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 ; )