Monday, August 31, 2009

I Want To See Some Palm Trees

One of the biggest disadvantages of being alone is that I have no one to go on vacation with. I haven't gone away for vacation in almost 2 years now. I know, I know... That may not seem like a long time to a lot of people, but I've been dying to go somewhere for a while now.

The truth is that I've never really taken a vacation where I got to do what I really wanted to do. My most recent trip was to Miami a couple years ago. I went with a few friends, and I got dragged to clubs, bars, and through the entire Miami night life scene. Some would have a grand time on that kind of trip. I think anyone who has read my blog for a reasonable amount of time would know that night life isn't exactly my style.

I just have this overwhelming urge to go somewhere with beautiful beaches, lush scenery, and warm weather. I'd love to go to Hawaii or somewhere in the Caribbean. I want to spend about 5 days just relaxing in the sun, sand, and ocean. I want to go see the sights that I want to see and have nice quiet dinners. I'm not in college. I don't need to go away and party. I would say that phase of my life is over, but I never went through it in the first place.

Every time I get a vacation week off from work, I get bombarded with a million questions about where I'm going and what I'm doing. There's only so many times I can tell people I'm just going to be relaxing at home until I feel like a complete loser. I know they're just harmless questions, but how am I supposed to answer them? Sometimes I just want to shout, "LOOK! I'm single and at an age where most of my friends are either married, engaged, or in long term relationships. Who am I supposed to go on vacation with?"

I know some people travel by themselves, but I just can't picture myself doing that. I think I'd just be miserable the whole time thinking how lonely it is to be in such a beautiful place by myself. Therefore, I'm stuck here and forced to listen to everyone else talk excitedly about their vacations.

And just to make it clear, I have no desire at all to brag about my vacations to everyone I know. I generally don't like talking about my personal life. (Instead, I just tell everything about myself to the world via the internet). I just want the experience. Hot sun, warm water, palm trees.... Just a few days of that is all I want.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Six Years Ago, I Knew. I Don't Know Why It Was A Mystery To So Many Others

I've had my current email address for over a decade now, and sometimes I like to take a walk down memory lane and read old emails I sent and received. I stumbled across this email dated February 23, 2003, and I thought I'd share it with you:

All I know is that this is a scary time. I don't know why we are so bent on starting a war. It seems like he is not doing anything wrong. We only guess that he has nerve gases. We have no real proof other than a couple of satellite photos that don't tell you anything. Saddam said it; Bush will start this war whether or not he complies with the UN. Bush is actually pushing Saddam to do something. Someone needs to assassinate him. lol. I'm not even kidding. I hope someone shoots Bush. This is ridiculous. Our country looks so bad right now because of him and his stupid Iraq policy. So what if Iraq has connections to Al Queda. So does every single country in the world that has Arabs in it. For god's sake, we're probably financing Al Queda without even knowing it. I don't understand any of this. Saddam hasn't done anything in over 10 years. He hasn't attacked anyone. Hasn't threatened anyone. Hasn't done a damn thing, and now all of a sudden we are starting a war with him. We, the US, are starting a war. The world's policeman is turning into the world's bully. We're supposed to stand for peace, but we're starting war on a country that hasn't done anything to anyone in over 10 years. Meanwhile, N Korea is over there threatening everyone with nuclear weapons and we ignore them. I don't see the sense in that. We attack the country that is under such close scrutiny right now that they couldn't attack anyone if they wanted to, but N Korea, a country that no one can even get into, is allowed to make nuclear weapons and threaten us. We're spending trillions of dollars on this stupid war, and at home, everyone is losing their jobs. How exactly is he making the world better again??? The economy is the worst its been in probably 15-20 years. Our war policies are looking exactly like the Vietnam war policies. We're going after a bunch of ghosts. The threat just doesn't exist... at least not to the point that he is making it seem. If we drop this whole war idea, Saddam is not gonna bomb us tomorrow. The whole thing is just stupid, and of course it's perpetuated by the biggest moron to ever lead a country in all of history.

Remember... This was from February 23, 2003. It was a full month before we invaded Iraq (which a quick wikipedia search tells me was March 20, 2003). I was barely 21 years old at the time. To say I was naive and inexperienced would be an understatement. However, I somehow knew what the President, his cabinet, his advisers, Congress, and about 50% of the population of our country did not. Could everyone really have been that stupid?

This is why I have very little faith in humanity. This is why I stay home by myself on most days instead of going out and mingling with the rest of the world. It just seems that ever since 2000 (and I only go back that far because that's when I started to pay attention), when given a choice, we always make the wrong decision.

In 2000, it was Bush vs. Gore. I'm pretty sure everyone in the country knew that Gore was smarter, more politically experienced, and more knowledgeable on foreign affairs than Bush. However, gosh, we just didn't like the way Gore sighed at Bush's stupidity in that first debate. In addition, Bush seemed like a guy we'd like to have over for a barbeque, and that's clearly the most important attribute of a potential President of The United States.

We go to war with Iraq in 2003... for no reason whatsoever. We stay in Iraq for over 6 years (and counting) because we wouldn't want to leave until "mission accomplished." Of course, when there was a never a point to begin with, it's hard to accomplish anything.

In 2004, we re-elect Bush despite the fact that the economy tanked, he unapologetically gave every single break imaginable to the wealthiest 1%, and started a war for no reason with no intentions of ever stopping it. Meanwhile, Republicans somehow made John Kerry's military service and awards look like a bad thing, and they coined him as the "flip-flopper" because he actually took his time and reasoned out his decisions instead of just being "the decider" and acting quickly regardless of the facts.

We finally did something right in 2008 when we elected Obama. This was a man running on an agenda of "change" and "hope." He was a progressive democrat who promised to bring about the changes this country desperately needed. Of course, when he got into office and started drafting policies to enact this change, people stepped back and said, "Whoa... I thought that "change" he kept talking about was just beautiful sounding rhetoric. I didn't know he really wanted to change things!"

Thus, we're now in a situation where Obama can't get nationalized health care passed because even the democrats (who are taking just as many campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical and insurance companies as republicans) don't want to rock the boat and possibly upset the shareholders of Aetna, Cigna, United Health Care, or any of those other altruistic corporations. Now, instead of getting a system along the lines of EVERY OTHER INDUSTRIALIZED COUNTRY, we'll have to settle for Co-ops, which are run by the very corporations that were the problem to begin with.

I wish I could say I have hope for our nation and our planet, but I don't. People are too stupid and too easily fooled. When a 21 year-old kid, who's biggest daily concern was which dining hall to eat at, is able to predict the outcome of what turned out to be possibly our country's biggest foreign policy blunder ever, it doesn't say much about the people who are actually in charge.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Who Comes Up With These Ideas?

I may be stepping further out of the realm of anonymity in this post, but at this point, I don't care. Something has to be said about these completely asinine rules my corporate office is enacting.

My chain is one of those wonderful ones that give away antibiotics for free. It was supposed to be a temporary thing, but because of the program's "great success," corporate keeps extending this "promotion." Apparently, corporate's idea of "great success" entails prescription counts falling, my store alone losing about $10,000 per week in dispensing fees, not attracting new long term customers, and not pushing any additional OTC products. Corporate says they've gotten great feedback from customers. Sure... You can get a lot of great feedback by giving shit away for free. Hell, I bet if we dispensed everything for free, we'd get some truly glowing customer reviews.

The evils of free antibiotics aren't what I really mean to write about though. It's the procedures that they make us go through in order to give a customer a free antibiotic. First of all, these antibiotics are only free for a certain advertised days supply (which is really just a preset quantity in the computer for each drug that will print out with no charge). If we're going strictly by our advertisements, anyone getting 30 day supplies, for example, of antibiotics must pay for them. Of course, if we're going by how we advertised the program, ALL antibiotics would be free of charge too, which is far from the truth. However, instead of making customers pay for maintenance antibiotic scripts, we're told that if customers question the price, we're to edit the script so that it only goes through for the number of pills that is allowed for free. Of course, going back and editing those scripts forces us to do extra work... extra work for free because it's in the name of a FREE ANTIBIOTIC.

That's not even the peak of the idiocy of these policies. Because we cannot put a price of $0.00 on a medication, corporate had to set the free quantities of these antibiotics to be $0.01. When the program first started, we were instructed to simply cross out the 1 cent charge and give out the prescription for free. Simple. Hassle free. Therefore, we all should have known that wouldn't last.

Because corporate policy dictates that it must take every simple procedure and add at least 10 pointless steps to it in order to accomplish the exact same thing, the procedure was changed. Now, the "free antibiotic" has to be rung into the register, and we're instructed to ask customers for their store scan saver cards. Upon scanning their cards, the 1 cent is removed, and the price goes to zero.

Now, this almost makes sense. You see... If the idea was that you had to apply for a store scan saver card in order to take part in the free antibiotic promotion, I'd almost not oppose the free antibiotic program with every fiber of my being. After all, it would actually be an active attempt by our store to recruit new customers and bring in more business. Like I said... It would almost make sense.

However, it turns out that while we're instructed to ask for their savings card, the customers aren't actually required to have one. If they have a card, great! If they don't have a card, we'll just put in some code in the register, and the antibiotic prescription goes back to being free. So, if the customer doesn't have to have a scan saver card, then why the fuck are we even bothering to ask them for one?

Corporate's answer: We're supposed to have card applications at the pharmacy counter for customers to fill out if they don't have a card already and are picking up a free antibiotic prescription. My response to that: Fuck you! Obviously none of those corporate geniuses have seen how long it takes a customer to fill out a HIPAA profile release form or to even do something as simple as write a check. That's all we need in the middle of a busy day is for customers to be holding up the line as they take 10 minutes to fill out a fucking scan card application at our counter.

Here's another corporate policy that went from simple and straight forward to pointlessly convoluted. Like many pharmacy chains, we offer to flavor suspensions and solutions for people who can't stand the usual taste. Several years back, it couldn't have been simpler. If a customer wanted something flavored, we'd charge them a small fee (something around $3.00) and add it to the cost of the prescription. Simple, straightforward. The customers are happy because they get an extra service performed for a very small fee. We're happy because not only did we make the customer happy, but we got paid for our effort. It was a win-win situation. Then at some point in the past, corporate decided that win-win situations apparently suck for business, so we stopped charging for flavoring. After all, our pharmacists really have nothing better to do than spend our time performing services that don't help the business at all. Well, at least there wasn't any additional paperwork, so other than not getting paid, it wasn't really a hassle.

No hassle? "That can't be right," decided corporate one day. "Let's add a few more steps to the process." Now, when a customer wants something flavored, we're supposed to enter it into our computer system and get a label to print out with a small fee. Great! We're going back to getting paid for flavoring!

NOPE. You see, that small fee will be entered into the register at which time we're instructed to ask for the customer's scan card. Scan the card, and the fee vanishes, kind of like a stain in one of those Billy Mays OxiClean commercials. At this point, it becomes just like the free antibiotic bullshit. If they don't have a card, we just enter a code into the register, and the fee for flavoring comes off anyway. This begs the question: If everyone is just going to get the flavoring for free anyway, then why are we even bothering printing out a label with a price on it in the first place? If everyone gets it for free, then why did they even put a price on it? And if they knew everyone was going to get it for free, why didn't they just make it $0.01 like the antibiotics? Why does the label say a few bucks before scanning their cards? It makes no sense.

Those are just 2 examples of corporate taking simple policies and adding a bunch more steps for the ultimate purpose of accomplishing THE SAME DAMN THING as before.

While I'm ranting, I might as well throw in our policy on gift cards. Now, with the shear volume of gift card promotions that places like CVS and Walgreens run, I know they must have a simpler policy than ours for handing them out. It takes us like 5 minutes to give out a gift card, and that's after the prescription has been typed, checked, filled, bagged, and the customer is standing at the register waiting to pick it up. We have to enter each gift card into a gift card log. Then we have to fill out a form that goes into the register that lets our cash office know that a gift card was given out at the register (because the gift card log and coupon in the tray aren't enough). Then we have to activate the stupid gift card which is often a trying process for some of our less than stellar cashiers. It's not impossible for us to spend an hour per day simply handing out gift cards if it's a busy day in the middle of a gift card promotion.

See... This is really the only part of retail pharmacy that I can't stand. I don't mind screaming customers. I can tolerate moron receptionists and doctors with god complexes. I just hate being a bitch to our ridiculous corporate policies and procedures. I guarantee that I spend twice the amount of time every day trying to be compliant with corporate policies in order to avoid being penalized in our own internal audits than I do counseling patients. If the policies at least made some kind of sense, I might even be able to tolerate those too. However, 99% percent of them seem to be thought up by some moron sitting hundreds of miles away in an office somewhere just trying to figure out ways to waste our dollar per minute time.