasn't whimpering in pain or anything, I guess) and exited.
My point, after all that: Nobody thinks much about it, but sometimes, humans aren't the only ones affected when money (mis)management takes center stage.
Get your stuff together, people. Try thinking beyond the next five minutes, and see if it doesn't improve your life ... as well as the lives of those you care about.