Policies May Sound Good in the Boardroom but Work Against Us on the Frontlines

A couple of days ago I went to a pet store to buy some fish. I inherited a fish tank from my 20-year-old son when he moved out of our home. I guess I felt it was time to get this poor guy some companions.


I purchased three new fish in all, one Emerald Green Cory catfish, one Albino Cory catfish, and one Julii Cory catfish. If you’ve never had a Cory catfish, I highly recommend them. They’re actually pretty interesting creatures to watch.


I was pretty excited to get these new guys in with the solo Emerald Cory catfish in my tank. But before I could even get them acclimated to the tank water the Julii Cory catfish died. The other two were fine and are still fine today, nearly two weeks after my visit to the pet store.


Knowing I could return the fish to the pet store and get a refund or replacement fish I dropped by the store over my lunch break. The cashier saw me coming in with the store’s bag and dead fish and directed me to their aquarium area once she confirmed I wanted to replace the fish rather than receive a refund.


I was informed by the very polite employee that I would not be able to replace the fish because I did not bring a water sample. Mind you the fish had never left the bag they put it in when I made the purchase. Frustrated I said I’d just do a refund and returned to the cashier. The cashier questioned why I was not able to replace the fish and I explained. She said maybe she didn’t understand the fish never left the bag. I realized at that time I probably hadn’t done a very good job of explaining my predicament and walked back to the aquarium area.


I explained to the employee that I had done a poor job of explaining that this fish had never actually been placed in my tank – it had died in the bag they placed it in. To my surprise she responded that it was the store’s policy to not replace fish even when the fish had not left the bag. Huh…? Wait…what? I was annoyed by this as I walked back to the cashier to get my refund. The cashier was annoyed when I explained I wasn’t able to replace the fish even though it had never come out of the bag. She went on a bit of a rant and stated that she (the aquarium employee) is the only one that works at this store that wouldn’t replace a fish given the circumstances. She went on to let me know about all of the other pet stores nearby where I could purchase my fish.

On the drive away from the store I found myself trying to rationalize the logic behind the store’s policy. Maybe they had a lot of the same customers returning dead fish regularly and felt it was a policy that needed to be put in place? I started to convince myself they must really care about fish! I began to think maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing after all. And then I arrived at a different pet store the cashier had recommended and bought two new fish with the refund money I had just received from the other store. Yeah, on top of everything it turns out I had paid double for the fish I purchased at the store that wouldn’t allow me to replace it!


This experience got me thinking. How many other people had gone into this store and had a similar experience? And how many of them no longer shop at this store? Is this policy driving customers to the stores competitors? And does the executive leadership team understand the impact this is probably having on their bottom line? And finally, how does this relate to the travel healthcare industry!?


The latter question really got me thinking and it’s clear to me the answer is that it absolutely relates to travel healthcare. Here’s one such policy that comes to mind. There are agencies that require travelers to pay for their own immunizations up front and then reimburse the traveler on their first paycheck. Why? Because its money lost if the traveler backs out of a contract or the hospital cancels it. This makes logical sense and to the executive team that is focused on the bottom line it makes perfect financial sense. In fact, there is nothing wrong with this policy. Except that 99% of the other staffing firms, they’re competing against cover these costs upfront for the traveler. Can you imagine how many clinicians have gone to a competitor as a direct result of this policy? A lot.


There are many policies companies have in place that simply do more harm than good. It is the leadership team’s responsibility to ensure policies not only make good financial sense, but also aren’t working against the front office. What policies have you heard of in travel healthcare that come to mind?



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