Monday, June 2, 2008

my life as a profiler

Our pharmacy serves both of the local Native American tribes. We bill their primary insurance and their secondary, however, some drugs don't get covered right away. When there's a co-pay, we don't charge the individual tribal customers, we tear the little perforated section off of the paperwork and put it in a special file to be hand billed later.

When I first started working there I was told that I would recognize who was tribal and just to ask the customer which tribe they belonged to so I'd know what to do about the co-pay. I felt like that was bordering on racial profiling just to assume by someone's appearance that they belong to a tribe.

Instead, I politely say something like, "It looks like there's a co-pay for you today." The customer is only too happy to tell me they're tribal. That feels like a diplomatic solution to me.

But the longer I work there, the more accurately I can guess what a customer is likely picking up just based on the way they look.

Within the first week I was able to tell a certain class of people who are there to pick up Vicodin. Yes, it's a socioeconomic class. Sure, there are people from all walks of life who need Vicodin, but the chronic users (borderline abusers) tend to have a certain appearance that's easy to pick out. Maybe it's because they're more likely to have physically demanding jobs that cause injury over time?

Then there are the young, well put together, slim, very good looking girls between 15 and 25 who I can spot from a distance. They're there for birth control pills.

Older men come in for lots of things--Lisinopril, Amlodipine, Coumadin, Simvastatin and invariably Flomax. Lots of Flomax going on with the older gents.

Lately I've noticed another group of men who I can identify while they're standing in line. I can look at a man--usually in his 40s, tall, slender, brown hair, professional--and guess that he's picking up his Viagra. I don't know why men with that particular physical description seem more prone to needing that medication.

Of course there are lots of other men who take ED drugs--older men, much younger men, men of all physical types, but there's something about the tall, successful, 40ish ones that stands out. Something about them that tells me exactly what they're there for and prepares me not to make too much eye contact and to keep the transaction as quick and painless as possible.

And speaking of conducting a non-judgemental transaction, there are the Sunday morning women. Usually in their late 20s to early 30s. They look hurried. And uncomfortable. And embarrassed. And they're coming to us to purchase Plan B. And I always think what a difficult decision they're having to make with very little time to consider it all. So I try to act like there is absolutely nothing special about what they're buying. As though I don't even know what it's for . . .

One drug that I'm not in tune with? The drug that cuts across all lines--gender, age, economic class? Valtrex. You just never can guess who is coming in for Valtrex based solely on their appearance. Herpes is everywhere. You've been warned ; )


ajooja said...

I'm not so thin anymore, and my hair isn't so brown anymore, but I fit into your profile.

I take Cialis because Paxil causes my junk not to work so well. The combination of the two, though, makes me a better person than I am without it.

My insurance company originally forced me to go through Express Scripts mail order. Now, Express Scripts allows me to go to my local pharmacy.

I don't know if I want to do that or not. :)

Storybook Woods said...

Akkk I think that is more then I wanted to know. Now I will be paranoid picking up my prescriptions xoxoxox Clarice

Whitenoise said...

Yikes! No ED drugs here, but is this on my horizon?! Now I'm gonna have performance anxiety!!

Asthmagirl said...

I've always hoped that pharmacies didn't profile. Not that a buttload of inhalers makes much of an impact!

I supposed it's hard not to after a while though. Kind of like working at a restaurant and knowing who's going to order the salad and who will have the steak!

jenontheedge said...

On behalf of pharmacy customers everywhere, I thank you for handling things discreetly and professionally.

A friend of mine here in town has the same name as another women. Their lives overlap and they even use the same pharmacy. My friend has accidentally been given the other woman's meds numerous times, even though she always tells them clearly to check first.

countrymouse said...

ajooja--I was thinking of you as I wrote this. Knowing that you fit this physical type I did wonder. Weird, huh? And now that you mention it, I'll bet there are lots of guys who have the Paxil issues--I wonder if that's the reason for the trend I'm noticing.

Clarice and asthmagirl--nothing to worry about : ) Most of the time I don't even notice what drugs people are picking up.

And asthmagirl--there are lots and lots and lots of folks getting all the same meds you probably have. Part and parcel of living in the NW.

Don't let it worry you, Capt. Noise. There are plenty of guys in your age group and with your physical type who *aren't* taking ED drugs : )

You're welcome, Jen : ) I'm pretty sure that part of the hiring process was feeling me out to see if I could be sensitive about these subjects.

Miss Got Wings said...

you have just given me a priceless education in pharmaceuticals! I hope I would fit into the young, stylish, 20s crowd you're referring to. lol

Jan said...

This is a great post. That is so weird about the ED in 40ish men. I'm one of the Valtrex people. You'd never guess, and mines not for the usual. I get sores on my mouth and my buttock in times of stress, and Valtrex works great. This hasn't happened to me, but I know it works for shingles, too.

Geggie said...

I've often thought that I would be moritified to work at a pharmacy, simply because I'd giggle or say something inappropriate. (much like my regular life.)

Rick said...

I am glad I am not a tall thin professional.

countrymouse said...

Yes, Kate--if I saw you in line I would automatically think "birth control pills" : )

And you're right, Jan--lots of people take Valtrex for other reasons than herpes. And I'll bet many of them are cringing thinking that I'm making an instant judgement!

Geggie, your comment made me laugh. The woman who was there before me actually did make a few comments that were seriously lacking good common sense. One customer was so angry that she lodged a formal complaint with the company.

Rick--you guys are too funny : ) From the men I got one "yes, it's true" response, one "not me!" and one angsty, "oh no--I hope you're not seeing into my future . . . "

BOSSY said...

This is interesting. Bossy's son works in a grocery store, and he likes to build an imaginary profile about the person based on the food in their shopping cart.

countrymouse said...

Omigosh--Bossy, that brings back a terrifically smug, conceited memory from when I was 17 and working at a grocery store. I bagged groceries and was SO JUDGEMENTAL about it!!! "Why would a fat lady buy ice cream and Doritos? When I have children I'm not going to *buy* bread, I'm going to bake it myself. These people are using food stamps, why aren't they buying rice and beans!"

I hate 17 year old me : )