Friday Oct 25, 2014
A couple with over 10 years of dog grooming and pet shop operation experience shared with me their grooming situation.
"Vets are making good money compared to groomers," Jim Mandalay said. "In one practice, the vet bills are not less than $200/customer. In another practice, they are over $500/customer. My grooming charges are $60 and I take at least 2 hours to groom one dog!"
"The pasture is always greener on the other side," I said. "There are vets who charge less than $100/customer," I named one practice that advised blood tests and even weekly blood tests for ill dogs.
"With blood tests compulsory at the first clinic, at $140/blood test, the bill would be more than $200/customer," I said. "The customer can always go to another vet and there are over 60 vet clinics in Singapore nowadays!"
"The other vet also charges high fees," Jim laughed. Jim knows about vet charges as he transport pets to the clinic for treatment, charging $100/trip. His wife would do the grooming while he would answer calls and do the transport. In Singapore, competitors charge $10 for dog transport and $60 for grooming. So, Jim said that he could not increase the costs as that would drive customers to the arms of another groomer.
"Proximity and convenience are what the dog owner wants," I said.
"There is no loyalty from the customers," Jim and his wife were exhausted from so many years of grooming and the great difficulty in retaining a Singaporean receptionist.
In Singapore, the receptionist would be young ladies. They would work for a few months and change jobs or find a downtown office with lots of colleagues to work. Not content with being a receptionist in a small pet shop. So, the couple had to work by themselves. Or close shop.
"How about selling puppies?" I asked as they used to sell puppies. With puppy sales, they can retain clients as groomers.
"No, no," Jim said. "The consumer is now well protected with one year's return policy. That is the lemon law."
"Are you sure?" I asked. "In one year, the puppy can be returned to the Seller with money back? A person can buy a new car and can return it back within one year if there is a defect?"
"Yes, yes," Jim said authoritatively as regards puppy sale.
Jim related his personal experience. He sold a poodle some years ago with a sales contract between the husband buyer and himself.
"After one year, the wife phoned me to ask what compensation I would give her as the poodle had become 2 inches taller than the standards stated in breeders' books and had changed to a lighter colour."
The Buyer brought the case to the Small Claims Court and Jim had to attend the hearing.
"The judge dealt with the case although the complainant was the wife who was not the one signing the sales contract with me!" Jim said.
"It is up to the judge as he has the power," I said. "Maybe the wife is family. Who knows what the the judge based his decision upon. Did you win the case? After all, you were not selling a pedigree dog for dog shows but a pet quality dog. The coat colour could fade or darken when the dog grows older."
"Poodles have different shades of brown," Jim said. "But the judge does not know it. Photos were submitted by the wife as evidence! She even had an expert witness to testify for her as regards the standard height of a poodle! Another pet shop owner!"
"Was the expert witness paid by her?" I asked.
"No, no," Jim said. "That poor fellow had to close his pet shop to attend the hearing! He was suppoenaed by the court to attend the hearing. No need for this woman to pay him. That was the price of him voicing his opinion on the height of what a poodle should be as an adult dog!"
This experience should teach readers not to venture any opinions in cases of disputes as the complainant can ask the Court to subpoena us for expert testimony.
"This woman would cancel the hearing and I would have to wait for another day, cancelling my grooming and transport appointments again! She knows the process of the Small Claims Court of last-minute cancellations.
"You know, she is the wife of one of those rich developers in Singapore and must have good experience of making puppy sellers pay for defective puppies. That was before the lemon law was introduced in Singapore and my case was that the puppy had been sold to her for over a year! Now, with the lemon law which states that there is a one year of guarantee, I do not sell puppies anymore!"
"I don't agree that there is a one-year-guarantee for puppy purchase. He could have bloody diarrhoea from parvoviral infection 2 months after purchase and died. So the owner cannot claim that the puppy was bought with parvoviral infections. The incubation period for parvovirus would be around 14 days, that is, signs would appear 14 days after infection and 2 months equal 60 days. So, the Buyer cannot claim losses and medical treatment costs."
"I am telling you it is one year," Jim insisted.
"What happened to the expert witness for the Buyer?"
"He was not even called in to testify," Jim laughed. "He had to cancel his grooming appointments to attend the hearing, making him lose income! Serves him right for being a smart aleck.
"As for me, the complainant cancelled the hearing at the last minute and so I had to close shop a second time and lose income! The Buyer certainly knows how to make me suffer losses of income!"
I usually do not comment on competitor's treatment of a case and that would not be subpoenaed as a witness.
"So what happened? Did you lose the case?" I asked. "I think the judge would not more than you think, about dog's standard height and colour. A lighter colour could be due to bleaching shampoo and I don't think he would be fooled by the Buyer. How much did she ask for compensation?"
"The judge asked her. She wanted much more than what she paid me for the puppy. For emotional distress, you know. So much worries when the poodle became taller by two inches and losing the redness of the coat!"
"How much she paid for the puppy?" I asked..
"$1,900. She wanted much more. To be a puppy seller, you must have a good lawyer. Refer all complaints to the lawyer.
"There was this big puppy seller who had this good lawyer. One day, a very rich lady was dissatisfied with the puppy and he referred her to his lawyer. But the rich lady did not proceed with the 'see you in court' threat."
"That is why she is rich," I replied. "No point paying lawyers to sue as the legal costs would be more than the cost of the puppy! She is from the elite family of Singaporeans and she certainly can afford it but she did not do so."
But Jim could not afford to retain a lawyer as he sold only a handful of puppies from his own pets some years ago. I opened the can of drinks he offered me and it was getting dark now, closer to 7 pm when he should be sending the groomed dog home to Woodlands.
"So what was the verdict?" I reminded him that he was late for his transport.
"The rich woman lost her case."
"Why?" I asked as the government is deemed to be pro-consumer.
"She placed the photo evidence of the coat of the puppy not in chronological order, hoping to fool the judge."
"Really? How did she do it?"
"She placed the older dog's photo as the first photo. The judge said the coat colour was light and it could be due to the flash bulb!"