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Don’t be a sitting duck: When pharmacy customers attack, squawk!


Pharmacists take heat every day from belligerent patients and bullying managers - because they allow it. Here are three words: Corporate Compliance Officer.

“What’s going on?” The nonpharmacist store manager shuffled some papers while he tried to figure out what to say. He knew me well enough to realize that he was on the spot and I wasn’t going to let him off the hook.

The staff pharmacist had been crying. “I didn’t do anything wrong,” she said, wiping her eyes.

The technician handed her some tissues. “That woman is a racist,” she said. “She’s told me before that her father fought the Japanese in the war and she didn’t like it that her pharmacist is one.”

“Tran is Vietnamese,” I objected. What was going on here?

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Tran repeated. For the record, she was a born-and-raised-in-the-U.S. American citizen. 

“The manager wrote her up this morning.”

I looked at Tran. “Why?”

“That woman complained to corporate that I was rude. I didn’t do anything wrong.”

The R word

Rude. What a time bomb for pharmacists. It’s just a word, but it is the word. It’s the only chapter in “The Handbook for Moaning Patients Who Do Not Get What They Want from the Pharmacist.”

The ones who scream rude are the smart rats who have figured out how to get the pharmacist (or the technician) into trouble. Rudeness is when the pharmacist tells them that their prescription: 1. Will take too long. 2. Has no refills. 3. Has a Copay of $30. 4. Is hydrocodone 5 mg and they want 10 mg. 5. No, I will not call the doctor. 6.

Or they have been told: 1. I don’t care what the nurse told you, they have not called in your prescription. 2. I can’t help you when you are on the cell phone. 3. No, I won’t wait a minute. 4. The drive-through is a convenience, Ma’am, it is not an express lane.

Somewhere at your corporate headquarters is the Rudeness Marionette. I made him up - but did I? His job is to start the reprimanding of rude associates. He deals with rudeness charges all day long. He is a jerky guy, so much so that he seems to have a neurological problem. The phone rings and he jumps. He gets a complaining e-mail and he twitches. He keeps a tote board. He loves it when he can put a check mark in the Pharmacy column.

I can’t believe that these companies have not figured out that they are like monkeys in a cage. Rude is the stick that is poked between the bars. Rude is what gets action. There is no excuse for rudeness and the smart rats know it. All they have to do is accuse a nice girl, such as a small, pretty, timid Vietnamese American pharmacist, with being rude and her day, maybe her month, would be ruined. 

The blame game

A 19-year-old woman (new patient) accused me of being rude. She charged me with gender discrimination. Her prescription was for testosterone. I said, “The computer is having a problem with this and you know why.”

She nodded. Yes, she understood.

This kid was taking hormones in preparation for gender reassignment. I apologized for the fact that we were out of the 1.0-mL amps and told her that they were back-ordered. Her next stop was her PC; in an hour she had sent an e-mail to corporate.

I am savvy about this. I refused to sign the Marionette’s company form, but I did answer with a three-page letter that included words such as my reputation, professional judgment, tasteless and sham accusation. I suggested that nonpharmacist management should butt out of pharmacy matters. What got attention was my stated intention to forward a copy to the Corporate Compliance Officer.

My advice: Never sign anything and stand up for yourself. You are the pharmacist, not the guy processing one-hour photos.

Another good one gone

About Tran, the store manager said, “I had to. It was a corporate complaint.”

“It was a BS complaint.”

 “I still had to.” He handed me some papers. “Sign it.”

I tore it up instead. He froze. “You can’t do that.”

 “I’m still the supervisor in the pharmacy.” I didn’t want to lose a terrific pharmacist. But the damage was done.

Tran quit within a month and we got a guy who really was rude. But he looked like an apple-pie-eating, flag-waving Amurrican boy, so I guess that was okay. 

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