Rite Aid District Manager Successfully Handles A Customer Complaint

With all the customer service horror stories we post, you’d think businesses in the United States have lost the ability to treat their customers with respect—and by and large, you’d be right. But every once in a while we get a tip that proves that there are still intelligent, competent people out there who can answer a customer’s complaints forthrightly and honestly. That happened over the weekend with Dancing Deer and their shiv-in-the-Blondie incident, and now comes this story of a Rite Aid pharmacy district manager in Seattle and his band of idiots at a specific store.

I wanted to tell you of a good resolution I had at the Seattle, Rainier Ave. Rite Aid pharmacy in Seattle, WA.

First, little background. I have Celiac Disease. It’s an immune response to wheat, specifically the wheat protein gluten. This is an issue for prescriptions because some medications use wheat products to bind the pills. Even a spec of gluten can make a celiac sick for a few days. It’s not a terribly rare condition because 1 in 130 people in the USA have it.

I went to go get a prescription filled at the closest pharmacy, which was the Rite Aid on Ranier Ave, in Seattle, WA. As I was filling out paperwork to get in their system, I told them I had celiac disease, and could they double check to make sure my medication was gluten free. This is a pretty run of the mill request. I have been a nurse since 1998, and I have had to call in this kind of prescription before I even knew I had celiac disease myself. It’s a very basic.

The gal at the counter had to have me repeat myself multiple times, which is okay, it was early morning. However, she still doesn’t even understand my request, and starts asking the pharmacist if this medication has “glubellium”. The pharmacist looks annoyed, and says he doesn’t know. I put on the brakes, and tell her that I can’t get that medication then, because I can’t have gluten in me. The pharmacist just shrugs, and the gal takes my filled out paperwork and starts putting me in the computer, ignoring me.

I ask again, that there has to be a way to check. Celiac is not that unusual a condition. They continue to show me the bottle, and say there isn’t any way to check. Then, the gal asks to help the folks behind me, ignoring the fact that I can’t even get the medication if I can’t be sure it’s gluten free. The pharmacist starts filling my prescription, and I am exasperated.

I tell them don’t fill the prescription because if they can’t tell me if it’s gluten free, I don’t want it. The pharmacist looks really irritated by now, and says, “I suppose I could call the manufacturer. That could take a few days.” I just start walking out, and tell him I will go to a pharmacy that can deal with celiac disease. There are places that know if there is wheat products in my meds.

I then go home, and call the Kelley-Ross Pharmacy in downtown Seattle. They are flabbergasted that a pharmacist would not look this up for me, and laugh at the Rite Aid guy. Needless to say, I go get my prescription filled down there. They even show me the medication insert to make sure it all looks safe. The nice insert that accompanies most medications, and shows all the inactive ingredients. (When I work in facilities as a floor nurse, often those insert papers come attached on bulk meds we get, so I knew they existed, while at Rite Aid.)

When I get home I write an angry but polite email, containing pretty much what I wrote here.

Flash forward to today.

I just got a call from Billy who is the pharmacy district manager for Seattle. He wanted to contact me to make sure I knew that not being able to tell if a medication was gluten free, is not acceptable. They have a Clinical Service Line, that contains that information, as well as all sorts of other stuff. He was especially hard on the pharmacist for not wanting to even initially look it up. He said he thought only “blind stupidity” could be the reason this happened. The pharmacist in question is out for vacation, but he is going to talk to him when he comes back in. Billy agreed this is a pretty common request, and over all seemed stunned that his pharmacist could have done this.

He was also very cool, and said he understands that I get my medications elsewhere now, but if I ever decided to come back, they will be able to handle gluten free medication. He also talked about some of the PDA supported software that you can use to check the gluten free status of meds and foods.

Overall, I am very happy at this. Billy didn’t make any excuses, and took credit for the situation. The pharmacist involved will be retrained, so the next celiac that comes in won’t have to deal with what I did. That’s the kind of apology, that makes me think I will keep shopping at Rite Aid, although my meds are still set up at Kelley-Ross. My husband still has his medications at Rite Aid, and I am no longer in any big hurry to change that.

It made me very happy to know that the corporation does care that its customers are taken care of.

Here’s what’s fascinating about this from a business perspective: Billy didn’t give away any free goods or services, and he didn’t try to bribe her to come back, but he still made an irate customer happy with a simple phone call. That’s because he treated her like an equal—something representatives of businesses rarely seem to do anymore—and talked frankly about the source of the complaint. He shared a clear plan of action to prevent the problem from happening in the future, without resorting to extreme punishment boasts like promising anyone would be fired (a claim that always makes us suspect we’re being lied to).

He also shared some advice with the customer on how she can be better prepared to deal with similar situations in the future—so if she runs into another couple of ignorant pharmacy employees, she can answer her own questions about gluten. And finally, he invited her back. Result: he may not get her business in the future, but he effectively cauterized the wound, and can be certain she won’t bad-mouth Rite Aid to other potential customers.

Maybe it’s too expensive to train employees to have that much emotional intelligence, but it would be nice if businesses would at least screen for that natural ability in customer-facing new hires.

What do you think—still not enough? Or did Billy handle this the right way?

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(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. laserjobs says:

    Totally approprite response, he resolved the problem in multiple ways. Only if a customer requests compensation should it be offered.

  2. pigeonpenelope says:

    billy handled the situation appropriately. if i were the customer, i would feel satisfied. he must be a good manager.

  3. Munsoned says:

    Way off topic, but when I take my dog to the vet (whether it’s a scheduled appointment or something else), the vet ALWAYS calls me the next Saturday afternoon to check on her and see how she’s doing. My dog has never had any major medical issues, just an ear infection here, laceration there, spayed, etc.) He’s more expensive than many other vets in my area (I did some price shopping before I got my dog), but he keeps my business with nothing more than a two minute (and free) phone call. Sometimes those phone calls can really go a long way. Many businesses could learn from this (I’m looking in your direction Comcast and Verizon, who regularly tell people they’ll call them back and don’t)…

  4. Caduceus says:

    This is why Billy is in corporate and not down in the trenches. He can handle people with problems that aren’t on a checklist.

  5. FishingCrue says:

    That may be true but the offending pharmacist passed the buck. You never heard from the moron behind the counter, the one who should be apologizing.

  6. archer117 says:

    Rite-aid is absolutely the worst. I also complained about their inept service and apathetic staff and received a call from the manager. That is all very nice, but that doesn’t change anything. I nearly cried when Rite-Aid took over Eckerd Drug. Now I am stuck with these bastards.

  7. Copper says:

    @jrstren: My vet does this also. At first, I thought it was a little unnecessary because if my dog wasn’t doing okay, I’d call them, but now I’m really they do it.

    I think this was handled wonderfully. I agree with Laserjobs, that only if someone asks should compensation be offered.

  8. The Kapil says:

    Oh Jesus F’ing Christ! Ever see the movie Idiocracy?…that’s what’s going on here…the idiots, and the loudmouths are getting their way a little too often.

    Granted this is “The Consumerist” where us consumers get to bite back…but there are plenty of companies out there doing real harm to consumers, the environment, animals, this planet…you name it!…and this broad is making a federal case about a carefree pharmacist?

    I suspect she’s a class A bitch who is picky, demeaning and demanding all rolled into one and thinks that anyone who is behind a counter works is in her direct employ.

    Well, F$ck You!

    You people need to be grounded in reality…we are all people, and sometimes people don’t get along with other people…you are bound to run into someone who you find annoying or vice versa…and you can’t complain to everyone’s boss because no one died and made you in charge of the entire god damn world!

    Don’t like the way the pharmacist treated you?….take your business elsewhere. For all you know, the guy’s mother died but he came to work because he had to pay his daughter’s college tuition and needed the money!!!

    And…Celiac? Really? Is that even a disease? Or is that like being allergic to dairy? Do you think people in Africa have diseases that makes them sick with Wheat or Milk?…or are they just greatful to have food?

    Fifty years ago you would have died if you were allergic to some random ingredient…and we would all have been better off…no, thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, you get to love and bitch about minutiae. What an ingrate!

  9. The Kapil says:

    Having said all of the above, let me add…Kudos to Billy. He acted like a real grown up…I’m glad at least someone had the intelligence of an adult in that interaction!

  10. rkmc12 says:

    @The Kapil Ahh trolls.

  11. puka_pai says:

    “carefree pharmacist”

    Two words I hope never to see together again.

  12. Goutnout says:

    @Copper: “anyone who is behind a counter works is in her direct employ”

    Yes, Precisely. What are you that moron pharmacist?

  13. Propaniac says:

    @The Kapil: Seriously, why did you take the time to write that? If you’re a troll, it’s pointless. If you’re serious, you did a remarkable job of showing yourself to be a complete idiot in a new way in every paragraph without trying. But I’m pretty sure you’re a troll.

  14. StevieD says:

    @The Kapil:

    Thank you.

  15. StevieD says:

    A speck of wheat?

    Oh Jesus Christ.

    If it doesn’t kill you, it can’t be that bad.

    The poor pharmacist is got 90 to-go-orders piling up, a store full of customers, some of whom might actually be sick or in pain. And some whiny “I gotta be special” wants to tie up his valuable time with extra work.

    Jesus Christ. Grow up. What SPECIAL Service then expect to wait while the really needy get served.

  16. erica.blog says:

    She indicated a medical condition (and yes, it’s real, [www.celiac.org] it makes your small intestine destroy its own ability to absorb nutrients). The pharmacist wasn’t able to do his job and make sure her prescription won’t make her sick. He failed miserably.

  17. StevieD says:

    BTW, I pickup my drugs at Walgreens after midnight when there aren’t dozens of sick and hurting customers waiting to riot and the pharmacist can take the time to discuss the side effects of my various drugs can affect my asthma. Now there is a disease that can actually kill ya.

  18. Aphex242 says:

    Yeah the whole point here is health. You don’t want to get sicker trying to get better, do you?

    I’m really amazed we’ve had two complete jerkoffs post here, usually the most you can count on is one. Saying she should get over this is like… you know what? It’s not even worth my time.

    Glad it was resolved anyway.

  19. “Glubellium?” Aren’t these people trained in diseases? Celiac is hardly a rare thing.

    A great advocate for celiac and what it means — and how even a tiny bit of gluten can lay her out for days — is Shauna, the Gluten Free Girl. [glutenfreegirl.blogspot.com]

  20. forgottenpassword says:

    The only probelm I have is that you really cant trust anyone in authority that what they say will be done (in this case retrain the pharmacist)… WILL actually be done. You bascially have to take their word on it.

    A lot of times nothing is done.

    And what wouldnt have hurt WAS some free little incentive (or just some small comphensation for the problem)to come back to rite aid AFTER all the apologies were made.

    If I were that person…. i would go back to rite aid to get one more prescription filled & ask again if my prescription was gluten free ….just to check & see if I got similar treatment from that same pharmacist
    & that things have actually changed.

    SOmetimes you have to show the people who have wronged you that they were wrong & shove it in their face (but in a polite manner).

  21. iMike says:

    Why not just patronize the local pharmacy?

  22. DeltaPurser says:

    @The Kapil: Please tell us… How do you REALLY feel about her?! :-)

    I agree with you… If I have a life threatening condition, you can bet your ass I do a little googeling before I head over to the pharmacy to get my pills.

    Bill’s alright in my book!

  23. Buran says:

    @The Kapil: Flagged.

  24. pharmerjon says:

    I worked in retail pharmacy for 10 years before moving into managed care. I’ve seen things like this and experienced them with my coworkers. Not to say the guy wasn’t being an ass, but a lot of people underestimate how much work and stress it is being a pharmacist. Then on top of that having to supervise some high school kid to make sure she doesn’t kill anyone while handing out RX’s at the register. The whole system is geared to volume, not service and NOT QUALITY. It is sad, and that is how people get hurt. Look at the USA Today story just last week. The girl who said “Glubellium?”…what the hell??! High school kids toying with lives. GET SERIOUS PHARMACIES!!! Pharmacist shortage I get – TRAINED, CERTIFIED Pharmacy Technicians I do not get. Would you believe only a handful of states require any training of a pharmacy technician? In Connecticut, there is no training at all. You just have to register with the state which is just a pharmacist signature stating you work there. Not even that the pharmacist supervises you. It is pathetic that well trained people who can make a difference (pharmacy techs) are underutilized to the point that this woman has to spell gluten to some moronic high school cheerleader!!!

  25. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    @The Kapil:
    @StevieD:

    This post and comment thread are about a response to poor customer service, NOT about whether you guys think a disease exists or is serious.

  26. banks says:

    Technically, Coeliac disease is a reaction to gliadin, one of two gluten proteins. Anyone with a PharmD would know this, and be able to tell from the insert in thirty seconds whether the drug was safe or not.

    $100 says the the mope behind the counter was some state-licensed pharmacy technician of one sort or another, and not an actual PharmD. With the nationwide shortage of pharmacists, pharm techs are taking on a greater and greater role in patient interactions. Given that there is no clear nationwide standard for these techs – some of them don’t even have college degrees, just on-the-job training – this is a disturbing trend indeed.

  27. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Bill acted with exquisite tact and respect for both the rights of the customer and the rights of his own company.

  28. Skiffer says:

    Dang – I like how Billy even recommended PDA software to look up gluten free meds/food.

    That’s the sign that, to me, makes it evident he went over and above, instead of the normal “we are taking this seriously and investigating the incident” corporate apology…

  29. Heresy Of Truth says:

    @THE KAPIL

    @The Kapil:

    I am the gal in this article. I know you are a troll, but I thought I would clarify that I wasn’t a bitch. I was asking for something that all pharmacies provide as a normal service.

    @StevieD:

    In the interest of education. . .

    Actually 200 ppm is the utmost safe level for a celiac. That is a speck of wheat. You are right, it’s not an anaphylactic allergy, but it is still an immune response. Someone with celiac disease has a horrible reaction to gluten where in their own body freaks out and attacks the intestines, and the net effect is like having someone rip the lining out of your intestines. For me, it means three days of nausea, vomiting, frequent bathroom trips, and agonizing pain as my intestinal lining is stripped off.

    I spent six weeks bedridden last summer because nobody could initially find out what made me sick. I went from a size 14 down to a current six. I am only now just getting back on track. I didn’t ask for anything that a pharmacy doesn’t already do. Pharmacies have been providing gluten free information since I got my nursing license in ’98, and much earlier.

  30. MARTHA__JONES says:

    @The Kapil: You are an ignorant fool for criticizing this person. Before challenging a consumer and accusing her of being a bitch with a made up disease perhaps you ought to look it up first.

    “Coeliac disease is caused by a reaction to gliadin, a gluten protein found in wheat (and similar proteins of the tribe Triticeae which includes other cultivars such as barley and rye). Upon exposure to gliadin, the enzyme tissue transglutaminase modifies the protein, and the immune system cross-reacts with the bowel tissue, causing an inflammatory reaction. That leads to flattening of the lining of the small intestine, which interferes with the absorption of nutrients. The only effective treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet. While the disease is caused by a reaction to wheat proteins, it is not the same as wheat allergy.”

  31. alarmist says:

    @ JRSTREN

    I used to work for a cell phone retailer and part of the marketing program was a phone call two days after the purchase, and a post card mailed out two weeks later, just to check up and make sure everything was working well.

    You couldn’t guess how much extra business this generated. People care about the small touches.

  32. witeowl says:

    @The Kapil: What the hell, I’m bored. I think I’ll respond to the troll, too. Sarcasm feels right here.
    .
    Yeah, how dare she?! She wanted a pharmacist to know about the medications he/she doles out! What, you think a pharmacist goes to a special educational program or something?!? You think pharmacists make, like, a minimum of $60 grand and should know about drug interactions, possible allergic reactions, and other medical details for that paltry amount? Shoot, it’s hard enough to count those little pills into a big container. They don’t need to know anything more than how to use those cool pill counters with that spatula-thingie-looking-tool. Unreasonable woman! Next thing you know she’ll be demanding that her denist know, like, dental stuff!
    .
    Ah… that was fun. See? Trolls can serve a purpose… to the overly-bored, at least. Solitaire can only last so long.

  33. PracticalMagic says:

    I go to drugs.com . I love that site. I don’t know if it would give you that information, but sure is chock full of any info. that I’ve ever looked up.

  34. Usama says:

    @Heresy Of Truth:
    @The Kapil
    and StevieD (max of 2 links I guess)

    Thanks for educating them. I’m not someone who suffers from Celiac Disease (aka Celiac Sprue), I am a medical student and we just went over a case study of someone who does live with the disease. And guess what? I’ve been workin as a pharmacy tech (not at Rite-Aid) for over 7 years now, and I know how simple that information would have been to look up.

    Now I can sympathize with the pharmacist, in that he’s probably got tons of prescriptions to check, doctors to call, doctor calls to take, and God knows what Rite-Aid stuff he has to do, and on top of that his technician who was processing the woman’s prescription didn’t seem all that intelligent to begin with (so not so good help). Given that, I can understand why he would hope she just leave so he can get on with this life. BUT, the proper way to handle that is to ask the woman to have a seat and that he’d look that information up as soon as possible, say 10min at the most? Yes of course he can just run back and check the medication’s insert, but maybe he was in the middle of handling another problem? I think it would’ve been reasonable for him to ask for 10min. Heresy Of Truth sounds like a reasonable woman, I think she would have waited that long to ensure the safety of her medication.

    I do have a friend who suffers from Celiac Sprue, and it isn’t easy. Asthma isn’t easy either. Don’t assume your affliction is worse, you have no idea how the other person feels. What an awfully selfish and ignorant way to think.

  35. AT203 says:

    I agree. This is basically a zero-cost resolution for rite-aid. It has the amplified cost-saving measure of identifying a retail issue for resolution, an issue that could affect MANY other customers.

    But specifically, as far as addressing this one customer’s complaint a direct resolution is the best thing that the corporation can do. Thank about this: a customer who is willing to put the energy into contacting the corporate office is the type of person who has the energy to write The Consumerist. Or, more traditionally telling their friends and family about their poor experience. So, now you have an unhappy and vocal customer. The flip side? This type of concerned person is also the most likely to be mollified by learning that the problem is being addressed and that other customers will not be inconvenienced by the problem.

    I know that when I complain about a situation, often a part of my consideration is that I want to save others from the trouble that I experienced.

  36. Copper says:

    @Goutnout: What are you, a moron commenter who hit the wrong button?

  37. CumaeanSibyl says:

    I don’t have the least bit of training and I can go look at a manufacturer’s insert. What on earth could be unreasonable about expecting a pharmacist to be able to read?

    God forbid she had been asking about a life-threatening allergy or drug interaction.

  38. Heresy Of Truth says:

    @Usama:

    Thanks. You are totally correct. I would have been happy to wait 10 minutes, 20 minutes, even a half an hour. Days was not really on my agenda, though. I was working as a nurse, before I got too sick to work, so I know all about how busy anything related to the medical field can be. If anything, celiac disease will teach you patience. It’s better to be safe, than spend a few days sorry afterwards.

    The silly thing about the whole affair was that it was Vitamin D, for my stunning level of anemia. I was 99% sure it was gluten free to begin with, as it has no binders, but just wanted to double check that nothing crazy was in it. After you find wheat/gluten in bacon, ice cream, and iced tea smoothies, you just start double checking.

  39. FLConsumer says:

    @Usama: Add this one to your differential dx list for celiac/pancreatic insufficiency/intestinal cancer: small intestine bacterial overgrowth. I’m seeing more & more of it. Treatment’s simple (antibiotics), but I know people who’ve been through hell & back because MDs are unfamiliar with it. Current theories hint at it being caused by food poisoning.

  40. CharlieSeattle says:

    @The Kapil:
    @StevieD:

    Next thing you won’t expect of them, is them telling you about drug interactions. I’m so sorry these pharms had to actually do their job.

  41. Clushje says:

    @StevieD: Please don’t come back.

  42. RxRex says:

    I am a pharmacist. The only question is did you discuss the Rx with your doctor? Pharmacists do not prescribe medications. The first thing you need to do is to find an educated MD who would never prescribe a med which contains gluten. Then you should also do some research. Do not put all the burden on the RPH. Also, no respectable RPH would laugh at another RPH without knowing all of the facts.

  43. bohemian says:

    This incident is really out of line. Celiac is as valid as any other drug reaction that a pharmacist should be checking for. Not understanding that or being willing to bother with that makes me think neither of their pharmacy staff people are watching for interactions or other important aspects of their job.

    This is not like getting the wrong sandwich at McDonalds, this is your life at risk. If someone gives you the wrong dosage, wrong meds or fails to point out a critical reaction with another medication or condition it could kill you or at the least make you very sick.

    We quit using the local Walgreens for this very reason. The pharmacists were way over worked and their pharmacy techs were utterly moronic. Walgreens stores in our area were using pharmacy tech students and they seemed to have gotten all the bottom of the class students. After having my third run in with various students who couldn’t understand what an asthma inhaler was or simply pull my prescription up I decided Walgreens was a health risk and left.
    We moved everything to Target. We go when they are not busy, give them plenty of lead time to get scripts filled. They are staffed with at least two pharmacists most of the day and don’t have tech students working there.

    It does seem whenever a medical condition is brought up there is a percentage of people who think it doesn’t exist, is all in someone’s head or that it is like a hangnail. I think maybe society at large needs some “retraining” when it comes to medical conditions.

  44. nursetim says:

    @Heresy Of Truth:
    I am an LPN, and am familiar with Celiac, but I didn’t know that pills could have gluten in them, so thanks for putting that out there.
    @The Kapil: You sir/madam are a moron. I have dealt with people who use a medical condition as an excuse to act like a jackass, but this is not the case.

  45. fuzzball21 says:

    @The Kapil: TROLL!

    All right, yes, I to have dealt with the same issue when I get my meds filled at a different pharmacy than I typically use. The same thing happened to me at a Walgreens, and I called the corporate office and told them what had happened and how it was unacceptable. You know what the worst part is??? They can’t put GLUTEN as an “allergy” or intolerance anywhere in my information because their system has about 40 things that you can pick from to insert and that’s it. He says that they are working on a way to fix it, and called not only the pharmacy that gave me a med with gluten in it, but also the one I typically patronize, so that the staff there was all on the same page. I haven’t had a problem since because the pharmacist that fills my meds ALWAYS calls the manufacturer and double checks the insert to be sure.

  46. sly100100 says:

    @The Kapil: Wow! You really have issues don’t you? Maybe you should go see your pharmacist and see if you can get some more of your medication!

  47. STrRedWolf says:

    Billy did the right thing. I have a CVS that’s within blocks of my house, and the pharmacists always recognize Dad and have a good bit of banter with him. Pharmacists are supposed to be that way.

  48. beavis88 says:

    @StevieD: I love the smell of ignorance in the morning!

  49. Antediluvian says:

    @RxRex: While doctors prescribe medications, the OP wasn’t asking about a particular medication — she was asking about a particular pill’s formulation. This is absolutely something the pharmacists would know and frankly, I doubt any doctors would have a clue about — the formulations change all the time, generics are substituted, difference size doses are made differently, etc.

    It’s totally reasonable to ask the dispensing person questions about the pills in question. Doctors MIGHT know about SOME particular pills’ makeup — if they’re ones regularly prescribed to their patients, for exmaple, but — only if they’ve had experience with those pills AND the manufacturer hasn’t changed the formulation.

  50. Antediluvian says:

    This is a prime example of why it’s important to get to know your pharmacist. Sure, it’s a little easier at small-town drugstores, but it’s possible even at CVS or other large companies.

  51. Heresy Of Truth says:

    @RxRex:

    Actually you would be surprised at how many docs are not really up on this. A gasteroenterologist, who deals far more with a celiac diagnosis, has a better fighting chance to understand that medications use wheat binders.

    My current doc is great, knows I have celiac disease, and is aware of it, but still relies on the pharmacy for information on the makeup of each individual medication.

    I am currently using Kelley-Ross Pharmacy, which is a compounding pharmacy. (For those that don’t know, that means they can make up their own meds. If it isn’t gluten free, they can make it gluten free.) I preferred using Hoaglands up in Bellingham, before I moved to Seattle last winter, because they were a compounding pharmacy, and rocked in general on these things.

    @nursetim:

    (Yeah! LPNs!)

    It’s definitely not a well known thing. I wouldn’t have known to be careful if I had not had a patient that had celic disease when I temped at a gasteroenterologists office years and years ago.

    It was stunning how little information is in the medical circles on such a common disease. I guess they say it takes about ten years to get a proper diagnosis of celiac, with misdiagnoses all the way. It only took me about five, so I guess I was ahead of the curve, but that’s because my nephew has it, my father might, and it’s well known to be genetic.

  52. Usama says:

    Okay so here we go:

    @FLConsumer
    Thanks for that information. I will remember that, as our GI guy made a big deal about the bacterial “fingerprint” in our GI being unique to every person. I didn’t think intestinal bacterial overgrowth was an becoming such an issue, perhaps I’ll see some in my last 2 years. But thanks!

    @pharmerjon & @RxRex:
    Actually this goes for everyone, but absolutely yes, pharmacists are overworked. The system, as pharmerjon put it, is absolutely geared towards volume. Those higher ups you call to complain are the same ones who cut the pharmacists’ help hours and also cut overlap hours (so 2 pharmacists aren’t working at the same time, which you know, would be really good for consumers in terms of safety, and wouldn’t hurt profits so much that said chain would hemorrhage money). Usually these same higher-up management types have lost all memory, if they ever worked as a pharmacist, of how stressful it is working in the pharmacy. Like pharmerjon said, you may have technicians who really don’t know anything and are just treating the job like a job, not valuing that lives are at stake. Shoot, I remember my first year, I was trained ON the job (now laws have changed in my state) and I didn’t know what I was doing. I was scared, and I felt bad for putting that additional stress on my pharmacist.

    That being said, RxRex, I don’t think this is something the MD would have known. It’s also something a pharmacist would NOT have known, at least not off-hand. Pharmacists are trained to know about the active ingredients in a drug, and gluten isn’t normally an active ingredient. However, the pharmacist was in the best position to find this information because he is the one giving the medication so he can easily call up the manufacturer or check the insert, whereas the MD who is prescribing the med has no idea what type of Vitamin D capsules (what manufacturer, etc.) this woman was going to get.

    @Antediluvian: I agree, that is good advice, it’s good to get to know your pharmacist. Usually the people who get to know their pharmacists are also the ones that give their pharmacists the time and respect they deserve. Also like I said, pharmacists wouldn’t know about every ingredient used to bound any drug, but they are in the best position to look it up, so ultimately it should be the pharmacist who looks this information up.

  53. mike says:

    @The Kapil: Yeah…Flagged for stupidity.

    In other news…This is the kind of management that is needed. So many companies are afraid to take fault…which, I guess should be expected because so many Americans are sue-happy.

    But apologizing, admitting fault, and even understanding her changing pharmacies is something that is rare. For that, I give a +1.

  54. Nighthawke says:

    Troll, Troll, Troll… *BOOM* Troll season!
    Kapil, just leave us alone. If you wish to rant, get on WoW and vent your spleen.

  55. loquaciousmusic says:

    @The Kapil: Ban, baby, ban!

  56. You know what I’m sick of? Not just trolls who imagine they have medical degrees, but the ones who also insist that a basic minimum level of customer service and courtesy is just too damned much to ask from people who are hired to INTERACT WITH THE PUBLIC. The phone CSRs who always come in and say, “If customers are nasty to me, I’m going to be nasty back” and these jackasses here who are all, “I bet she was a bitch to the pharmacist.”

    EVEN IF SHE WAS, which it certainly doesn’t sound like, HE IS STILL BEING PAID TO PROVIDE CUSTOMER SERVICE. Professionalism means keeping your cool and being polite and professional even if you’re throwing someone out of the store. I mean, seriously, 14-year-olds with work permits can understand this simple concept. Customer service in this country has just gone to shit.

  57. Usama says:

    @to everyone
    I want to know that what follows is off-topic, and is not meant to be an excuse for the way the pharmacist acted in the story. It’s more an educational thing so people are aware of what a pharmacist, someone who has your life in his or her hands, deals with.

    As a pharmacist at any point in time you can have people at the drop-off (in) window, sometimes 2 at a time if you’ve got 2 terminals, people at the out window (pick-up) and again 2 if your place supports it, then there are the phone calls for refills, and phone calls from doctors for new prescriptions or questions (like will this drug have gluten?), phone calls from other pharmacies for transfers, messages in the answering machine that need to be checked asap so the prescription’s ready when the patient gets here, you’ve got random people outside who may have a question about an OTC product, and then to top it all off you’ve got what I think is the absolute worst thing to put in a pharmacy: a drive-thru. By its very nature a drive-thru is meant to be a quick-service, and that is very dangerous in a place like a pharmacy. You do not want to rush a pharmacist.

    If the pharmacist has help, 1 or 2 technicians, and everyone’s occupied helping a customer (either in-person at the in or out window, on the phone, at the drive-thru) then prescriptions aren’t being filled or checked, they’re just piling up. This only adds to the stress.

    No one’s job is easy of course. Just know that it’s important that your pharmacist feel they have the time to carefully check an rx for mistakes or for interactions, and THEY too will feel better.

  58. arch05 says:

    @Usama: It’s in the job description. Deal with it.

  59. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Just know that it’s important that your pharmacist feel they have the time to carefully check an rx for mistakes or for interactions, and THEY too will feel better.

    @arch05: Sounds like this should be directed at the people who manage pharmacies. Customers don’t have any control over whether the pharmacy hires enough people to staff it.

  60. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Kudos to Billy for providing a real resolution, including advice on how to find this information herself and what the pharmacist should be doing when looking it up, instead of just throwing a coupon at someone that has already taken their business somewhere else.

  61. timsgm1418 says:

    I was having severe stomach issues from an antibiotic I was one, so I called the 24hour pharmacy where I got the meds from (this was very late at night) and asked if it was ok to take immodium with the antibiotic. The pharmacist asked what I was taking the antibiotic for and I said a kidney infection. She refused to believe that I even had a kidney infection and suggested I just stop taking the antibiotics. I told her I have lived with kidney infections my entire life because of a congenital deformity and frankly I just wanted to know if the Immodium would affect the antibiotic. She refused to answer me because she wanted to know about the urine cultures. I really don’t think it was a pharmacists call to decided whether I was really sick or not, I just wanted to know if 2 drugs would interact. Lesson learned never call Walgreens late at night.

  62. algormortis says:

    That Rite Aid makes me want to rip my eyeballs out. They’re just some serious kind of dumb there, and i have no idea why they’re so dumb; Rite Aid is overpriced, and in Seattle you never know when they’re going to randomly close your store, but their pharmacy staff at other locations is far more competent than Walgreens or Bartell’s. (Bartell’s used to be awesome, as they’re our local chain, but that’s gone to pot in the past five years or so. Sad.)

    I just go to a cute little pharmacy in Edmonds that’s near one of the places i’m always doing maintenance. They’re indie and very nice and don’t ask me 9000 stupid questions about everything.

  63. GrandizerGo says:

    Not being a pharmacist, but I have to believe that being over worked is NOT the answer to the problem. That is like saying if an air traffic controller is too busy, ignore every 3rd plane…
    I thought that customer satisfaction is the way to go in business. The example here shows that it isn’t. At NO time should a person who is responsible for the lives of others in their NORMAL every day chosen profession EVER be put into the situation that some here are claiming. Harried and too busy…
    If a person died from receiving the wrong drug, want to bet it would cost more than a phone call from Billy to make it better?
    Billy did a fine job, and I applaud him. I also think he should have tried to get the customer back with a promotional offer. As stated, others hear about this and might change pharmacies in sympathy / fear as well.
    A look into why the rate of trained professionals in this area is decreasing is also warranted. Probably going to be due to a lack of salary. And steps taken to fix it should be put in place.
    Too many times you see reactionary fixes rather than preemptive fixes.
    Which do you want?

  64. FLConsumer says:

    @Usama: Keep your eye out for it — it’s out there and from what I can tell, most GI’s have no clue about it. Flip through a few articles in PubMed — there were sporadic articles on it in the past, but a whole flurry of them over the past two years.

    I’ve seen people go to multiple GI docs, had portions of their small intestine removed, even went through chemo, and ultimately none of this helped their symptoms. A 2-week heavy course of Xifaxin cured both of the pts I saw.

  65. FLConsumer says:

    @GrandizerGo: Harried and too busy and responsible for other people’s lives…. You’ve not been in a hospital much lately. Keep it that way — you don’t want to be in one now.

    Most hospitals have nursing shortages, some are even having trouble getting patient techs. Residents are now “down” to 80 hrs/week, so they’ve better off than they’ve been, but they’ll tell you otherwise.

  66. KJones says:

    While “Billy” handled it right, I have to disagree about “retraining”.

    When a product could be potentially life threatening, you don’t “retrain” for customer service. If this were a doctor, his license would be revoked and he’d have to be recertified. The same should apply to a pharmacist.

  67. MPHinPgh says:

    @The Kapil: Lessee now…where’s that “Inappropriate Content” button?

    Ah, here it is! >click<

    One down, one more to go. StevieD, you’re next…

  68. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @The Kapil: Do you think people in Africa have diseases that makes them sick with Wheat or Milk?…or are they just greatful to have food?

    People of sub-Saharan African descent have a substantially higher rate of lactose intolerance than people of European descent.

    Surprisingly, the incidence of food intolerance is not affected by gratitude.

  69. theMatrix says:

    Rite Aide is one of the worst companies around when it comes to customer service. He was lucky that one employee did his job. Mine did not turn out so well. I have a chronic illness, RSD, and I had called in a refill at Rite-Aides on Friday. No problem, they said it would be ready on Monday. I don’t trust their computer so I talked to them in person to make sure. I called Monday morning to fimd out they had closed down the pharmacy that day. No warning, my prescription wasn’t filled, I could not get it back and no one could give me any answers. I take 10+ prescriptions per month, some crucial and they would not lift one finger to help me out.

  70. sheila315 says:

    Seems to me if she is a nurse……she should have known this information to begin with. As far as I know nurses deal with medications. She should have a nurses guide to lists of medications. Before I fill a prescription I make sure I know all I can beforehand. It’s called being informed and I’m not a nurse. I do agree however she was not treated properly by the pharmacist. I might add…..I work for Rite Aid and most of the Pharmacist there are so over worked and over stressed it’s ridiculous. Good job to the DM though.

  71. sheila315 says:

    I work at Rite aid. Last week alone, we had $2306.00 worth of Mucinex and Claritin stolen off the shelf. We do not lock up the high theft items. We keep them behind the checkstand. As of today….the items we need to keep “behind” consist of, high priced razor blades, Dulcolax, Pepcid, Oil of Olay and Zeno. Now we will have to make room for these items too. All of these items have been stolen in mass, resulting in thousands of dollars in losses. When it comes to a little inconvenience verses having to raise the prices to a ridiculous amount to make up for the lost dollars…..I will gladly take the inconvenience. At this rate we might as well go back to the NON self-service type of stores.

  72. Usama says:

    @arch05: Yeah, that kind of attitude isn’t going to help anyone. My point was giving the pharmacist some breathing room is important both for your health and his/her health. It’s not something that should be “dealt” with, when you see a systemic problem like this the proper thing to do is to enact changes that can prevent mistakes from happening. In this case the pharmacist had a bad attitude an was unwilling to help, but my point is that a similar situation can lead to even worse consequences (giving the wrong medication, or not adequately checking if a medication has gluten or not)

    @GrandizerGo: I wasn’t saying that a pharmacist being overworked is the answer to the problem (of him not looking up gluten information), I said it’s a contributing cause of the problem.

    @FLConsumer: Excellent points… nurses (and nursing assistants) are so critical to proper care, residents are a hospital’s somewhat cheap workforce of doctors, and both are being pushed so much that patient safety suffers. Often times it is a systemic issue.

  73. erica.blog says:

    All the responses about “oh, pharmacy’s are so busy, stressful, blah blah wah wah” are just reinforcing my intent to patronize a local pharmacy instead of a national chain. My pharmacist knows my kids by name (though I’ll admit she can look it up in her computer every time I’m in and I wouldn’t know the difference, but you know what, I don’t care). Last time I was in picking up my monthly birth control prescription, she asked if my son’s ear infection was better. She provides a personal touch and professional service and I could not be more pleased.

    I prefer to have my prescriptions handled like medication, not burgers and fries. It’s a pharmacy, not a fast-food restaurant. Ergo, @Usama: I completely agree that a drive-through is ridiculous for pharmacies :)

  74. RxRex says:

    It is the MD’s responsibiliy too! If a patient has celiac disease the MD should be damn sure he is not prescribing anything with gluten. The patient should also educate themselves. If these two steps along with the RPh checking for gluten occur, the outcome will be the best medically. Do not allow the MD to use ignorance as an excuse. It is his/her job too.

  75. Usama says:

    @RxRex: This would be true if there were drugs with the active ingredient as gluten. But as it is, doctors prescribe medications, like say Vitamin D or Atenolol. You can go to two different CVSs and they’ll have different manufacturers for the SAME medicine because each pharmacy (or pharmacy chain) switches suppliers, and so sometimes manufacturers). Therefore maybe a doctor can look up if Vitamin D made by Teva Pharmaceuticals has Vitamin D in it, but how would a doctor know if Teva even makes Vitamin D, much less if the pharmacies in the area carry it. Here, gluten is a binding ingredient, and what a drug manufactrrer uses to bind the active ingredients in a medicine is specific to that manufacturer. We use to get a diabetic medication called Metformin from one company, then we switched to another company in India. Most patients had no problem, we just had to warn them about the new shape/color, and well the pills were smaller but they liked that. A small population (1 or 2 people out of all the people who come to the pharmacy) didn’t react well to the new medication, and so for those specific patients we had to special order Metformin from sources outside our vendor. An MD, no matter how well trained, does not have access to all this information. Gluten is not an active ingredient, it’s not something that will be in the Physicians Desk Reference, neither will information on what manufacturer a drug uses. I do believe that the doctor should remind the patient to make sure the pills are gluten-free, but asking the doctor to call up the specific pharmacy the patient patronizes to find out their particular brand of drug X has gluten in it, or having the doctor FIND a pharmacy that has drug X without gluten in it, maybe asking a lot in one visit. As a doctor I wouldn’t mind doing it, but I would need more than a few minutes, in fact it sounds like it would be something that would take a good hour on the phone to research and find the right place and drug manufacturer. I just think it would be faster if the patient did this him or herself.

    @erica.blog: My pharmacist knows a lot of the customers by name and everything too (I work at a national chain pharmacy). In fact he does the same thing, asks the patients about their children’s health because maybe they were sick last week or something, and he does it without looking up the profile! (I bet yours does this too, I mean without looking up the profile). Oh and my pharmacy doesn’t have a drive-thru, and I’m just going to put it out there: he has for the most part, excellent help as most of the technicians have been working for over 3-4 years and have the experience needed to resolve a lot of problems on their own. Still, I understand your decision to go to a local pharmacy, and I applaud you for supporting an independent pharmacy as they need all the financial help they can get with these new Medicare laws.

  76. Usama says:

    *correction*: it’s not something that will be in the Physicians Desk Reference, neither will information on what manufacturer a pharmacy uses

  77. RxRex says:

    I have patients that have Celiac and I do the research. I just tell the patients it takes time and they accept the answer.

  78. Heresy Of Truth says:

    @sheila315:
    Seems to me if she is a nurse……she should have known this information to begin with. As far as I know nurses deal with medications. She should have a nurses guide to lists of medications. Before I fill a prescription I make sure I know all I can beforehand. It’s called being informed and I’m not a nurse. I do agree however she was not treated properly by the pharmacist. I might add…..I work for Rite Aid and most of the Pharmacist there are so over worked and over stressed it’s ridiculous. Good job to the DM though.

    I can tell you work at Rite Aid, because it’s a little ridiculous to expect everyone to know the formulation over every med they take. I work with a lot of docs, and even they don’t know that information. It’s very standard to look up gluten information. This is clearly in evidence by Kelley-Ross Pharmacy. When I went in to pick up my prescription, the pharmacist, the tech, and the cashier all sat at the counter and asked me how it was possible for a pharmacist to blow that off. They laughed at him, and concluded he was just a “lazy pharmacist”. Thier words, not mine.

    I have called this kind of gluten free reqruest in all over the state, and not had a pharmacist treat it as anything other than a normal request for my patients.

    @RxRex:
    If he had told me it would take a bit of time, initially, that would have been totally cool. I get that it’s probably on some list gathering dust in the back desk, or something. It was the “there is no way to tell” line over and over that made me walk out. He only offered to spend a few days calling the manufacturer after I was walking away. I would have waited in the store, or been happy to have them call me when it was done, if they had been more helpful.

  79. sheila315 says:

    it’s a little ridiculous to expect everyone to know the formulation over every med they take>>>>>>>>>>>
    I never said I expected EVERYONE to know the formulation of EVERY medication they take. What I said was I thought that since she’s a nurse she should have known this information. Yes, absolutely the pharmacist should have had and given her that information. He was definitely wrong. And for your information I have nothing to do with the pharmacy operations. There was no need for you to insult me.