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I was helping a disabled friend schedule, over the phone, her appointment at a hospital that occasionally botches times and dates. I asked the secretary to confirm by email:

Me: Can you please email her the appointment time and date?
Secretary: You don't need it in writing. She's been here before.
Me: An email would be more reassuring. Can you please email her?
He: I'm the senior secretary here. You can trust me.
Me: She'd really prefer an email, if you don't mind.
He: You don't trust me?
Me: Sorry...I don't. At least twice, she showed up for appointments. But then staff argued they never booked them for her.
[Silence for 10 seconds.]
He: We don't email patients. Just call again to confirm. [Click.] [He hung up.]

This answer doesn't solve the difficulty, as writing protects her much more than verbal promises.

My friend said that he looked irked to see her, when he was checking her in. So how can "You don't trust me?" be answered without offending the asker?

  • My question is: How do you know for sure that they can send emails? Because in many countries in Europe, public hospitals don't have the technical possibility to send emails. Private may be able to do so, but not sure. Usually, they send written confirmation (letters), or you get email when using an online booking platform. Do you know more about them? – OldPadawan Jul 12 '18 at 7:55
  • @OldPadawan Thanks for this note. She has seen the staff use Outlook on their computer screens, and most NHS staff have emails, as Google proves. – Greek - Area 51 Proposal Jul 12 '18 at 8:24
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this looks like a request for help phrasing a response. Phrasing requests have been determined to be off topic. – sphennings Jul 12 '18 at 10:50
2

It's not you. It's me.

It's a small accommodation I need from you for my memory problems.

That being said, that person was being completely unprofessional.

You shouldn't need to say something like that.

Just tell your friend to throw you under the bus. Next time she runs into this person, she can just say "I'm very sorry for my rude friend. She's super bossy. blah blah..."

10

I would try to completely bypass the "trust" issue. Say that having the email helps your friend keep track of appointments (which is probably true). Just having the verbal confirmation is harder to keep track of. If the employee starts talking about trust, say that it's not about trust, and that having the email will help your friend track the appointment.

Given that the employee did not bring up any legal or technological reason why he couldn't email the appointment, it seems like he's just being obstinate. If there was a good reason for not emailing he could just say "sorry, that's against our policy" and the story would be over.

If the employee continues to refuse, you should definitely contact the hospital and report this person. There's no way an employee should be making a reasonable request into a personal issue.

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    The secretary's reluctance was totally unprofessional. Wanting e-mail conformation is not an unreasonable request; s/he should have done it without hesitation. – swbarnes2 Jul 12 '18 at 18:37
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I've had this experience a few times, whether at work or with appointments. Everyone may remember what happened in a given situation, but everyone has a different version of it. Official records ought to be kept to avoid conflicts later.

From your perspective, you merely have the word of the secretary that the booking was placed successfully, whereas the secretary sees himself (presumably correctly) entering the appointment into the system followed by you asking for a confirmation that he has actually done it. In that particular case, I would have complained to the secretary's superior about his reaction, it was a very unprofessional way he handled the situation, but there is a more general solution to try too:

Emphasise that there is no lack of trust in one specific person or role within the group, make it clear that it's just helpful for everyone involved in the long run to have an official record of what happened. Two weeks down the line, both parties may have different records and recollections of the events but this way, we both don't need to pester each other to reconfirm things. A confirmation email allows both parties to agree on what happened while the event is still fresh in your minds. This way, everyone involved knows that you're just playing it safe and not out to attack anyone personally (however justified it might be).

I would also add that if you are abruptly cutoff like that again, contact the hospital again and - with the approval of your friend - ask them to narrate or send you what information they have stored on their systems about your friend. Your friend has the right to see or confirm what information they have stored on their systems about them (there might be exceptions to this, I stay in the UK too and have never been denied info like this when I've asked for it). Let the system work in your favour.

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For me and many others, trust is something you have to earn over time. It's not something you gain from a phone call. It's not rude to tell the secretary that you do not trust her, because you simply can't if you don't know her personally. Simply explain her that and she should understand.

It's totally understandable that you and your friend want a written confirmation. You should have asked, why they don't send emails in the first place, because it doesn't take any time if you have the proper system (which I'm pretty sure they have).

Tell her, you need it written down, so you do not forget it and have to call again (and maybe again and again). It's really strange to me that she refuses it that way, maybe try to communicate with an doctor or the leader of the hospital too.

Edit: Here in Germany, you always get a email or more likely a piece of paper with the date and time written on it

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