Try those moves on some other pharmacist


How to handle the folks who think that none of the rules apply to them


Not in my house, you don’t. She was a young woman, on top of it. Usually the type to brandish an imperious attitude and make unreasonable demands is an older woman with a well-honed affectation of righteous indignation. With this girl, I downright refused to even attempt to deal with her problem. I wasn’t the least bit shy about saying, “I’m a pharmacist. It’s not my job.”

It was 9:30 p.m. on a Friday night. The technician had just left for the day, not five minutes earlier.

I elucidated. “Researching your insurance claim is not a pharmacist’s job.” I said. “It is the technician’s job.”

Drawing the line

I can count on two hands the number of times that I had attempted to fix an insurance problem during the seven years that I worked for this company. I figured that if the drugstore company that pays me wanted me to walk away from a pharmacist’s duties to do the tasks of a billing clerk, it would have given me the time and proper training for the job.

I am not ignorant of the procedures, by the way. My job in a village independent pharmacy in Vermont was three-headed: Pharmacist, technician, and cashier.

However, with this young woman’s attitude, if there were other people struggling in the river, I would save all of them first. Suit yourself, lady.

“What do you mean, it’s not your job?” She pulled herself as tall as she could get and slammed her hips with her fists, doing her best Wonder Woman impersonation. It appeared that her next step would be to kick my ass.

“Your co-pay is $29.97,” I said. I wrote down the claim number for her and suggested that she call the 800 number on the back of her insurance card for an answer to the question of why her copay was so high when it should only be $10.

Meanwhile, I was thinking, I don’t like the way she’s crowding the counter, claiming territory by dumping her purse. Why do I have to put up with this? Am I supposed to stop what I was doing for the pregnant woman who was the picture of polite patience and had little English, to try to answer a common co-pay question for a common bully?

Make my day

I had actually been looking at the history of her prescription when she jumped me. I could take 10 seconds to do that.

“Do you know who I am?” she demanded. She bellied closer to where I was working at the technician’s station. It felt like an invasion of my personal space, which was probably her precise intention.

I turned and looked at her, making eye contact for a good 30 seconds. That was how long it would take for a less experienced pharmacist to arrive at: Holy crap, who is she? Maybe I better just do what she wants me to do. Get her out of here faster.

What I did was show her my blandest face. I held my arms out at my sides, palms up. I gave her no hint as to what I was thinking.

 “You wouldn’t treat me like this if you knew who I am,” she hissed.

I shrugged and stepped back toward her. There, right then, I saw her resolve weaken. She blinked. I noticed her jewelry. Lots of gold, a few diamonds, some rubies. Too much for a girl her age. A trophy wife? A spoiled daughter? There are cultures that put a lot of importance on ostentatious wealth. 

I have found that the worst bullies are righteous women who believe in their own entitlement. Plenty of men could break me in half. Nasty women make up for their lack of physical strength with vicious tongues.

“You ordered 90 tablets. $29.97.” A notation on the screen said patient request.

“That’s wrong.”

Her co-pay came to $10 for 30 tablets. That’s when she handed me a $25 coupon for a transferred prescription.

Later, I checked her record. It was her only prescription with us, transferred from a major chain that morning.

All I can say about that is: When are the Masters of the Universe going to stop being stupid?

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