This summer I freelanced at an online division of a MAJOR advertising agency, which happens to handle a MAJOR skin care product account, which for our purposes we’ll call “Pigeon”. (I know, how very Wheel of Fortune of me to not mention the actual name). Pigeon is available in drug and grocery stores worldwide. Basically, Pigeon is a big behemoth biatch of affordable skin care products.
This agency gave a handful of volunteers the opportunity to visit a dermatologist for an office visit. The volunteers were pre-screened and had to believe that they had some sort of skin care issue that required a dermatologist consultation. I volunteered, was selected and was given a list of dermatologists to call in my area to set up an appointment. I was pretty stoked. Until I found out the premise of what I had to do, but then it was too late. (plus I got a $50 Amex gift card….yes, I am for sale, ladies and gentleman)
I was basically to act as a secret shopper. The derms (as they call them) wouldn’t know what my purpose as a new patient was. But it was my job to go in for this appointment using my real problem/issue as my way in. I was supposed to make sure that they mentioned Pigeon as a solution for my problem. . I was supposed to listen to what the derm had to say, see if he recommended Pigeon and if he didn’t, PROD him by asking him his opinion on Pigeon, if he’d recommend Pigeon for my problem.
Now Pigeon isn’t a bad product but I’ve gotta think that anyone who feels they need a dermatologist to talk with about some skin problems has already tried (and failed) with Pigeon and a whole shitload of other Pigeon-like products. The longer I sat in the waiting room, the madder I got. I’ve got a real issue here, people! Nothing disgusting, mind you, but it sure as hell can’t be solved by Pigeon – believe me, I tried.
If the advertising agencies and the Pigeons of the world can truly buy off doctors, I guess I was naively hoping the doctors wouldn’t settle for the cheapest whore on the corner. Couldn’t they have been a little more coy and waited for the expensive call girl? A sexy little $200 per ounce bitch who goes by the handle of
La Mer? No, if I’m “doing” the dermatologist route, I’m DOING it. I want the super-fly, extra deluxe magic-motherfucking–cure-all pill and/or lotion that will make my skin as smooth and luminous as a newborn’s ass. NOT Pigeon. I sat in the waiting room and started to fume. Fuck you, Pigeon! And you too, big agency, for getting’ your big corporate nose all up in my medical beeswax.
It was then that I felt a little queasy about my decision to wield words in the world of advertising. Had I made the right decision? Had I wasted the last 2 years of my life? Not to mention assloads of money? This is the mindset I had when I went into the office for this very enlightening “appointment” (is it still an appointment if it lasts less than 5 minutes?) with my doctor, who by my account seemed to be in his mid-70s and hailed from some Scandinavian country.
DR: Vat is your problem today?
ME: I’ve got some….
DR: (interrupting me) Yes, you have ______. Eeees incurable. You have stress in life, no? When did this start?
ME: About 2 years ago (mentally, the pieces of the puzzle have now clicked into place)
DR: Theeees stress, is job-related, no?
ME: I guess…well, probably.
DR: (matter of factly) You will change jobs.
ME: Um, well, that’s not really an option.
DR: You change job. Or you do more yoga. Eees incurable. Vat else?
ME: (lame attempt) Um, well, would you recommend anything like Pigeon?
DR: No. I write you preeescription for ____ and ______. But ees incurable. Vill not go away until you change jobs. Maybe try shorter, colder showers. No red wine. But ees incurable.
All of this in LESS than 2 minutes. Clearly, I HAD made the wrong career decision - Dr. Scandinavian Pigeon had just made $130 in approximately 118 seconds. I guess I felt a little better that he hadn’t been bought off by Pigeon. No, scratch that, I felt like shit.
Because aside from the useless free visit and the $50 Amex gift card, what had
I really gotten out of this? In those 118 seconds, he’d planted the seed that I should change jobs and do more yoga, he’d instilled a permanent sense of guilt and fear of irreversible damage for every future glass of red wine I enjoyed, he’d given me useless prescriptions that would have totaled $526 if I were to fill them. A sadness in knowing that I’d somehow contributed to the fooling of people in waiting rooms around the country who go to their doctor hoping for educated advice and walk out with…Pigeon. And he’d taken an hour of a very busy day and was causing me to run like a fricking Olympic sprinter back to a meeting where I was about to talk to someone seriously about spaghetti coming out of a little girl’s nose for some online video awards I was working on. Oh and my skin’s still the same. Thanks, Dr. Scandinavia, Pigeon and large, corporate agency, all of you. I feel just SUPER!
And we wonder what’s wrong with our health care system.Coming Soon - Part 2: Meet my dentist, Dr. Bling, a man with a shaky Novacane trigger finger who wants to solve every problem in my mouth with gold. Front teeth and all.