To quote Nobel Prize winning Economist Milton Friedman whom we could SURE all use today - "There is no such thing as a free lunch..." There is ALWAYS a reason why something is "free".
All well trained professional charge for their time. Lawyers do. Accountants do. Even Plumbers do. When a plastic surgeon does not - there is a reason.
Most "free" consultations are nothing of the kind. They are usually short, rushed screenings conducted by a doctor in a hurry or more commonly they are conducted by a patient coordinator which often derives part of her income based on how many of these "free" consultation patients she "converted" (IE sold) into paying patients. Then you will be under more pressure to schedule then and there.
Personally, I charge a small amount for a face to face, unhurried consultation with the patient. If he/she decides to proceed and have the surgery within 6 months of the date of consultation, we deduct the cost of the consultation from the professional fee of the procedure - thereby the consultation REALLY becomes free.
In my opinion, both the surgeon and the patient benefit from this balanced approach.
I hope this was helpful.
Peter A Aldea, MD, FACS