Wednesday, February 09, 2005

"Pharmacies from Hell" and What to Do About Them

This is not going to be a very positive blog.

There are three pharmacies located in the upscale neighborhood near my University. I have an exceedingly simple prescription that needs to be filled periodically. The pharmacist's principal task is to place a label on a bottle. Both pharmacies I have tried have an automated call-in prescription system. Over the past eight months, and five or six transactions, not one as been without incident. The prescription could not be found; it was mislabled or mis priced; there should have been two bottles of the medicine, but was only one. If I did not know exactly what I was supposed to receive and what it should cost, I would have been mislead in one way or another, every time.

Hoping to receive better service, I switched to a second pharmacy. There staff kept me standing at the counter nearly 50 minutes and not because of a baclog of orders. The problem: the listing of my name and address were incorrect and it took that amount of time for the clerk to enter it correctly. There was no apology. No acknowledgement that I had been inconvenienced. No recognition that I should have a reasonable expectation of more efficient, courteous service. Nothing.

After this experience, I returned to the first pharmacy and they got my prescription wrong once again. It took only about 20 minutes of waiting to make an adjustment, but I have to return next week because the medicine needed was partially out of stock.

What to do? Skills learned in nearly forty years of travel in Global South nations and experience in obtaining necessary documents from global south government bureaucracies have proved helpful. Be patient but firm! If rage is boiling within you, don't express it! Keep smiling, but keep your place in line. If the official says "take a seat" don't - remain an unwavering presence within his or her field of vision. When you are finally served, say "thank you." You might need help from this person agian. If you have the time, fill out a comment form, if available or write to corporate headquarters. However trying to set things right in these disfunctional establishments could become a full-time occupation.

I am looking forward to my next Sri Lankan visit, coming up shortly. There, public officials may struggle with complex regulations, lack of automation and limited resources. But they are far more courteous and committed to being helpful than the sullen, indifferent lot who seem to have found postings as pharmacists and pharmacy clerks in Northwest Washington, DC. (In fairness, I did encounter one - but only one - who was civil, pleasant, and helpful).

In fact, I will be taking my prescription with me - and expecting better service.


Anonymous Maeve said...

Gha! I've had a horrible time with pharmacies in the Spring Valley area to the point that I just get all of medicines in bulk at home where people are friendly and nice. Hopefully I won't need to take a trip to the Pharamcy here in Rome... as friendly as the people are it can take forever to get anything from over a counter... from a gelato to box of band-aids on a shelf.
Wishing you better luck and a wonderful trip to Sri Lanka,

8:37 AM  

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