I sought out a dental office as I had an impacted wisdom tooth that was causing me a lot of pain. My father in law (known for taking the cheapest route) suggested Western Dental, as I had no insurance and was currently living on a fixed income with my disabled husband.
The first day I went, I had exactly $100 in cash with me to sign up for their year-long "coverage plan". I had x-rays taken: the films cut the inside of my mouth and made me gag, and, when I asked if they had smaller ones, I was told they all came in one size only. This turned out to be a lie. Then I was led to a chair in the back and a "dentist" came out to review my X-rays with me. This consisted of a two-minute talk in which he claimed that I needed a total of eight teeth pulled and that I had upwards of 20 cavities to fill. Then he left and I was left with a financial person who took my $100 and arranged my next appointment to have three of the teeth pulled. I was never given a receipt and I was also asked to make the first payment towards my extractions when I came in next.
Second (and last) trip there I made my first payment, with my card this time and made sure I had a receipt before I left, as they had said that my previous $100 payment wasn't in their computer and that they couldn't find any record of it. I was also told that the lady who had taken my $100 had "quit", although I sincerely doubt this.
I was led into the back, and despite the fact that I had requested and been told that I would be given full sedation, the "dentist", who was different from the first one I'd met, tried to give me a local and just start pulling the teeth. I admit, I flipped out, although as I had known that I wouldn't be able to do a dental procedure like that without sedation, I don't feel too bad about it. I started sobbing, and refused any work unless they would fully sedate me. The dentist got really huffy, and said "So you need a referral then? FINE." The only good thing I got out of this ordeal was that referral, but that's another story. I stopped by the desk on my way out and asked if my money would be refunded, as they hadn't done the work. I was assured it would be back in my account within a week.
That's when the letters and phone calls started. The letters demanding money began that week, at the rate of one per week. The phone calls didn't really get going until a month or two later after I'd started ignoring the letters. Before this was over (and the whole ordeal took nearly a year to finish), I was receiving between 4 and 7 phone calls a day.
I had to go to my bank and have them reverse the charges from my card in order to get my money back. By showing them the referral and eventually my oral surgeon's bill for the work, the bank was willing to refund me, and they then charged Western Dental for the money they refunded. Well, WD then doubled down, by adding that charge BACK onto the bills they were sending me.
When I got the first letter where they threatened to turn me over to a credit agency, that's when I found my answers. I talked to my folks, and they suggested I look for a low-cost or free legal service. I did so, and found one in my area, that not only got back to me quickly but was very professional.
These are the steps we took, and the steps anyone else should take:
1. Keep ALL the records you can. Bills from Western Dental, bills from other dentists that can show any damage WD caused or whether they did the work they said they did, and a phone log detailing dates, times, and phone numbers that WD used to try and reach you. (They used a total of five different numbers with me.)
2. Look for a low-cost or free legal service in your area. Explain exactly what's going on with Western Dental and that you would like help getting them to stop harassing you, so they can put you in touch with a lawyer that specializes in this kind of work.
3. Do NOT give them any more money. Stop answering their calls, just let them go to voice mail. File any letters you get with the rest of your paperwork in an easy-to-find place. (Maybe buy a cheap file folder just for this.)
4. Get copies of all the paperwork you've collected. This is so you can keep the originals, but you'll have copies for the legal aid.
5. This is the hard one: Be patient with the legal service. They'll be professional, but that means researching some of this themselves to make sure that you, the injured customer, are being truthful. It'll take a little time, but it's WORTH it.
By doing all this, the legal service I found was able to clearly see that I owed nothing, and that there was no reason for WD to be contacting me any further. They sent a letter to Western Dental, and that was the last I heard of them. I paid nothing for their legal help, and I've had no trouble from WD since then.
They did state that in some cases WD will try to fight this, and they said that if that's the case, it would be able to go to court. If anyone else out there ends up running into that situation, even if you think you can't afford it, take them to court anyway! We have to start hitting them in their PR and in their pocketbooks to make them realize that this is no way to treat people who are just trying to care for their teeth.
And as an added bonus, karma can be really funny: A couple weeks after they finally left me alone, the office I had been to burned down. I smile every time I drive past that ruined building now.
Review about: Western Dental Tooth Extraction.
Monetary Loss: $250.