Why I Fired My Corporate Pharmacy And Went Back To Basics

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

old-drugstoreThere are some things in this world that are made to be so easy they become aggravatingly complicated, undeniably annoying, and leave us wondering why we bother. So began a devolution as some might call it and I went back to the local option. I cannot see a reason to return.

This is how I abandoned the local option, embraced Corporate American Drugstores, and finally realized what I had lost and how I could regain it.

Flashback to the early 1970’s if you would. I lived then in a low-res, low speed town in Eastern Washington. Being in good health but having chronic allergies to pets I frequently sneezed and had difficulty breathing. At the time there was only one pharmacy in my hometown and a few across the river. They were all pharmacist owned. One in fact actually had a soda fountain and my grandma would take me there for my favorite strawberry ice cream soda and a phosphate. It was a wonderful life you might say.

In fact, the only med I remembered was an antihistamine liquid my Dad called “Green Telephone Medicine” to coax me into summoning the fortitude to drink it.

Yet getting a prescription involved taking a script to the same pharmacist, picking it up later or calling in a refill. Again, it was low-res, low speed.

Later, at sixteen I began working for Safeway which introduced the notion of the grocery store pharmacy. Out of convenience I switched to the pharmacy there.

And from there forward began my introduction to drug sellers of Corporate America. I stayed with Safeway when I went to college, which probably was good because their computer system caught a potentially fatal drug interaction from a new script and blocked the pharmacist from filling it. Thus, I tied myself in more ways than just convenience and multiple locations.

Years later the convenience of not only multiple locations, but the ability to refill scripts at any location attracted me to another provider. They later implemented online prescription management. Now I could order refills online and have them ready at any pharmacy I wanted. This was especially useful for when out of town on business. I could chat online with a pharmacy tech if I had questions. Updates were emailed along with reminders of upcoming refill dates, and they featured a new bonus: prescriptions mailed to my house. What more could one ask for? Well…

As with most systems, the more complex it is, the fault prone it can become.

This supremely user friendly, high-res and high-speed computer based pharmacy with features galore began to metastasize into a convoluted and over-engineered mess.

The mail order aspect was worse enough. Occasionally the meds would be shipped overnight mail because the system in Arizona forgot to send the meds until I nearly ran out. Sometimes they did and this necessitated me going to the local store and try to fix it. Of course, nobody at the local store could offer help because the mail order system did not talk to theirs, in fact they would always say to go home and send an email to Arizona or log in to the webpage and chat. But, they wanted the exact prescription which forced me to dig through the list of every prescription I had ever had filled by the pharmacy to see which one, in what dosage, it actually was.

We can always use a better perspective

Then being required to suffer email sent out every two days about offers from the pharmacy, forcing me to finally dig through matrixes of cascading privacy settings to eliminate the spam but needing to keep the prescription updates because, occasionally, the med would not refill for some reason and I was expected to contact my doctor and enquire why was about as frustrating to me as it is to you the reader trying to extract what is going on during this equally convoluted, paragraph length, run-on sentence.

Finally, after two years of this, I snapped after finding out they mailed meds to the wrong address—the fourth time. I drove over to, shall we say, “voice my displeasure” with the pharmacy and their prescription drug system that was gravely contraindicated for the chronic headache they were causing. But then it finally occurred to me after all these years–why did I abandon the neighborhood drug store? What was I gaining from Corporate American Pharmacies?

For the first time I walked into the Mom & Pop pharmacy I drove by dozens of times previously. It was similar to my home town childhood pharmacy: the gift section; the over the counter section; and birthday cards. Oddly, when I picked up a bottle of aspirin and looked onto the shelf there was no price on the front. I thought, “Why would someone buy this when they don’t even tell you how much it costs?” But then I turned the bottle around and saw a price tag sticker on it. The type I remembered that was used decades ago. It brought me a bit of a laugh.

I walked to the counter and talked to the pharmacist. One can always tell when the person you are talking with is the owner of the business. They have an aura of pride and genuine interest in talking. I enquired about the pharmacy, what their hours were, and if they stocked the meds I needed. He said they close at 6:00 PM and they are not open Sundays. Two prescriptions will need to be ordered from their supplier since they are uncommon and will need a two day lead time. That’s basically it; no 24 hour seven day a week hours, no online chat, no instant refills, no photo-lab, no e-mail reminders, and no mail order conveniences. It was low-res, low-speed and exactly what I wanted.

I fired Corporate America.

Since then my prescription regiment remains graciously devolved. About a week before I run out of pills I call my pharmacist and tell him what I need. He says when it will be ready. I drive down later and pick it up. That folks is all you truly need in a pharmacy.

Last time I dropped by My Pharmacy, a sign swung along the front door. It read, “Excuse our mess. We are remodeling.” Refreshing it is to see, a local pharmacy expanding its business despite all the big box store retailers and their employees in the state legislature putting up barriers.

Hopefully they are adding a Soda Fountain.

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

32 thoughts on “Why I Fired My Corporate Pharmacy And Went Back To Basics”

  1. Gina … forgot to mention that our dogs have occasionally required expensive Rx’s…and our local small vet provides them at 10 to 20+% less than anyone on line or in a corporate pharmacy. Win-Win there, too 🙂

  2. Gina … I agree that supporting a local business is laudable and win-win when you find one. I do support all the local shops for a wide range of commodities and supplies, never use Wal-Mart or the Malls which are plentiful hear-by. In my diatribe above I did mention one good mom & pop pharmacy near me, but their hours are too limited for me to use regularly. Otherwise I live in a densely populated urban setting and the vast majority of pharmacies are corporate and they are usually the ones with pharmacists who argue about prescriptions frequently. Thus I utilize my hospital system’s outlets…although they are a large local non-profit organization (that always stays in the black), they have the means and professionalism to handle my needs without debate…and they have a direct link to most of my doctors as well…an advantage perhaps others can’t enjoy due to an absence of such facilities. Main point: even though large, my choice is definitely a “local” outfit.

  3. Unfortunately, some dogs *do* do drugs, BarkinDog! After the sticker shock of paying CVS for my pup’s first pricy little vial (administered orally via syringe), I did some research. A local mom&pop matched the price I found on the internet, $20 less than CVS. Money in my pocket while supporting a local biz; win-win!

  4. There’s also a mid-level… we do most of our pharmacy biz through the closest branch of our regional (PNW), employee-owned economy “dept. store”, Bi-Mart. They have a little of everything, stock with American-made where they can, and have a great pharmacy.

  5. My local mom-and-pop pharmacy also calls to remind me when I have an Rx that will soon need to be refilled. Even if you are counting pills, injections, or inhaler puffs every day, this is a much-appreciated personal service … and one that I didn’t have to ask for.

  6. I love this article. I, too, use the local pharmacist-owned pharmacy. It’s amazing that you can actually talk to a human being, who knows about your medication, and just physically go get what you need instead of hoping it gets mailed to you in time.

  7. Issac: Best comments on a topic all year. The Canadian drug company is good information. However, dogs don’t do drugs. So, that one does not apply for me. I hate the drug ads on tv which have: Ask your doctor.

  8. Darren, I always enjoy reading your articles. I have been preaching returning to basic mom and pop establishments since we owned our own mom and pop True Value Hardware store several years ago.
    We witnessed the big box corporations move into our area and destroy small businesses within a 35 miles radius. Believe it or not, one Home Depot sent 75-100 businesses to their doom. Not only the retail hardware stores, but paint stores, electrical, plumbing, lumber, gardening and other stores as well. In addition, Small wholesale suppliers were forced to close their doors too.
    We survived! We were one of the few who were able to hang on–and 61 years later our old business continues to thrive, because of loyal customers.
    When you support small businesses you will find that it’s nice to be known by your name and/or your face. It’s great to get to know the local business people on a more personal basis and to build a close community.
    Yes, it may cost a few pennies more and mean a little inconvenience, but the it’s worth it.

  9. I just moved all my RXs to a small local pharmacy. I was dealing with CVS who I switched to after Walgreens screwed up too many times. I really hate modern retail corporate policies that seem fit only to allow useless employees to hide behind. There is no one to take responsibility and get the job done. I could never depend on CVS or Walgreens to keep my pain meds in stock when I needed a refill. The new pharmacy already knows my name, they moved all my RXs in a couple of days. It takes them a few minutes to do a refill, they also stocked my pain meds so they can refill them as needed. I look forward to doing business with them even tho’ I have to drive a bit, but they do free deliveries if I need them. Goodbye large corporate pharmacies!

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