Setting the Record Straight – That Mail on Sunday Article

ImageIn an era in which everyone is connected with everything, word of mouth travels faster and further than ever before. That hair which was discovered in your soup is no longer a concern for you and your waiter: now the whole internet has to know about it, and will judge the restaurant accordingly. From anonymous Trip Advisor reviews to social media spats, companies of all sizes are only too aware of the dangers of negative publicity.

It doesn’t matter how many glowing reviews you’ve received from satisfied customers: all it takes is one disgruntled punter with a grievance to air and your reputation is irreparably harmed. Although businesses will lament bad publicity, no one is denying the right of the wronged: if you’d been sold a shoddy product or served a substandard meal, wouldn’t you feel compelled to kick up a fuss?

They say the customer is never wrong. But what about customers who are hellbent on destroying a business due to a perceived injustice they have suffered? What about customers who peddle lies to the press in the hope of settling a score?

How should the slighted business respond: should it just suck up the criticism and move on, or should it hit back with all guns blazing? This is the dilemma that Secret Surgery faces today.

When biting your tongue just won’t do

In October 2012, we were celebrating leading the Medical Tourism Industry. This was fuelled by a slew of over 100 detailed favourable customer reviews, nine months later and despite having accrued many more positive reviews, we find ourselves fighting to defend our reputation. Today, a former Secret Surgery patient has chosen to go public with her experience of treatment abroad. Her account, which appears in the Mail on Sunday, is not the sort you would expect us to voluntarily highlight. Taken at face value, it would appear to present a fairly unflattering portrayal of Secret Surgery. It is the sort of account, in fact, which has the potential to undo years of hard work spent establishing a reputation as a trusted provider of cosmetic surgery holidays.

Bad publicity is hard to take. Typically it involves taking the criticism with good grace, accepting you were in the wrong and taking measures to ensure the customer’s experience is never replicated again. But what about bad publicity that is also false publicity? How do you apologise for wrongdoing that didn’t occur? How do you brush off allegations that are simply untrue?

Publicly apologise and you’ll forever be presumed guilty. Refute the mendacious allegations however and you risk being portrayed as stubborn and dogmatic – attributes that are hardly conducive to a firm whose reputation is dependant upon being perceived as caring and compassionate.

As you can imagine, we’re not in the habit of attacking our customers. Not even when it appears that the customer in question is more interested in conducting a vendetta than settling a dispute.

Whether you are reading these words as a Secret Surgery customer, as a curious onlooker or as someone who is contemplating surgery abroad, we believe you deserve the truth. We also believe, however, that you may have better things to do with your time than read a blow-for-blow account of why we’re ‘right’ and the customer is ‘wrong’. Should there be a genuine interest in hearing our side of the story, we will gladly publish detailed documentation in a future blog post, addressing each of the individual’s complaints in turn.

As it stands however, we are reticent to do so, not least because we are not a combative company: lashing out is not in our nature. We are also reticent to set off on the warpath out of genuine concern for the complainant’s physical and mental welfare.

To cut a long story short

The woman in question, who shall be referred to as Ms J, was booked in for surgery in our Polish Award winning Private Hospital in December of last year. Having previously used our company for 2 separate surgical procedures, which was completed successfully, Ms J was familiar with the facilities and knew what to expect. However, following a consultation in December, the hospital decided to cancel the procedure, based on a pre-operative assessment of the woman’s health. Despite the surgical procedure (which she never paid for) having been aborted, Ms J elected not to return home, instead staying on in Poland to enjoy a 10-day holiday. On 18th December, she cheerily commented in an email to us

“I would like to mention the treatment I had at EMC – where else would you get a heart scan and not be charged for it?!!! You really did well finding them :o))))”.

Later, however, Miss J had a change of heart and decided to contact Secret Surgery’s lawyers to issue a formal complaint for losses associated with her cancelled trip. Even at this stage, however, she did not fault the service she had received, noting

“I would like to state that I have no complaint, and have not made a complaint about the surgery carried out by Dr Wojciech Waclawowicz at the EMC Hospital in Wroclaw Poland. You wrote of my being “unhappy with the procedure at the hospital”. Quite the contrary, the treatment I had there was first class.”

Fast forward to the present day, and the story laid out in the Mail on Sunday is quite different. In the seven months since undergoing ‘first class’ treatment, Ms J’s account has changed quite dramatically.

What, you may be entitled to wonder, could have caused a patient to go from disputing the price of a medical bill to attempting to cripple a business by attacking it from all angles – including attacks on its after-care programme and questioning the competence of its surgeons and nurses?

There is a lot of evidence we could produce to address this question. Much of this evidence, however, would paint the complainant – Ms J – in an extremely unflattering light and would certainly call into question her emotional stability. That is not something we are willing to do if at all possible. Criticising customers is not in our nature – even one whose experience with Secret Surgery may have ended acrimoniously.

Since deciding, in December 2012, that she was unhappy with the service she had received, Ms J went on to send us hundreds of emails and countless social media comments, many of them despatched within seconds of one another they targeted staff, friends, family and an estimated 70% of our precious clients too. Keeping up with her scattershot correspondence became a full-time job in its own right. In the end, we offered Ms J £400 for her expenses (her initial request) which quickly escalated to £850 and then £1050 which we agreed to if she would refrain from her campaign of online harassment. Please note that Ms J’s latest request for money was £2,000 which we will not honour.

From the hundreds of emails we received, we will publish just one extract that is indicative of Ms J’s state of mind:

 “If [Angela] wants to pay me today, then the trouble stops here.  I have much more planned, and will not stop until she is ruined…If she doesn’t pay, then she gets what is coming to her, believe me it is about to get much much worse…. if she can confirm today that she has paid the money into my account, then I will stop all attacks on her. She will have to be quick though…If she wants me to stop, she needs to pay this afternoon, and quickly!  I will give her until 3pm to transfer the money, and confirm it to me…I am happy to stop if she pays me.  I need confirmation today.  I would need to ring the bank to confirm it has been paid.”

Some people may read that as the words of a wronged patient. Others may call it for what it is: blackmail.

It’s sad that what should have been a routine operation – no different from hundreds of others successfully performed at the same facility – should have come to this. Perhaps, over the course of three years, it was inevitable that one customer would have cause to express dissatisfaction. As the adage goes, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Nevertheless, it hurts to have had our reputation trashed in the press by an individual who has waged a relentless vendetta against Secret Surgery.

No one is perfect. Everybody gets things wrong occasionally. When we err, we have no qualms about holding our hands up and admitting it. We’re certainly not too proud to confess when we’re in the wrong. Looking back at Ms J’s cancelled hospital visit and the subsequent fallout with hindsight, however, there is little we could or would have done differently.

All we can do is tell our side of the story, which is what we’ve done. We’ve endeavoured not to be vengeful, dismissive or scathing of Miss J and her concerns. We would politely suggest that her actions over the past nine months have vindicated the hospital’s original decision not to go through with the scheduled operation. Despite all of the foregoing, however, we bear the individual no ill will.

On a secondary point; It amazes me how many Industry professionals are quick to judge without being fully furnished with the facts. A Doctor would never diagnose a patients illness without having the appropriate Information, test and checks to hand and this scenario is no different. For the record EMC Instytut Medyczny is a multi-award winning and the largest private hospital chain in Poland and I’d go as far to say they’d put their money where their mouth is and openly welcome any Industry professionals to investigate and make an educated critique… You may even learn a thing or too!

Publicity is like poison: it doesn’t hurt unless you swallow it. If you would like to hear Ms J’s side of the story, you’ll find her account in today’s Mail on Sunday. In spite of the many falsehoods and distortions contained within the story, we have no reason to shy away from its existence.

In times of conflict, the manner in which you respond to bad publicity defines you as a company. This is our truth. Thank you for reading.

Angela Chouaib

MD & Founder – Secret Surgery Ltd

44 thoughts on “Setting the Record Straight – That Mail on Sunday Article

  1. I cant believe what i have just read in the mail on Sunday regarding Juney jonigk experience with secret surgery. It is the biggest crock of shite ever. So many lies……. Why cant people tell the truth…… money grabbing bast**ds, that’s what all this shite is about. If surgery was that bad WHY would you go back to the same surgeon for more surgery !!!!! It just makes me so angry if you have a point to make then do it but at least tell the truth. For all those people who are thinking about going through secret surgery do your own research and make YOUR own mind up. There are LOTS and LOTS of people including myself who have used secret surgery and i would highly recommend Secret-Surgery and Dr W. I had my tummy tuck done by Dr W September 2012 and i intend to have a pubic lift and breast lift in the near future.

  2. Well done Angela on keeping your dignity and replying in a well thought out manner. Obviously I don’t know the ins and outs of what happened, but you continue to stick up for yourself no matter what. If it is any consolation, nobody reads the Daily Mail.

  3. Like you say the truth won’t sell papers. I am in Spain ATM is there a link to it and a blog attached to it for comments? If so post a linkup for me. As my nan would say tomorrows chip wrapping and to be honest anyone that reads it has already made up their mind and it will just feed their bigoted uninformed opinion. They are all arm chair experts who think they know it all but actually only know what they are fed by paper selling journalists with their own agenda. Hang in there Angela Secret-Surgery the truth will out. I feel for the staff over there dr w and Aga Poprawska who could not be more caring.

  4. I joined Secret Surgery group as I was thinking of accompanying a friend to care for her post-tummy tuck, and although I was unable to go, she had a good result and reported excellent service. As soon as I joined I was bombarded by pages of e-mails from the women in the article, which I felt was an invasion of privacy bordering on harassment.

  5. Angela Chouaib I totally agree with what has been said. You have at all times behaved with dignity and decorum despite provocation behaviour by you troll. Head high remember the motto “Per Prdua Ad Astra” this is not a road block just a stepping stone on your road to success. Chin up babe your an inspirational woman! X

  6. Wow well written.

    As a patient of secret surgery and an individual who has been bombarded with emails from Ms J and her friends I would like to say that I have nothing put praise for Angela, she has been helpful when I had complications after my surgery in Poland and has never deleted pictures or comments I have made.

    I thinks it’s unfair that Angela has gone through this saga as all her company does is arrange the surgery and she shouldn’t be held accountable if something goes wrong.

    I have personally been sworn at and abused when I refused to engage in this abuse of Angela by those associated with Ms J and think this now has to stop.

  7. Poor woman, how about we all dig deeper and get her repaired on the NHS, cancer patients and children can wait. After that we can get her a brain transplant, put a larger brain in there, perhaps from a vole or sparrow.

  8. I would happily talk to the mirror but they wouldn’t want to talk to me cause i am a success and wouldn’t help to sell there paper.

  9. In a world of no win no fee why cant she get a solicitor to send a letter if she has a case? Oh yeh because she doesn’t have a case

  10. I am glad I read your response to the DailyMail. It was rather tame and restrained towards June.

    To think I was initially taken in by this crazy women and her stories. I cannot believe the audacity of the women as if you’d book and go for a second procedure if the first was not perfect.

    I hope her medication kicks in soon for your sake

  11. it just makes me so angry i hate liars. People can say what they want to the papers and they will publish it cause it will makes a good read !!!! and not forgetting Mrs Jonigk also got PAYED for talking shit, it all boils down to how much money can she get. Grrrrrrrrrrrrr

  12. Good Morning Angela,

    What an eloquently worded response to what is obviously an unjustified attack.
    I am delighted with my recent eye surgery which as you know is my second very successful procedure.

    Kind Regards

    Paul Rodger

  13. I had my TT with Secret Surgery December 2012 and can honestly say I am very happy with the results
    Dr W worked miracles on my stomach and had left me now 7 months on with an almost invisible scar icod not have asked for more

    I am 100% happy with my surgery and from the treatment I relieved from Dr W the clinic and especially from Angela Chouaib

    Kind Regards

    Miss Durham

    1. Many thanks for taking the time to respond and share your experience – Interestingly I recall the reason you booked was after Ms J waxing lyrical about her wonderful experience x

      1. Exactly. As you state I was inspired to book my surgery by the lady in question and your service was recommended by her

  14. I read this after a comment under the DM directing me to it. Glad you clarified the situation and it now all makes perfect sense.

  15. Here is another post from a friend of Ms J of which is rather childish… I hope they didn’t get 3rd degree burns…

    “once a liar always a liar!!!!! ”

    “Nice try cholubollocks”

    “How much have you paid everyone….. ”

    “sado”

  16. The Internet doesnt lie… see Google+ https://plus.google.com/111042229406044752214/reviews

    EuroMediCare. Szpital Specjalistyczny
    Pilczycka 144-148, 54-144 Wrocław, Poland
    I was so impressed with the cleanliness and comfort provided by EMC. I had a tummy tuck on 23/08/12 by Dr. Wojciech Waclawowicz, the most caring, honest, and skilful surgeon. At first consultation he asked what my expectations were, and told me what I could realistically expect from the surgery. I went to theatre early in the morning, and before I knew it I woke up in intensive care, where they keep you for 24 hours after surgery as a routine. A lovely nurse Margaret looked after me, always concerned that I should not have any pain (which I didn’t!). I had expected to be in agony, and unable to stand up fully for a few days, but later in the afternoon I got up to use the bathroom, and apart from being a bit light headed, I felt fine. I was impressed that most of the nurses spoke English, and there was never a difficulty with communication. The rooms were comfortable, and Dr W was present at every dressing change. I expected to go to my hotel 2 days post op, but Dr W wanted me to stay an extra day as one of my drains was still collecting fluid. I knew I was in the right place, and was happy to stay the extra night. I returned daily for dressing changes, and 4 days after my tummy tuck, I had upper eyelid surgery, again performed by the wonderful Dr.Waclawowicz. It was done under local and was a quick and painless procedure. I had a fantastic few days in Wroclaw, and fell in love with Poland and the Polish people. I had no problem touring the shops 3 days after having a tummy tuck – I still find that amazing! I had the sutures removed just before I went home 9 days after my tummy tuck, and 5 days after eyelid surgery. The upper eyelid scars after 5 days were barely visible. I was sad to say goodbye to Poland, but will be back in Dec for breast uplift. EMC is the best 🙂
    • • •
    Quality: Excellent
    Public – 8 months ago

  17. I had my TT Nov 2011 I was absolutely over the moon with service from secret surgery and the wonderful hands of Dr,W. I would recommend secret surgery to anyone and I would return for future procedures. Keep up the good work and great piece on setting the record straight 😉

  18. Can’t believe this is still on going! I don’t understand why she has this vendetta. You your company and the medical staff over in Poland are amazing People who changed my life for the better. The service you offer is 2nd to none and the many people you’ve helped can vouch for that x

  19. I’ve just got back from Poland with Secret Surgery…two major procedures and one smaller procedure in 3 weeks….couldn’t have dreamt about better care…..would do it all again in a breath…..treatment and care was second to none…thank you Angela and the whole team….

  20. I was out in Poland when Juney was out there. I am happy to chat to anyone and have nothing to hide and no agenda or anything to gain in anyway, but I was grateful for all the support I received from everyone pre and post op.

  21. Had tummy tuck in 2012, delighted with the result, fantastic support by Angela, Aga and the team. Dr W a great surgeon and true gentleman, would not hesitate to do it again, wish I’d have done it sooner

  22. My mum had full face neck lift and eye lid correction after being recommended by another friend if hers who also had the same op. as a result of that I am booked in fur breast enlargement and eye lid correction in 3 weeks. I too read the article whilst in Portugal on my hols.

    I was very apprehensive after reading it but what you have to remember is that’s one person view on her experience which clearly was fabricated somewhat in order to make money. There are individuals out there that actually do this for a living making lots of money out of companies along the way!

  23. I cant believe what i have just read in the mail on Sunday regarding Juney jonigk experience with secret surgery. It is the biggest crock of shite ever. So many lies……. Why cant people tell the truth…… money grabbing bast**ds, that’s what all this shite is about. If surgery was that bad WHY would you go back to the same surgeon for more surgery !!!!! It just makes me so angry if you have a point to make then do it but at least tell the truth. For all those people who are thinking about going through secret surgery do your own research and make YOUR own mind up. There are LOTS and LOTS of people including myself who have used secret surgery and i would highly recommend Secret-Surgery and Dr W. I had my tummy tuck done by Dr W September 2012 and i intend to have a pubic lift and breast lift in the near future.

  24. Well done for being so professional and dignified about all of this Angela 😊 I’m still annoyed at Ms J’s parting shot after some vindictive and nasty comments – “the newspaper wouldn’t print it without proof”!!! Hmmm yes I believe every word I read in the newspapers because it’s all been proven….don’t we all?!?
    Stay strong 😊 xx

  25. Here is an extract of post from a supporter of Ms J who felt the need to write an abusive post… I think Vanessa is rather upset today as she used her ‘real name’ in a public domain which is of course my fault too!

    “Angela ur the liar you ripped so many people off”
    “ur a horrible person and u won’t bully me or any of my friends”
    “u haven’t got a clue as a business women or human being”

  26. This is a post from the women who started the whole hate campaign – just to show you that she contacts me daily despite everything. I wont give any satisfaction by posting the whole rant but here is some random key bits…

    The comments included
    “Sort yourself out woman!”
    “This will go on and on, and get worse and worse”
    “How do you sleep at night?”

    Ohhh and a bit about paying her money too!

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