Saturday, September 13, 2008

the daily grind

I get it. I've been on the other side of the counter and I know how frustrating it can be. I know why people sometimes forget their manners. I've certainly been there.

Though my official title is "Pharmacy Assistant" or "Pharmacy Technician B", I am commonly referred to as a cashier. Even so, anyone who thought about it for more than a few seconds could probably guess that my job requires a little more finesse than "cashier" implies.

All day, every day, I patiently and sympathetically explain to irritated customers that we don't have their orders ready because there were no refills left on their prescriptions (which is printed at the bottom of the label, but nobody reads those.) Or because the prescription expired (also printed at the bottom of the label, but . . . )

"It usually requires 24 to 48 hours to hear back from the doctor after we've faxed," I explain with a pleasant smile for the umpteenth time. "Why don't you give us a call tomorrow to see if it's ready instead of wasting a trip," I suggest, thereby uniting myself with their cause.

There is no end to rude people glaring at me as though I am personally to blame for imperfections in electronic technology. "But I watched the doctor send the fax to you and that was 20 minutes ago!" I am commonly told. And I never argue.

"For some reason," I tell them, "it can take up to an hour for that transmission to reach us. Seems like it should be instantaneous, doesn't it? I have no idea why it takes this long. If you have some other shopping to do you could swing back by and see if we've received it. I'll be sure to watch for it."

I give the same answers multiple times each hour, but I'm sincere every time. I really do understand their frustration. And I really do understand how it feels to be sick and to have to sit around and wait when all you want to do is go home and go to bed.

I'm just as sincere with the cranky old bastards whose hearing is non-existent. These men (and sometimes women) who regularly get annoyed with me because they can't understand the transaction. They don't understand why the drugs are so expensive or why they have to wait until the doctor calls us with new dosing instructions before we can give them more. They can't find things on the shelves and have difficulty communicating their needs to me.

And I smile and try to be as cheerful--and helpful--as possible.

Even with the kind of customer like the egocentric bitch from Friday.

She couldn't fathom why her little girl's prescription wasn't ready that very moment since the doctor had called it in to us the night before. I explained that we can't fill a prescription if we don't have the customer on file--that I needed birthdate, physical address, phone number, drug allergy information and insurance information.

She gave me the required information but didn't let go of her fight. "Well, if you needed the information, I'm surprised you didn't call me to ask for it last night." It hasn't occurred to this woman that we have hundreds upon hundreds of customers and if we called every single one when we had a hitch we would have to employ two full time people just to make phone calls. That doesn't matter in her world.

Instead of explaining it to her, I simply said, "We couldn't have called, we didn't have a phone number."

"Oh, that makes sense," she replied. And that was the closest she got to being polite. The transaction went downhill from there because of a glitch on the federal level that I have no control over. She angrily informed me that she would never be back.

I was, of course, courteous. The customer is always right. But we all know I was thinking, "Buh bye!"

Yes, my days are filled with self-centered jerks. But there are also happy customers. Customers who come to know us quite well. Customers who always come in with a smile or a joke. Customers who make a point of thanking us for all we do.

And there are customers who are dying and I'm just happy to see them still coming in. People like Mr. LaGrande (not his real name.) Mr. LaGrande lives with serious pain. Meds only work for awhile before his body adjusts and end-runs them. His doctor is forever prescribing something new.

Several weeks ago, Mr. LaGrande came in with a prescription for Lidoderm patches. His insurance doesn't cover them and a month's supply was going to cost nearly $100. He looked at me with such sadness. "I can't afford these," he confided, "I can't spend $100--especially when I don't know if they'll even work."

"Let's see if we can partially fill the prescription just so you can try it out," I offered.

"You could do that?" he asked.

"I'll check with the pharmacist," I answered.

The pharmacist was able to fill the prescription for one patch--enough to last a couple days and get a good reading on whether it would decrease his pain. The price was only $5.

Mr. LaGrande took my hand in his and thanked me. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you there were tears standing in his eyes as he told me how much it meant to him that we would go out of our way to help him.

For a customer like him? We'd do anything.

Being a cashier isn't such a bad gig.


jenontheedge said...

I just cannot understand people who are rude to grocery store cashiers, restaurant wait staff, or anyone else. Is it really so difficult for them to be polite and considerate?

Storybook Woods said...

Oh you are always polite and sweet as can be. Clarice

Amy said...

Bottom line: Of everyone you could fuck with, the person WITH YOUR DRUGS should be at the bottom of the list. Duh.

xoxo, SG

Jan said...

I've been in retail for almost 20 years now, the last ten part-time, semi-retired. The public treating us like servants is the worse part. The best part is the public who we're able to help, and leaves happy. Luckily, most people are good, and I'm usually happy at the end of my day.