Remember that Latin phrase, “caveat emptor,” or “buyer beware?” You might not think it would apply to the field of plastic surgery. Unfortunately, we see increasing evidence that prospective patients must fight through distressing levels of hype, hyperbole and even strong-arm sales tactics to ensure they’re receiving responsible input from some cosmetic surgery practices.
To be sure, patients themselves bear the ultimate responsibility of making good decisions when it comes to cosmetic surgery. But that can be more and more challenging for some, especially in competitive, media-rich markets like New York. Plastic surgery is “sold” ever more aggressively these days in areas like ours.
Consider this real life employment ad we spotted a few weeks ago:
Busy plastic surgery practice in NYC is looking to add to our sales team…meet and exceed pre-determined sales quotas…ability to close the sale is required…unlimited earning potential…
If you should find yourself in this particular NYC cosmetic surgery office, this is the “consultant” you will meet.
An Example from the U.K.
Over the top sales and marketing is not just a problem here in the U.S. The Sun, a UK periodical, recently sent a 20-year old reporter—with a 5’2” small frame and healthy weight, size 6-8—to visit four local plastic surgery practices.
Three out of the four cosmetic surgery teams proposed thousands of pounds worth of plastic surgery for the young woman in the form of breast augmentation for her B cup breasts and liposuction for her legs and abdomen.
During the consultation process, clinic staff discovered that the woman had just broken up with her boyfriend and had no savings. Furthermore, her mother did not want her to go under the knife. No matter! Staffers offered help arrange loans and to speak with her mom.
Especially disconcerting was the input the reporter received about breast implants. Despite her petite physique, the young woman was told she could go up to a G cup size, or, in one case, a smaller implant to stretch the skin, then larger implants later. The patient adviser at one clinic told the reporter:
They would look lovely on your tiny frame. You’re only young once and in your prime. It’s time for you to have loads of fun.
Why is this happening? Several factors come into play; here are a few:
• The media: It goes without saying that cosmetic surgery is a hot topic in all corners of the media these days. The pervasiveness of “reality TV,” in particular, has spread awareness of the benefits of cosmetic procedures and creating demand. This presents an opportunity for those interested in cashing in.
• The profession: As the popularity of cosmetic procedures grows, more people are choosing a career in the field of aesthetics. Surgery practices, medical spas and related businesses are numerous in some areas. Competition for patients in major markets is such that it can be tempting for practices to push the marketing envelope beyond the boundaries of what many would consider appropriate.
• The industry: You might be surprised to learn how lightly regulated some areas of the cosmetic field are. Restrictions on promotional activity—or “selling surgery”—vary among states and countries from few to very few.
What You Can Do
If you’re thinking about cosmetic surgery, it’s critical to step up your efforts to obtain the information you need to make sound decisions. Here are some key steps:
• Seek balanced input: Especially if some of your knowledge has come from the more sensational corners of the media, make sure you look for information from highly respected sources such as the Mayo Clinic and the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
• Educate yourself: Seek out information about why you should choose a plastic surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery—this is important to know. Also read up on what you can expect your procedure to do for you (and not do). Good sites to visit are www.surgery.org and www.plasticsurgery.org.
• Evaluate your consultations: It’s strongly recommended that you have more than one consultation with a board certified plastic surgeon. You should feel at ease, not rushed, encouraged to ask questions, listened to and respected. Most important, you should not feel that you’re getting a sales pitch at any point in the process. If you are not sure you’re comfortable with the practice, do not commit.
It has been our privilege to serve plastic surgery patients for more than thirty years. Whether you live across the country or here in New York, cosmetic surgery questions are our pleasure to address. If we can be of help to you, fill out our online contact form and we’ll be in touch. No hype and no pressure, we promise!
Sales image by Duncan Hall, available through a Creative Commons attribution license