A little over a month ago, our store was running a coupon promotion. As with any coupon offer, Medicare and Medicaid patients were excluded.
Well... one woman with a long history of being a royal pain in the ass came in and complained that the coupon offer was discriminating against Medicaid patients like herself. I explained to her that it was a federal law and not simply a store policy. She would not hear it. She proceeded to lash out about not only the coupon, but also about how the entire pharmacy staff was "incompetent." She said that her doctor told her that she hates the pharmacy staff and refuses to call in prescriptions to our pharmacy. The doctor supposedly makes an exception for this one woman because it's convenient for her to use our pharmacy. She wanted my name, the pharmacy managers name, the store license number, and any other information she could get so that she could go complain to the state board of pharmacy about how we were treating her.
I called a manager over to the pharmacy counter to help deal with her outburst. This particular manager was a good guy, and he stood up for the pharmacy and staff while telling the woman that the law prevented her from getting the 20% off coupon.
The conflict did not end here though. Unsatisfied, the woman went and complained to the manager of the entire store. Acting under the retarded principle that the customer is always right, the store manager gave her a 20% coupon and apologized for whatever inconvenience she had.
In doing this, the store manager (who knows absolutely nothing about pharmacy) made us all look like assholes. He broke the law in order to please one bitch of a customer who, being on Medicaid, can't afford to do much business with the store anyway.
Why do we even have these laws if they get overturned at the slightest complaint? I brought this to the attention of my pharmacy manager, and he actually took the side of the store manager. His rationale was that it's better to just quell her complaints now before she takes the issue to the board of pharmacy.
I was not at all satisfied with this explanation, and I let him know it. I made a decision... actually it wasn't even a decision since I was simply following the law. When I have absolutely no support from my pharmacy manager and my store manager in backing up what I believe was the correct response to her coupon tirade, it makes it look like I'm the one that was wrong and the moron customer was right.
This wasn't the first issue we've had at our pharmacy where our initial by-the-book judgement was questioned. Almost a year ago, another customer with a long history of being an asshole came in on a Saturday looking for a refill on his insulin. He had no refills remaining, so the pharmacy manager (a different pharmacist than the current one) told him that we'd give his doctor a call for him on Monday morning. He wanted his insulin at that moment and would not wait until Monday. The pharmacy manager asked him if he had any insulin left, to which the customer replied that he had enough for several days. Therefore, since the customer was not in danger of running out of insulin, the pharmacy manager told him that he would have to wait until we got refill authorization from the doctor.
The man flipped out. He started calling the pharmacy manager (Tom) a "pompous asshole" He said that Tom was on an egotistical power-trip, and he threatened to contact the board of pharmacy unless he got his insulin at that moment. Tom simply looked at him and smiled and told him that he will wait until Monday.
After firing off a few more insults (to which Tom kept smiling and gave him some smartass remarks back) the man walked away. During the following week, we got a visit from someone from that Board of Pharmacy. He asked Tom for his side of the incident. Tom told him the entire truth, and amazingly, it actually exactly matched what the customer had told the board. Tom had every right to tell that man we could not fill his precription. However, the guy from the Board of Pharmacy basically told Tom that this customer was "a very demanding man," and in the future, we should pretty much do whatever he wants just to avoid some kind of incident.
That was the stance from the FUCKING STATE BOARD OF PHARMACY!!!! "Just give him whatever he wants." They basically said, "We don't want any problems, so go ahead and break the law so we don't have to deal with it." However, you know that if we dispensed that insulin to him without a prescription, and he somehow had some incident due to a change of dose or medication that we weren't aware of, the Board of Pharmacy would be the first ones to throw us under the bus for it.
How can we use our professional judgement if whenever a customer disagrees with it, they can simply go over our heads and get our decisions overturned? That's not right, and quite frankly, it's dangerous. Otherwise, why bother even having all these dispensing laws?
What made me think of this after all this time was reading the Angriest Pharmacist's post about how he threw out a customer who treated him like shit. It got me to thinking how I'd love to be able to do that with a few of our customers. I've been sworn at, insulted, and borderline humiliated by customers, but if I say the slightest thing back to them, they can run to the store manager and get ME in trouble.
I firmly believe that in order for a pharmacy to be run safely and effectively, it has to be treated as a separate entity from the store. The pharmacy manager should have the final say on any issue that involves the pharmacy. Furthermore, unless a pharmacist's decision is blatantly wrong or endangers the saftey of a patient in some way, the decision should not be overturned if a customer decides to climb the ladder of authority. We cannot practice our profession while worrying that every decision we make will be undermined or overruled by someone above us.