Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Another Long Term Goal Accomplished

The blog posting has been inconsistent to put it mildly. I apologize for this. I've been insanely busy over the last month or so. The reason for the intermittent posting: Pharmacy Mike is finally a home owner.

Well... not quite yet. I haven't closed yet, but my bid for a condo was accepted, and by this time next month, I should be getting ready to move into my new home. If you're one of the two or three people who have been following my blog, you'd know that I was a longtime proponent of renting, at least in my financial situation. However, I just felt like I probably wouldn't find a better time than now to buy. I had a large down payment saved up. The housing prices are decent. The condo is even closer to work than I live now. I could have waited another couple of years, but it probably would not have had a better financial situation to buy than now, so I pulled the trigger.

It's not my dream condo, but it's nice enough and definitely a significant upgrade from my current living situation. It's fully livable right now, but I'm going to do a little bit of work to it (mostly cosmetic). It's a townhouse style condo, so it basically feels like I have my own house sans the yard work. I like it now, and after I make some changes, I'm going to really like it. I guess that's the most important thing.

The logistics of moving in to a new place and setting everything up is making me a little nervous, but overall, I feel very happy to be working towards another major goal in my life. I always like to be working towards goals. When I was in college, my goal was to graduate Pharmacy School. After graduating, my next goal was to pass my boards. After passing my boards and getting my pharmacist license, my next goal was to move out of my parents house. That's when I got my apartment, and I kept telling myself that I'd stay in that apartment until I had enough money for a down payment that would make my mortgage about the same as my rent. It took me a little over 2 years, but I was able to do just that.

Over the next couple of years, I'll be working on turning my condo into my home. I like having a purpose. I like having direction. I felt my life had stagnated over the last couple of years because I was doing the same thing day in and day out just waiting until I could take that next step. Buying this condo and the work I will be putting into i give me a reason to go to work every day.

I'm not sure what the next goal after this one is. I guess for the time being it doesn't matter. I'll be focused on this one for the next couple of years. Maybe afterwards, I can go back to thinking about relationships. Right now, that's the furthest thing from my mind, which I think is a very good thing.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

It's Not What You Say but How You Say It

I've never thought of myself as a people-person, and I highly doubt any of my friends have ever described me as such. I'm not exactly the most social person in the world. For whatever reason I don't like saying hello or goodbye to people. I don't ask people about their days or how they're doing. I don't ask or really care to know about anyone's personal life. In most conversations, I withhold my opinions as to not offend anyone (because most people seem to be so easily offended). I'm basically just a private person that likes to keep to himself. I'll never be the life of any party.

However, when it comes to dealing with customers, I'm somehow very good. Most of our customers really like me. I'm not overly friendly with them. I don't wave and excitedly greet them every time I see them. Most of the time I hardly acknowledge their existence until I either have to answer a question or explain something. Then I come across as easy-going and extremely helpful. I always try to make it a point to work with them no matter what I'm telling them. Whatever it is I do, it seems to work for me because no one seems to complain or have anything negative to say about me. Hell, three times this week I've had a customer tell me that they had a much better experience dealing with me than the other pharmacists (particularly Betty).

I guess the point of this post is that I don't know how I came to be the well liked pharmacist. I'm not a social butterfly. I've never been the most liked anything. Meanwhile, I work with a lot of very social people who tend to constantly annoy and get into mini arguments with customers. One of our technicians is one of the most social people I know. She goes out all the time, has a ton of friends, and meets new people all the time. However, she couldn't tell a customer he's won the lottery without him getting mad at her. It's just the tone she uses. It's that entirely unnatural customer service tone. You know that tone.... She talks in a slightly higher pitch and ends every sentence at an even higher pitch. She's overly polite to the point of sounding snarky and condescending. People can't stand dealing with her, and she can't stand dealing with them. She'd rather do anything else than wait on customers because of it.

I don't mean to single her out though. A lot of our staff has the same problem. They come across as confrontational no matter what they're saying. I just don't understand how such social and friendly people outside of work can have such difficulty dealing with customers. You'd think a friendly, social person would have a much easier time than an introvert like me. However, there seems to be no real correlation.

Again, I think it all stems from that fake customer service tone. Yes, you deal with customers in retail pharmacy, but you have to remember that those customers are people just like you and I (well maybe not like you or I in some cases). There's no reason to be fake with them. Just talk to them naturally. Be polite, but don't overdo it with the sirs, ma'ams, please, and thank yous. Talk TO them and not AT them. Moreover, don't automatically assume that if they question something you say that they're trying to argue with you. Some things are worth getting into arguments over, but in the great majority of cases, an argument just isn't worth your time. Most people are just looking for some sign that you understand where they're coming from. If you can find that tiny bit of common ground, you can avoid most disputes while still getting your point across.

I don't know... That's just my experience with customers, and maybe it doesn't apply to all customer populations. I just think that being natural when dealing with people is always the best way to go.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Bonus- The Apparent Answer to Falling Profit Margins

Our gross profit is plummeting. We give out thousands of dollars per week in gift cards. My employer is slashing hours for pharmacists and technicians. All signs indicate that we're losing money. Therefore, you can imagine my surprise when I opened up my most recent pay check and found a nice fat bonus in it.

The bonus wasn't along the lines of those handed out to those AIG executives. However, it was pretty sizable for a staff pharmacist working in my company. Put it this way: The bonus was larger than the previous 2 years combined. In fact, it was about three times as large.

Now I like money as much as the next person. However, the fact that I'm not a greedy bastard makes me object to this bonus. The company is hemorrhaging money with all it's new programs and promotions. They're cutting hours all across the chain in order to deal with this loss of revenue. However, they still manage to find money to give pharmacists a bonus.

I make well over $100,000/yr. I don't need a fucking bonus. If any of my fellow pharmacists can't live comfortably on our salaries, then they (like seemingly everyone else in this country) are spending way too much money. I would much rather the company not give us bonuses and use that money to better fund the pharmacy department. Maybe if they weren't giving these bonuses, they wouldn't have to cut the hours of full-time technicians who don't make 6-figures and depend on every dime they can get to support themselves.

My way of thinking seems to be frowned upon in this country though. It makes sense to me that if there's some cash to spare then it should go to the people who need cash the most. Apparently, that's "spreading the wealth around," and that kind of philosophy leads to the evils of socialism. It's against the "American Dream," which from what I can tell, is to take whatever you can get your hands on, always want more, and demolish anyone or anything that gets in your way of getting more.

We should all be thankful people like me aren't running this country though. Things might be a little fairer, and who would want that?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Basketball vs. Life

I love basketball. I love sports in general, but basketball is by far my favorite. Almost nothing makes me happier than playing basketball. I don't care if I'm just shooting hoops by myself or playing in a 5-on-5 game. Basketball elevates my mood more than any antidepressant possibly could.

Do you know what may be the biggest reason I like basketball so much? It's because when you fail, you can always try again. In fact, you get to try as many times as you'd like. Miss a free throw? Just step up to the line, take a deep breath, remember to bend your knees just a little more, and try it again. Can't quite get that between the legs crossover dribble down? You can practice it in your driveway over and over and over and over again until you perfect it. How good you are is only limited by how hard you work.

Even if you do make a mistake that you cannot fix (like if you missed some freethrows that cost your team a championship), you can always console yourself with the thought that it's just a game.

Life isn't the same way. It's not a game. In life, sometimes you make mistakes but never get the opportunity to try again. Life teaches you lessons the hard way. It chews you up, spits you out, and then leaves you to pick up all the pieces. Except after a life lesson, things never go back to the way they were before.

You see... In basketball, the rules don't change. No matter how many times you mess up, the dimensions of the court remain the same, the ball still bounces the same way, and the hoops are still 10 feet tall.

In life, the circumstances can change. People can change. Even you might change. What used to be a great way of doing things can one day turn into the worst possible way. It's so hard to realize when that change occurs though. If I miss a jumpshot in basketball, I can immediately tell you why. Perhaps I didn't get my body squared to the basket. Maybe my elbow flaired out. Maybe I didn't extend my follow through towards the hoop. Maybe I didn't put enough arch on the shot.

In life, you often don't realize you're making mistakes until months or years after. After months or years of reflection, you come to realize the error of your ways. However, by that time, it's too late. You can't go back. You can't fix what you did. You never get the opportunity to make it right. With no other options, you resolve to put that mistake behind you and go on living. For the most part, you're successful in doing so, but there's always that burning, frustrated feeling lurking in the deepest parts of your being that never lets you forget how you screwed up. The feeling never goes away. Instead, you get used to it. You learn to ignore it, which means ignoring part of yourself.

Tomorrow is supposed to be the warmest day of the year so far in my area. I'm looking forward to taking my MP3 player and my ball down to a local basketball court and working on my jumpshot. It's literally the most relaxing and enjoyable thing I can think of. It makes sense to me.