Mailbag

Going Greyhound

End it: I very much enjoyed the article on greyhound racing ["Going to the Dogs," by Russell Cobb, September 6], as I felt it looked at the issue from both sides in an evenhanded manner. As an animal lover, I hope that greyhound racing becomes something of the past. While it is probably true that many racing greyhound owners treat their dogs well while they are racing, experience has shown us that once a dog is past its prime, it is often tossed to the wayside like garbage. Animals deserve our respect more than that, and the only way to ensure no racing dog will be treated this way again is to put an end to dog racing.

Eva Vieyra-McDaniel
Santa Monica, California

Blame the management: Russell Cobb's article was a well-researched presentation of the greyhound racing business and Gulf Greyhound Park, its history and its struggles — against animal rights activists and for its survival. It was great that Cobb addressed and corrected the misperceptions of the quality of people in the breeding business, and presented a case for broadening the gambling opportunities at both greyhound and horse tracks in Texas. I've enjoyed greyhound and horse racing for years, and agree those animals are better taken care of than most pets. Also, watching the greyhounds convinced me that these athletes, not controlled by jockeys (and not on steroids or squabbling over contracts), are doing what they were born to do and enjoy doing — running full speed, chasing and competing. Why don't the animal rights activists fight against those dog owners who take their pets for one or two walks a day? But that's another story.

The problem with Gulf Greyhound Park, and other such venues, is their management. While they are indeed in the dog racing and gambling business, first and foremost they are in the entertainment business, competing with movies, plays, concerts, bars, professional and college games, the zoo, etc. I've provided marketing research consulting services for more than 20 years to hundreds of companies locally. When I was concerned about dropping attendance at Gulf Greyhound Park several years ago, I made a sales call to its management. I told them that perhaps my services would provide consumer information that could be used to reverse the downturn in attendance. Their reply was literally that Gulf Greyhound doesn't care about attendance, that — as Russell Cobb learned — the track makes more money by simulcasting its races to other tracks around the country. They said that attendance just meant a need for more employees, more food and beverage services, more liability and hence more headaches.

Unlike Sam Houston Race Park, which has opened its facilities to business meetings and public fairs, instituted a Friday night concert series and offered reasonably priced food and beverage services, Gulf Greyhound Park doesn't get it. A lack of concern for its current and potential customers is the park's biggest obstacle. Its salvation may be through future legislation allowing alternative gambling on the premises, or the legalization of off-track betting in Texas. But if I were a ­betting man, I'd bet that a lack of interest in competing for the entertainment ­dollar will be the demise of Gulf Greyhound Park.

Andrew Greenwood
Houston

Calling the Doctor

Inform the consumers: Concierge care is a new trend in health care that started in Seattle in the mid-'90s ["Pay, to Play," Hair Balls, by Richard Connelly, September 6]. The idea is that the retainer charged to clients allows the doctor to provide a more quality service because the doctor's caseload is significantly reduced. The annual retainer can range from $1,500 to $25,000, which allows the doctor to reduce his or her case­load to 300 to 600 clients from 1,500 to 5,000.

When evaluating concierge care, the consumer should know the following: What is the maximum number of clients? What additional services is the doctor offering? And is the per-patient allotted time realistic? Additionally, the doctor should disclose that insurance companies and government insurers are leery of this movement and some have started dropping doctors who convert their practices. This could be a deal-breaker for someone who must rely on insurance to pay for health-care expenses.

I am not a client of Dr. Schrader, nor do I know the details of his new arrangement, but simple math suggests that if he actually fills all 600 slots, he is allowing about three and a half hours per year to each client — and that assumes that he will work 52 weeks per year. The bottom line for Dr. Schrader is that he is running a business and must make decisions based on his financial goals. The bottom line for his clients should be whether this particular concierge care makes financial sense for them.

Ignacio Carrion
Houston

 
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