Ears Pierced and Pockets Picked

Not that The Curmudgeon knows this from personal experience – he had to look it up to write this piece – but if you go to the mall and stop by the Piercing Pagoda, they’ll pierce your ears for free if you buy a pair of earrings there.  They sell a lot of earrings for less than $100, too, so if you really want your ears pierced, that seems like the way to go. Is it safe?  The Curmudgeon suspects it is:  after all, the 19-year-old with the lip piercing and tattoos who’s snapping her gum the entire time she talks to you probably pierces more ears in a week than your family doctor does in an entire year.

But it can cost more elsewhere, depending on who’s doing the piercing.

How much more?

So glad you asked.

The online site Pro Publica reports that the Children’s Hospital of Colorado recently charged a family $1877.86 to pierce the ears of its five-year-old.


We’ll let Pro Publica tell the story.

Two years ago, Margaret O’Neill brought her 5-year-old daughter to Children’s Hospital Colorado because the band of tissue that connected her tongue to the floor of her mouth was too tight. The condition, literally called being “tongue-tied,” made it hard for the girl to make “th” sounds.

 It’s a common problem with a simple fix: an outpatient procedure to snip the tissue.

During a pre-operative visit, the surgeon offered to throw in a surprising perk. Should we pierce her ears while she’s under?

 O’Neill’s first thought was that her daughter seemed a bit young to have her ears pierced. Her second: Why was a surgeon offering to do this? Wasn’t that something done free at the mall with the purchase of a starter set of earrings? 

 “That’s so funny,” O’Neill recalled saying. “I didn’t think you did ear piercings.”

The surgeon, Peggy Kelley, told her it could be a nice thing for a child, O’Neill said. All she had to do is bring earrings on the day of the operation. O’Neill agreed, assuming it would be free.

 Her daughter emerged from surgery with her tongue newly freed and a pair of small gold stars in her ears.

Well, that’s nice, right?


At first, O’Neill assumed the bill was a mistake. Her daughter hadn’t needed her ears pierced, and O’Neill would never have agreed to it if she’d known the cost. She complained in phone calls and in writing.

 The hospital wouldn’t budge. In fact, O’Neill said it dug in, telling her to pay up or it would send the bill to collections. The situation was “absurd,” she said.

So if you ever find yourself with your kids in Colorado and they need a children’s hospital, be sure to stick your wallet in your front pocket or your purse firmly under your arm because the folks who run that place can’t wait to try to pick your pocket.

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