I had never been to a dentist before, in Kuala Lumpur, so I went to the first one whose address leaped from the pages of the internet, recommended, in a forum. It wasn't the best way to pick a dentist.
The dentist's office, itself, was well presented and clean. The equipment was up-to-date. Everything seemed efficient. What got me was the prices. I had just finished telling her how I had discontinued some work, at a dentist in Singapore, because I had thought his charges rather steep. She nodded sympathetically. I then inquired as to her price for the same procedure. She quoted me a price of two and a half thousand ringgits - just for the procedure itself and none of the support costs: consultation fees, X-rays and preparatory visits. I nearly coughed all over her. Her fee was even higher than the Singaporean fee...and yet she was based in KL where things are meant to be half the price.
The funny thing was, she didn't stop there. She argued dismissively about the merits of the procedure I had inquired about, saying it wouldn't last long "only a few years"...and argued for another procedure, which was "durable". I asked the cost, she said: "Not much: 8,000 RM."
Not much, indeed. "That sounds quite a lot to me."
She angled her mouth downwards and shook her head. "No. Not really. Not when you think of the quality and how long it lasts. You've got to think of the long term."
I took the conversation back to the procedure, but she shook her head slowly as if I had been slow to understand her point.
"You have got to think of the long term: do you know what I mean?"
I knew alright. She wanted me to opt for the most expensive procedure possible.
I left her office with a bill for several hundred ringgits "consultation fees".
The next day I called another dentist, on recommendation from a friend. I asked about the same procedure. "That would be 550 to 600 Ringgits". They were over four times cheaper. "Would that be an all in price?"
So, make that maybe six times cheaper, when her other costs are factored in.
I felt lucky to have checked around, before commiting myself to the first dentist. I have since called several more dentists and have found that ALL of them are much cheaper than she was. It seems that she prospers on the naivety of foreigners, since her practise was so positioned as to attract quite a few of them.
She taught me a good lesson here. She was dismissive of her own prices. She poo-pooed the idea that she was expensive - yet she turned out to be several times more expensive than the other dentists I called. Not only that, but she had argued for an alternative, much more expensive procedure than the one that was necessary. Perhaps the prices she gave me, were special ones, reserved for foreigners. I cannot know - but I know this: she seemed to be just taking advantage of my unfamiliarity with prices in KL.
So, if you are new in town, like me: be careful with the prices "professionals" charge. There are some out there, who will gouge you, given a chance.
By the way, do you know what is really funny about the online recommendation for the dentist I first went to? It said: "Moderate charges". I suppose she must have written the forum comment herself!
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