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.


Anonymous said...

Dude all have some serious cooperate bullshit. CVS has what is called "PCI" (yes you can all vomit at once) where every week I have to call about 50 people to ask if they want their rx refilled. These are mostly things like allegra, proair, flonase, and imitrex (oh and we are supposed to call at least three times until we get the patient on the phone, no messages). Next, every day we have to call people who have not picked up their new rx after 7 days and they say PHARMACISTS have to make the calls. Then, on those stupid gift card things, we are now supposed to write down the customer's name and phone # and have the pharmacist call them later to "introduce" ourselves. All this for a little added business that I really don't need or want because I spend so much time trying to deal with their useless crap, I don't have the time to counsel patients.

kath8562 said...

No, Mike- you only just gave away your anonymity to those who work for the same idiots ( mean company) you work for. As someone who does (16 years as a tech), you have my utmost sympathy!

Pharmacy Mike said...

I don't think it's a mean company. In fact, I would venture to say that it's one of the better chains you can work for. I wasn't complaining about my chain in particular. It's just what I know. I'm talking about all the corporate rules and policies handed out by all retail pharmacy chains that get in the way of us doing our jobs and ultimately don't improve business one bit.

Frantic Pharmacist said...

I hear that. I seriously think there is a special school somewhere that trains retail management to come up with birdbrained, incredibly burdensome procedures that they never have to experience first hand. In our organization, the bonus is that they come up with this stuff and then find they don't have the proper tech savvy --for instance, you're given a barcode to scan for some special discount that's running. The barcode NEVER works. So they send us a two-page 'manual' procedure or 'fix' to get around it. EVERY new procedure they come up with is followed by a long memo of "What to do if what we told you before doesn't work." There are times when I am at the register when I just want to throw up my hands and say y'know what, just TAKE IT!!!

kath8562 said...

Yes, Mike, I was joshing-- I know it's one of the better chains around! If I had to leave this company, there isn't many I would go to- I'd probably end up trying to get in a hospital or long-term care pharmacy.
Also the fact that most, if not all of the district managers, and some higher-ups in the Pharmacy feeding chain are RPhs- maybe haven't worked in one for a long time, but Rphs none the less!

Ashley said...

that has got to be one of the most asinine things I've ever heard!!

I work at walgreens...and in spite of its Evil rep, we luckily have pretty simple procedures for register accountability. Thank goodness! I'd be cussing corporate by now!!

Cody said...

Thank GOD Walgreens hasn't gotten to 4 dollar generics or free antibiotics (just the WCARD, which is a pain sometimes, but lots of customers seem to like it). And also thank God that Walgreens switched to gift "checks" that they mail out to random patients who transferred away from us for whatever reason. They transfer a prescription back to us, and give us the check, we use the register check-machine to put an authorization number on it, then it's good to be used out in the store as a real check. No more "I don't have a transfer coupon, can you just give me a gift card anyway?" bull.