Monday, August 3, 2009

Speaking of Hypocrites.

Over at The Angry Pharmacist, venting continues about inter-store transfer times, which reminded me of one of the most childish things I've seen yet in my admittedly brief pharmacy career.

We're a chain that's known for good customer service; consequentially, when transfers come up at other stores, a lot of them come to us. (And of course, the fuel discounts the chain offers don't hurt matters for corporate either.) Unfortunately for some, that means going to their first choice pharmacy, being told there's none in stock, and having to choose somewhere else before parking themselves at our counter and wondering why we don't have the medication already bagged and waiting for them as though we'd laid the pre-filled vials like eggs. "Bob at Competitor was going to call you!"

(A note about Bob at Competitor: I'm sure he, at one point, was a nice guy. But, having been in pharmacy longer than I've been alive, he's now... grumpy. Pretty damn grumpy. That doesn't mean he's bad at his job, just that, well... sometimes he makes it harder on himself.)

So, I don't know what happened in this 80 Rx/day store that meant a Medicare patient came to us for her blood pressure medication, but there she and her son stood, already irritated that they'd have to wait while Pharmacist Charming called Bob.

(A note about Pharmacist Charming: He has a way with people that I've learned *so* much from in the short time he's been working with us. Mostly I'm impressed by his ability to smile and be sweet to an idiot's face without batting an eyelash, and then turn the air blue with highly intelligent and pointed invective the minute the waste of pills is out of ear shot. Old women love him. Cranky old men think he's a great guy. New mothers think he's a life saver. For customer to pharmacist interactions, he's probably one of our top 3 people, and he's about the only one that will go to bat for the techs, which says a lot to me.)

So, Pharm. Charming tells these transfer customers that he'll call Bob for them and get it ready as quickly as he can. He calls Competitor, and their tech puts him on hold. But, Pharm. Charming made a mistake at the beginning of that phone call: he told the tech at Competitor what store he was calling from. Bob, you see, has a grudge. Our chain has taken a lot of business away from his, which I'm sure has caused him more stress than I care to list, but suffice to say he probably deserves better. I can only think of one pharmacist (and he's that in name only) that doesn't deserve better than what he or she gets from corporate-run retail pharmacy. (Even chain gang workers are allowed to stop to pee on occasion.)

Anyway, ten minutes later, Pharm. Charming is still on hold with Competitor, and Transfer Customers ask for the first time how much longer.

Ten minutes after that, Pharm. Charming is still on hold, and Transfer Customers ask how long a second time.

Five minutes after that, Pharm. Charming is *still on hold*, Transfer Customers are breathing fire, and someone suggests that the next tech to get a break walk across the street to Competitor to see what's going on. Just as someone at Competitor finally picked up the phone again, a fellow tech walked into the store with her cell phone and looked back at the pharmacy. Not a soul in sight, except the tech that appeared to be doing something with a computer terminal, and Bob, who by that point was screaming into the phone. Other Tech came back in time to witness Transfer Patients giving Pharm. Charming and everyone else within ear shot a verbal whupping as they were finally being rung out. They apparently called Competitor's customer service line and raised the roof on the place there too, because later that night, after Pharm. Charming finally got to go home and watch his hockey/baseball/basketball game, Bob at Competitor called.

Bob was not a happy man when I picked up that phone, though I give him credit for allowing me to get through our ridiculously long mandatory phone answering spiel before barking "Get me your pharmacist NOW!" I relayed this message word for word to the closing pharmacist, affectionately known as Mama Bear. (If it looks like a bear, acts like a bear, and talks like a bear... you don't want to piss it off.) After the initial "Pharmacist speaking, can I help you?" I didn't hear much of anything clearly for a while. The ranting came through the phone line easily enough 10' away, but most of the words weren't intelligible, aside from the occasional curse word and "waiting that long". In the mean time, Mama Bear's face turned so many varying shades of red I started to wonder if someone was going to have to get the portable defibrillator by the end of the call.

Eventually, Mama Bear said she would not tolerate that kind of behavior toward a fellow professional pharmacist and hung up on him.

He called back. She took the phone again, and it was round two. This time, apparently, threats were made about calling our corporate headquarters and the district manager personally. "Go right ahead," Mama Bear suggested, and hung up again.

*He called back again*, and Mama Bear went off. "This is the most unprofessional behavior I have ever seen from a pharmacist and I've been at this since 1971. You're tying up my phone line, which is keeping me from answering another copy call, and threatening me and my staff over something that is entirely *your fault*. If you call us back again I will report you to the State Board as well as your corporate office. Go get something to eat and have a cup of coffee. You need it!"

The next morning, Bob from Competitor called back. He let me get through our ridiculously long mandatory phone answering spiel, and politely asked for a pharmacist. "It's Bob at Competitor. I'm calling to see if you have any [some kind of common drug] in stock, and if we'd be able to borrow some until our order comes in. May I speak to a pharmacist?" Being a good little minion, I told the 'transfers and problems' pharmacist that Bob from Competitor was on Line 3. The pharmacy was suddenly silent, and significant glances passed between Pharm. Charming, Mama Bear, and Young'un, who was handling problems and transfers that morning.

She opened the line after filing something (probably PA paperwork), listened, and put him back on hold. Bob at Competitor didn't even have to wait five minutes. "Of course, we have a full stock bottle here, 500 tabs. Will that do you?" and Bob's (poor!) tech came over to get it and thank us for the favor.

But what, you may be wondering, had Other Tech seen when she visited Competitor the day before? Bob's computer screen... and a poker game on PAUSE.

To this day, he still throws a fit if he waits more than 5 minutes for a pharmacist.
To this day, I haven't seen one of our pharmacists wait *less* than 5 minutes for Bob to answer the phone.

Pot, meet kettle. You're a pharmacist.

*Please note, these names are not those of actual patients, pharmacists, drugs involved in the situation, etc.

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