Should CVS Have Sold $21 Inhaler To Asthma Sufferer Who Only Had $20?

A woman in New Jersey suffering from an asthma attack had to call a paramedic when her local CVS wouldn’t sell her a $21 inhaler for $20.

The woman and her boyfriend were walking home in Garwood, NJ, when her asthma kicked into high gear. Hoping to quickly remedy the situation, they popped into a nearby CVS to buy an inhaler.

Recalls the boyfriend to MyFoxNY:

I had exactly a twenty-dollar bill. It came to twenty-one and change… I offered him my cell phone, my wallet. I said i live right around the corner. I come in here all the time….

I said ‘Can you just give her the pump. She’s on the floor wheezing… I didn’t know if an ambulance would get there on time. He said there was nothing he could do for me.

Thinking quickly, the boyfriend contacted a friend who is also a paramedic. “He did have an inhaler. She used two pumps, waited a little while,” the boyfriend says. “She started to come through a little quicker than if she didn’t have it.”

CVS, now under federal scrutiny for being lax about pseudoephedrine sales, tells Fox: “The well-being of our customers is our highest priority and we are looking into this matter.”

Woman Couldn’t Buy Inhaler During Asthma Attack []


Edit Your Comment

  1. The Upright Man says:

    A dollar?

    Honestly, CVS?

    • skylar.sutton says:

      CVS is not a charitable organization.

      Dear America: You’re not entitled to anything, stop thinking you are. Goods and services cost money – learn to live with that fact.

      • Illusio26 says:

        They do, but when someone’s life is at stake, that retarded line of thinking goes out the window.

      • AI says:

        It’s first aid, not a free burrito. Like Jon Stewart would say “Be a fucking person”.

      • Fineous K. Douchenstein says:

        Dear skylar.sutton: You’re a jackass. Please exit to the left.

        If I were the one working behind the counter, I’d have thrown the extra money in myself, and not worried about it. It’s likely the guy would have come back later to pay me back for the assist, and if not, I could have felt good about chipping a dollar and change to someone who was immediately in need. It’s far better than handing some kid outside Walmart money for cheerleading camp.

      • FightOnTrojans says:

        Think of the positive spin CVS could have put on this had they sold it to her for the $20. We here in Consumerist-land would have sung their praises from all over, holding them up as an example of un-common sense amongst corporate America. We would have commended them for empowering their employees to act as human beings, and not greedy profit-machines. Instead, hot on the heels of the mind-boggling fine they had to pay for not controlling their sales of meth ingredients, we get this story, which only serves to further solidify the idea that they couldn’t care less about their customers and are really only worried about the almighty dollar, every single last one.

        • Southern says:

          Think of the positive spin CVS could have put on this had they sold it to her for the $20

          Then it wouldn’t have been news, and would never have been reported. Hence, we’d never have learned about it to “sing their praises.”

          • FightOnTrojans says:

            Possibly, but there was another commenter who stated that a Rite-Aid allowed him/her something similar and has forever earned his/her loyalty for that simple act of generosity. Word-of-mouth advertising could be a powerful thing.

            Beyond that, there’s something more that is being missed by quite a few people: I don’t believe that the cashier was this cold-hearted individual who refused possibly life-saving medication over a dollar, more that the cashier was afraid to be proactive in such a situation, and that I blame on the culture established by the manager and corporate HQ.

        • Pax says:

          Exactly this.

      • SabreDC says:

        In theory, I agree with you. In practice, I wish people would have more compassion when someone’s life is at stake. Even if the cashier simply put in the extra $1 if they didn’t want to break any rules. No, they don’t HAVE to, but we’re a society.

        What’s the point in maintaining a society if we’re not going to act socially responsible when people are in need?

      • Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

        I’m thinking this article, and you, are screaming out for this tag: Be an F*&*ing Human.

      • jbandsma says:

        She wasn’t asking for them to GIVE her anything. CVS was offered a cell phone and a wallet as collateral to hold while the boyfriend ran back to get more money…after making sure she was ok. I can see somebody maybe walking off without their phone but without their wallet and all the documents in it? I don’t think so.

      • aloria says:

        K. What about the potential liability for basically standing there while someone is dying on your property? Not breaking any laws, perhaps, but it’s still a lawyer’s wet dream.

      • knoxblox says:

        You’re name isn’t Melisa Jackson, is it?

        And yes, asthma CAN be deadly. Someone’s life shouldn’t be disputed over a dollar and change.

      • danmac says:

        I really hope you find yourself in a similar situation and no one is willing to help because they’re all like you: neo-Darwinist shitheads who think that every bad thing that happens to someone is their fault because they weren’t perfect enough to avoid it.

      • Mr_Human says:

        Woosh! You successfully missed the point.

      • Mike says:

        Improper planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency to the rest of us. If you have a health problem don’t wait until the last minute to take care of your problem.

        • 3skr1mad0r says:

          You’re right so you if you for some reason suffer a heart attack, you had better have some aspirin and a portable difribillator on you at all times. In fact, you should carry splints around in case you suffer a fall as well. Just don’t come to “the rest of us” since your lack of prep doesn’t warrant an emergency.

        • AnthonyC says:

          When a co-worker isn’t prepared for a meeting and asks me to stay late to help, then you’re absolutely right.

          And a customer has an asthma attack and is “wheezing on the floor,” but $1 short if being able to buy an inhaler, that *is* an emergency on your part, her poor planning or not.

        • aaron8301 says:

          By that logic, we should’t have ambulances, fire trucks, or even police. Way to be human!

      • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

        I’m of mixed feelings here. My CVS is usually nothing but awesome, even spotting me a pills when a prescription ran out and I couldn’t get my doctor’s office on the phone. This was the cashier not CVS corporate – I’m sure corporate would’ve much preferred them to just give the customer the damn inhaler rather than incur the wrath they’re now seeing.

        That being said…if she’s been having the symptoms for four or five days, she needed to have her inhaler with her (no, I don’t buy the whole “people forget stuff” argument…I’m a light asthmatic and if I’d been suffering for days, my inhaler would be glued to my hand). Moreover, she needed to be at a doctor’s office, not at McDonald’s. There is culpability on her part, as well as that of CVS.

        I generally fall into the category of thinking that people need to be an effin’ human being, but I also understand corporations need to make money. Everyone lost in this situation – the customer who suffered, the employee being vilified, and CVS with all the bad PR they’re getting.

      • c!tizen says:

        A real life troll… super!

      • CookiePuss says:

        If you were on fire I’d piss on you for free to put out the flames. It would be the right thing to do.

      • 3skr1mad0r says:

        The OP knew that. Why else would he have offered his phone or wallet? If someone was going through that and I was an employee, take it out of my pay if need be.

      • jimmyhl says:

        She wasn’t asking for a grilled lobster and a bottle of chenin blanc. She wanted to float a loan of one buck and change for asthma medicine.

      • 99 1/2 Days says:

        Bad publicity is more expensive than a buck and change.

    • aloria says:

      Wasn’t there a similar incident at another pharmacy (don’t recall if it was CVS or not) where a diabetic person became severely hypoglycemic and they forced someone trying to help to pay for a small carton of OJ before the ill person could drink it?

    • DanRydell says:

      CVS didn’t do this, a dumb CVS employee who can’t think for himself did it.

      • Red Cat Linux says:

        Exactly. I’ve had a medical emergency and a CVS pharmacist floated me a dose of my medication that would get me to my doctor the following day.

        At no point did anyone act like they (or I) were not a f’ing human being.

      • ShadowFalls says:

        There is no blaming the customer here. They were short $1… That is it… The person wasn’t even trying to skip out on it either, and offered collateral till they got home to get the rest of it. The inhaler was needed for an emergency and treated it as such. As a person, I couldn’t have just stood there while someone was having an asthma attack and do nothing. Hell, I’d pay the $1 myself it I really had to.

        • Verdant Pine Trees says:

          My God, no kidding! When I was a cashier, many years ago, once or twice I fronted a customer for a nickel or dime. Why couldn’t the cashier just pay the dollar themselves and take the collateral? What a numbskull.

      • starryeyed0806 says:

        true but CVS seems to have a high proportion of dumb employees.

    • c!tizen says:

      After this…

      I’m not surprised. CVS employees have some serious problems with balancing a persons life with a low dollar product.

    • eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

      So is the issue the money, or is the issue the prescription? Do you need a prescription for the inhaler?

      I was very surprised to see this was an actual pharmacist refusing to hand out the medication. I thought it was a cashier.

    • Leksi Wit says:

      My mother-in-law was starting to go into insulin shock and the Walgreens pharmacy 2 blocks from her house was telling us they had to service other customers before fulfilling her insulin order which was over an hour late to begin with. I eventually lost my cool a little, but was able to get the meds in the nick of time, though it left an incredibly bad taste in my mouth. (My mother-in-law had just got out from the hospital and the ditz nurse forgot to give her the first vial of insulin, which is why the order had to be rushed in the first place.)

      What this comes down to is not the CVS or Walgreens but individual employees of the pharmacy who make very bad personal decisions. The individual(s) who withheld an asthma inhaler should be fired as they put someone’s life in peril. Also, CVS needs to formally apologize to these customers as what happened was very wrong and the employees are the face of the company that the public sees.

      • Galium says:

        First off you are blaming the drug store for the hospitals and your mistake. When you left the hospital you should have made sure that the needed medicine was there. Secondly I never heard of a priority script program, most drug stores fill on a first come first served. If the druggist rushes a script it is because they see a need and wish to. As for discounts, a clerk may be fired for giving an unauthorized discount, especially in a chain drug store where rules are strict and any deviation could mean dismissal. Would you give up your job for a dollar? That may be how this person seen it, corporate fear is real in many workers. Personally I would have rushed to fill what I would have considered an emergency script. If a person was a little short on money most likely I would be inclined to pay the difference myself. It would be immaterial if the customer would pay it back. I give money to charities, I can be charitable to a person in need of a dollar for meds.

        • bigTrue says:

          Thank you for using logic and intelligence to perfectly explain this situation instead of the kneejerk emotional “It’s only a dollar, what a hateful company!” by the majority of people on this site. That 9 dollar cashier job might be all that’s keeping the guy from living on the street in this economy. Does this situation suck? Sure, but to blame the cashier for following rules put in place by faceless management states away in a board room somewhere is ridiculous.

          • kujospam says:

            I agree with the logic to a point. But you could always chip in a dollar yourself and keep the persons wallet with driver’s license till they come back.

  2. RandomMutterings says:

    This is a human issue. The CVS manager should have been empowered to make the ‘discount’ sale (it amounts to less than 5% discount). The cashier involved, however, should not be able to ‘discount’ items — would lead to loss.

    • cash_da_pibble says:

      Or, if the Cashier had some heart –
      he would have rang it up, taken the $20 and put it in the drawer and wind up short, and live with the notion he helped someone.
      Or he could have put the buck and change in himself.

      • danmac says:

        I was thinking this very thing…I probably would pay $1.50 to stop someone from suffering an asthma attack.

        • FightOnTrojans says:

          Exactly. I’m very surprised another customer didn’t just step forward with the extra dollar.

        • RandomMutterings says:

          The cashier paying the $1.50 (or offering to take the money ‘later’) is a great solution. If I was a cashier and not allowed to discount I would have done that. At some point we have to look out for each other, right?

      • Pax says:

        That’s precisely what I would do. And I’d tell the manager, too: “If it’s a problem my drawer is short a buck fifty over that, feel free to deduct it from my paycheck – because helping her was simply the right thing to do, no matter the cost.”

    • Raekwon says:

      The guy probably said he could come back later with the missing amount. They could have just put it in the register later that day.

    • Dover says:

      “cashier … should not be able to ‘discount’ items”

      I heartily disagree. Companies should hire quality people and empower them to help customers. Allowing employees to correct prices for any reason leads to good customer service and faster handling of non-straightforward transactions. Use a combination of computer analysis and management oversight to detect potential loss issues after the fact and deal with them appropriately.

      • greentech says:

        The problem with that logic is that qualified people a) don’t last long as cashiers or b) don’t accept cashier positions. It is impossibly difficult to keep a well trained cashier for any amount of time, regardless of store conditions, unless you are offering pay that completely offsets profit.

        To be clear, I am posting this in no connection to the original story, only a glossy response to this particular comment. Also, I agree with what you’re saying, dover, I just don’t think it’s realistic.

        • redwall_hp says:

          Hmm, maybe minimum wage is too low then? (Not that anyone ever listens to me on this. Armchair economists apparently are *always* wrong about everything, apparently…) $7.25/hour isn’t really a livable wage in most places. Rent costs more than you would make in a month working one full-time minimum wage job. To properly adjust it for the kind of inflation we’ve had in the last 30-40 years, it should be at least $15/hour. Reasonably-payed employees are much more likely to give a sh*t about the customers, and decent humans will be much more likely to stick around as a cashier or what have you.

          • 99 1/2 Days says:

            Minimum wage isn’t supposed to be a “living wage.”

          • 99 1/2 Days says:

            And if minimum wage was $15 an hour, the inflation would drive up prices.

          • wookieecookie says:

            I’m not sure if you meant minium wage as in, federal or state minimum wage, or the company’s minimum wage for the position.

            But increasing the minimum wage by law would do nothing to help this problem, as all it would do is increase the cost of the least experienced workers. Since $15 would become the “new low”, these workers would still have no reason to work any harder. Costs for everything else would go up, and people who previously made $15 dollars an hour, would now be a lot less motivated because they’ve just been introduced to minimum wage.

          • roguemarvel says:

            I can tell you that the restaurant i work at (which is a chain that pays $7.50/hr, counter service so mini tips) would not be able to stay in business if mini wage went up and we are a very busy restaurant and we barely make labor costs as it is

      • Clyde Barrow says:

        I disagree also. Empowerment and taking ownership of one’s position is what has been discussed for nearly 15 years in business improvement models at colleges. Hell I studied this very thing back in ’97 studying engineering management along with Lean Six-Sigma methodologies. The problem that I see in many businesses are two things: Some management do not like their employee’s to have ownership because many managers are self-absorbed control freaks. Control freaks are not leaders and do not understand what constitutes leadership. This in turn creates a subservient mentality in the employee’s. Once employee’s model their behavior and expectations on what they know their supervisor expects within a subservient process, they’ll do nothing more than they have to, to get the job done. Now this is only something that I can guesstimate because I have no facts on this store or its management style, but it is quite common.

        It doesn’t sound like this woman was trying to get medicine for a condition that CVS did not have a prescription for so they were full aware of this woman’s needs, but the idea that CVS would bar an employee from receiving medicine because of $1.00 seems out of scope for such a large corporation, but unfortunately it takes something like this to change things. Fortunately for CVS, this woman lived.

    • DH405 says:

      It wasn’t even a cashier who denied the inhaler. It was the Pharmacist on duty. They have some managerial power over things like this, so a tiny discount would be VERY easy for them to do.

    • sparrowmint says:

      When I worked as a cashier at Walmart, we were allowed to give 10% if a customer requested a discount without CSM approval. We were also allowed to “take care of the customer” (in the manager’s words) up to $10 if there was a tag missing, price dispute, whatever. So if an item rang up $30, and the customer claimed it was $20, we could fix it for them without approval.

      We had a bonus every quarter.

    • chaelyc says:

      I agree. The other day at the post office a local bro at the window next to me was 30 cents short & his friends were all pooling pennies to try & come up with the change. I leaned in and handed them a nickel and a quarter because it was worth my 30 cents to get the line moving & make someone feel good about their day. As the guys were leaving I overheard one say “See! I told you people in this town were nice!” That was last week and I’m still feeling pretty good about it.

      It takes very little for a person to make another person’s day a little better. Someone in that damn CVS (patron, employee or otherwise) should have been able to come up with a way to help that person out considering the whole ordeal could have been solved for under $2 but instead the OP is going to have a probably $500 ambulance bill to answer to. If I had been the cashier there I would have taken the money out of my own pocket for that person.

  3. framitz says:

    I’ve had Rite Aid give me enough medication to hold me over (at NO charge) until the prescription comes through. This has earned them my loyalty.

    CVS should be ashamed of themselves.

    • d0x360 says:

      Target pharmacy has done the same for me. I had left my RX at my parents during a visit and it would be a few days till I could go back and get them. I was not due for a refill but I asked the Pharmacy if they could help me out and take a few pills out of my refill. They told me they werent suppose to but since they knew me they would make an exception. Great customer service leads to loyalty.

    • zifnab0 says:

      Rite Aid is dispensing pharmaceuticals without a prescription? And they should be applauded for this?

      • Bye says:

        Oh quit trying to be a contrarian. Our local pharmacy has done the same thing for my spouse when a renewal needs to be called in and it’s the weekend or a holiday and he needs one or two pills to hold him off.

      • aloria says:

        This can’t be done for Schedule II substances like Adderall, but depending on the state, pharmacies are legally allowed to a few days’ supply of a refill in the event of an emergency For example, 2005 Florida Code – 465.0275 allows for up to 72 hours’ worth of medication when a pharmacist cannot immediately verify the refill of a drug.

      • knoxblox says:

        They might not have been. It’s easy for the pharmacy to check with the doctor’s office before dispensing to a (possible) first-time customer if a prescription that can be filled elsewhere exists.

        Walgreen’s did it for me when I dropped my inhaler onto the El tracks when I was visiting family in Chicago.

      • Me - now with more humidity says:

        There’s a prescription in place that simply has to be renewed. So chill.

        CVS does it for me on the rare occasion I need it, like when I run out on a Friday, and the doctor isn’t in until Monday.

    • NotEd says:

      Target had also done the same for me.
      Unfortunately my Doctor then changed the perscription to another medication, as per my insurance’s insistance, and I got stuck paying out of pocket for 4 days pills.
      As I recall the 4 pills cost $30+ while the new perscription for 30 days cost $25 copay.

      Not Target’s fault and they did feel bad I had to do it, but now I just go without until things get sorted on the Doctor’s end.

    • SunnyLea says:

      To be fair, there isn’t really any way to dispense “a few days” worth of inhaler. It’s all or nothing.

      (This isn’t commentary on whether or not CVS should have dispensed the inhaler regardless.)

  4. jesirose says:

    It’s kind of weird that she didn’t have her own inhaler, but I think the cashier should have sold it, and explained why to the manager. If he got in trouble for that, there’s a better news story.

    If I were that cashier, I’d have sold it and covered the difference myself, and been pleasantly surprised when they returned with the extra almost-$2 later.

    • Tim says:

      That was my thought. No need to sacrifice your till or anything.

      • common_sense84 says:

        No, you call a manager who can take the 20 bucks, hand them the item, and get their info so they can come back in later and pay.

        Considering failure to return and pay the difference is shop lifting, a simple recording of info from an ID should be more than enough. If they don’t come back, you call the cops and the cops will go arrest the person over any amount no matter how small.

    • goodfellow_puck says:

      Suffering from asthma doesn’t mean you need the inhaler for attacks everyday. My fiancee suffers from it, but has not had a full-on attack in many years. Sure, he needs it in the morning and night, but otherwise he usually forgets it. I don’t agree with it, but I can understand why it slips your mind. If she was having the attacks before this one, she probably should have remembered, but the McD’s was around the corner and she’s probably not used to carrying it. You can’t always be perfectly prepared for medical emergencies. :/

      • George4478 says:

        Bet she’ll remember it tomorrow.

      • haggis for the soul says:

        This is true. I had a pretty major asthma attack this evening, and it was the first time in a couple of years that I needed my rescue inhaler. I’m really glad I was at home and still had one around since I nearly stopped having it refilled. I haven’t been carrying it with me, although I sure will from now on. Being suddenly unable to breathe is the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced. I would have sold the woman the $20 inhaler or pitched in for it myself. But that’s just me.

  5. durkzilla says:

    Anybody who has ever had to shop at a CVS knows that they’re full of it when they say they value the well-being of their customers.

    • Me - now with more humidity says:

      Mine has exceptionally good customer service 24 hours a day. Generalize much?

    • jimmyhl says:

      Au contraire, mon ami. My CVS is A+.

    • Peacock (Now In Extra Crispy) says:

      My (former) CVS sucks. Hard. After 15 years, I pulled all my family’s scripts because the renewals were never ready when promised, HIPAA regs were routinely violated by them calling out my name and medication name to all and sundry. When I went to CVS to get my scripts to have them transferred, I saw the pharmacy manager (NOT the pharmacist) shaking out some poor sod’s medications into his unclean, ungloved hand, counting them out and them pouring them back into the bottle.

      I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

      I’m now at a small, community family pharmacy. Sure, it’s inconvenient and they’re not open late or on Sundays, but I don’t care.

      CVS must die.

  6. georgi55 says:

    Yes based on the fact that CVS is over prices monster. Placed like Giant or Wegmans always offer lower prices on anything I’ve needed from CVS. Had they gone in to a grocery store that also has pharmacy they may have been able to purchase it for under $20 including tax.

    • Dover says:

      Their normal prices are on the high side. Their sale prices rock, though, and you can get real bargains if you’re willing to play their ECB game (which is more straight-forward and consumer friendly than Walgreen’s Register Rewards and Rite-Aid’s +UP/SCR, IMHO).

  7. majortom1981 says:

    Wait an ambulance wouldnt have gotten there in time but they had time to cal la friend and have him drop one off?

    I know companies are bad but if they had time for a friend to drop one off why should cvs have t osell them one for a dollar less then asking price?

    A store is a store. We have amublances for a reason.

    • Hoss says:

      She said she couldnt afford the cost of an ambulance

      • majortom1981 says:

        So they expect a store to just give them a discount? Thats not right.

        • goodfellow_puck says:

          For a medical emergency? For less than $2 when the guy was obviously trying to prove to the cashier he’d come back with the cash (“here’s my cellphone and my wallet”)? OKAY, DUDE. Spoken like someone who’s never been poor and had to make the decision between $2 and a $2000 debt. I have friends who are painfully poor and would have done the same thing. Yeah, it’s your health, but you don’t make those snap decisions when you know $2000 is a lot of food and getting-to-work money.

        • El_Fez says:

          So the words “Medical emergency” mean nothing to you? Its not like she was asking for a free Big Gulp or something.

        • Hoss says:

          If they want to continue to be licensed to dose out meds and provide professional medical advice, then yes, they must act ethically

          • RvLeshrac says:

            They must act *legally,* not *ethically.*

            It may have been illegal for them to discount that particular item. There are a number of strange local, state, and federal laws regarding specific drugs.

        • Xzigraz says:

          I am ashamed of having to born around the same year as you are.

    • Gregg Araki Rocks My World says:

      You do understand you have no heart. Or should people die over $1? Because what’s the point, really?

  8. Matzoball says:

    I would have to say yes. I suspect this is not the type of situation where I would assume the customer is going to cheat me. I suspect they would have returned with the proper medication. If I was the OP I would have used the inhaler anyways and let them arrest me.

    • Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

      I was wondering the same… My Rx inhaler is $23, but there’s over the counter primatene that I’ve used as well for $18-$20. I guess I should read the article to see what she was trying to buy…

      Either way, the cashier/pharmacy staff should be fired. This is abysmal at best.

  9. eirrom says:

    This is crazy! $21 yes sale $20 no sale?

    If the report is correct and she is lying on the ground wheezing and the CVS employee just stood there watching her suffer, then humanity for our fellow man has all but disappeared.

    • jukaye says:

      Only in America, baby

    • runswithscissors says:

      Sadly it isn’t just that cashier – check out the couple winners in these comments siding with not helping the asthmatic woman. For a buck. That certainly would have been paid back ASAP.

      Risk someone dying rather than loan them a buck! Yay humanity!

  10. TheFinalBoomer says:

    What’s disturbing to me is what this world is coming to. “There’s nothing I can do” is such bullshit. If it were me, I would have just paid the dollar difference for them. I mean, why does it not occur to anyone there that this is only a damn dollar and that they could actually help someone who is in trouble? I really don’t get it.

    • SabreDC says:

      The “there’s nothing I can do” phrase bothers me a lot in this case. Simply because there was a lot he could have done, there was just nothing he was WILLING to do. Sometimes, there are genuine times when there is actually nothing someone can do, like serve a pre-made meal at a restaurant without a specific ingredient. But in this case, he could have shorted the register, he could have paid out of pocket… there were obvious things he could do. He just didn’t want to do them.

      • knoxblox says:

        I hate the “there’s nothing I can do” mentality as much as I hate the “I have to do this” mentality.

    • The_IT_Crone says:

      What if the cashier didn’t have the money? What if they had a manager like mine at the fruity computer store, who would have fired me if the drawer was short? You can’t feed your family with good deeds.

      • backinpgh says:

        I’ve never worked at a job where I’d get fired for my drawer being a dollar short. If I did, short of working at a bank or something, I wouldn’t want to work there.

  11. areaman says:

    None of the above.

    The person with asthma should carry and inhaler around with them. Hopefully she’s not in the practice of buying an inhaler as she starts having an attack but who knows…

    CVS could let her use the inhaler in the store while her friend gets cash, or they could sell her the inhaler and have the register be short $1 – 2 dollars at the end of the day, IF she doesn’t come back with $1 – 2 dollars to get her wallet back.

    All parties get the Golden Poo.

    • hoi-polloi says:

      My mom has asthma, and uses a combination of prescription inhalers. She generally has them with her, but she’s left them at home during short walks. On one walk with my dad, freshly cut grass set off an attack. Thankfully, I was home when they called from a neighbor’s phone and I ran them up to her. It’s all well and good to tell someone what they should do, but how would you have treated this person?

      If I worked at CVS, I would have made up the difference out of pocket or just let my drawer be off. If I was a customer at the store witnessing this, I would have given the couple enough money to buy it. I’d rather risk getting burned for a few bucks rather than treat people like that.

      • goodfellow_puck says:

        Thank you. Having asthma doesn’t mean being chained to your inhaler 24/7 and people forget things. Plus, it sounds like it was a short distance they were going. I love these people that blame a sick person for not having everything they might need in an emergency. How many times has that person forgot something “important” but the woman here is horrible for doing the same?

        • misterkisses says:

          Obviously having asthma DOES mean being chained to your inhaler– it sucks, but if you suffer from random, potentially fatal attacks, the responsibility lies with you to carry an inhaler. It seems insane to me that people that have severe asthma wouldn’t do this. I carry Alka Seltzer on me all the time, because some times my tummy hurts. That’s not a fatal condition, but somehow I manage to be prepared.

          • meltingcube says:

            Agreed. If I was in the same situation I would carry an inhaler with me at all times as well. When I leave my house I always have three things on me, my keys, phone, and wallet. Even if I’m walking down the street, I’m always prepared.

            Now with that said, I don’t agree with what the cashier did. It is possible however that the cashier already had several strikes, and couldn’t afford another one with a short till, however this is just a theory. Many of the articles on consumerist are purely one-sided, and until we hear from the other side, we will never truly know the situation as a whole.

          • meltingcube says:

            Agreed. If I was in the same situation I would carry an inhaler with me at all times as well. When I leave my house I always have three things on me, my keys, phone, and wallet. Even if I’m walking down the street, I’m always prepared.

            Now with that said, I don’t agree with what the cashier did. It is possible however that the cashier already had several strikes, and couldn’t afford another one with a short till, however this is just a theory. Many of the articles on consumerist are purely one-sided, and until we hear from the other side, we will never truly know the situation as a whole.

          • Coelacanth says:

            You do realise that many people with asthma are not “chained” to their inhalers. Years can go by without a flareup, and if your life is 99% free of a certain medical condition, it’s not unreasonable to assume that a fair number of don’t always carry an inhaler.

            Additionally, while an asthma attack can be debilitating, it’s rarely fatal. There’s usually enough time to take *some* corrective action and find an inhaler if you’re caught having an attack without one – especially for people who suffer from mild cases… and if it’s a life-threatening attack, usually an ambulance can be found in time. So, no – for many, many people, it’s probably okay if they go about their days without clinging to their medicine.

            Yeah, drone on about “personal responsibility” – but sometimes it’s nice to know people can be a f***ing person, too.

        • chirish1025 says:

          Um I disagree I have mild asthma and rarely need my inhaler but I have been told time and time again that I need to carry it with me at all times, including to the hospital when I had surgery this summer. If she was having attacks all week forgetting was not an option. I am not convinced that we have the whole story here. First she is on the floor fighting for her life then she is walking out “wondering” what to do. About to die, but don’t want to be billed for the ambulence. Finally, there are people who get high off these meds and I saw nothing confiming a perscription. I am guessing that the pharm. was charging for the OTC inhaler. Not trying to side with CVS believe me but something is fishy

    • bsh0544 says:

      People forget things. Shocking, I know.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      She deserves to die for forgetting the inhaler?

      • macruadhi says:

        It’s called personal responsibility, learn it. What if one forgot nitro pills, an epipen, glucose if you’re diabetic. No, they don’t deserve to die, but dying is a consequence of forgetting.

        But yeah, if I’d been the Pharmacist, I’d have just paid the difference.

        • kobresia says:


          I’m sick of people whining about how “so-and-so who did ____ made a bad choice, but didn’t deserve to DIE!!!1!!one!!

          Well, no, there aren’t many people who deserve to die because they weren’t paying attention while driving or otherwise doing something stupid and/or bad, but it’s a matter of consequences, which don’t care about what someone deserves.

          Calling-out the store because they didn’t give someone a stupidity discount is lame. It would’ve been really nice if the store had been charitable, but it’s honestly not their fault that the woman was stupid enough to not have medicine handy for her life-threatening condition, and that she and her boyfriend also didn’t have the means to pay for more. Clerks in those sort of low-end necessity retail store probably get a lot of people asking for indulgence as it is, and it probably gets old.

  12. CarlWilliams says:

    this is a business not a charity, if you dont have the money for your drug then gtfo and go to the ER.

    • danmac says:

      Yes, because it makes sense for everyone if she incurs hundreds of dollars in ER bills and ties up a busy ER doctor’s time AND and a bed for services that wouldn’t be needed at all if CVS lost $1.50.

      You are an asshole.

    • acasto says:

      Your line of thinking only works when a business is too big to *have* to worry about their customers. Unfortunately that is the state of many businesses today.

    • minjche says:

      Think about your statement. You mention a “charity”.

      Why do charities exist? There’s no logical reason, especially from a business standpoint, for a charity to exist. They exist because a given number of people care enough about something to spend some of their time and/or money to help something (often helping other people).

      In this case, sure, CVS has no logical reason to give this woman anything. But the person at the register and the manager of the store are both still people, and while they’re under no obligation to help out at all, they have the choice to do so.

      TL;DR: Some people like to help other people, no matter how much or little sense it makes.

    • e065702 says:

      Jerk. I hope it happens to you some day.

    • Bye says:

      ER, huh? Speaking of “charity”. It’s the mean-spirited people like you who would send every low-income person to the ER for an emergency that doesn’t understand that it’s exactly that mentality that has driven our medical prices so high. We all pay for ER visits.

      My spouse had to go to the ER last year for a severe case of gastroenteritis and it was very eye-opening to see the whole process from start to finish. At every step of the way, we were treated with respect but under the assumption that we wouldn’t be paying for anything. Even when we received the bill, we got a phone call the very next day to see if we were intending to pay it.

      I hope you have to go to the ER for something minor someday so you can grow up and get a little perspective.

    • spunkmonkey says:

      I am going to go ahead and say that Mr. CarlWilliams is just trying to nudge the conversation. If not then he represents the worst that humanity has to offer. Regardless if it is her fault for leaving her inhaler at home no person’s life should be put at risk over less than $2.00.

    • haggis for the soul says:

      Let’s see, a $1 difference in cost for an inhaler that’s already at hand and can halt the attack or a trip by car or ambulance to the ER costing hundreds of dollars and risking the lady’s life in the bargain? I sure hope you’re a troll, because otherwise, you’re a shitty human being.

    • sopmodm14 says:

      yea,but look at health care costs these days

      i’m sure it wasn’t a scam

      but it could’ve been handled a bit differently and satisfactory to all parties

      we would be reading the new headline “CVS possibly saves customer’s life with emergency use of inhaler”

    • NickelMD says:

      So CVS shouldn’t have to discount it a dollar, and instead I should be forced to perform a service for someone without pay?

      The sad part is that you are stupid enough to think that the ER is free. Its not. If she comes to the ER I will treat her (and in fact treat her well because I am not a sick selfish fuck like you). However that not only requires that I spend 20 minutes of my time doing so, but I have to pay about $30 for the privilege (cost per patient for malpractice, professional costs, etc). Because even if you come to the ER, pay me nothing for the care I provide, don’t actually do what I advise you to, and then have a bad outcome, you can still sue me.

      But fortunately most human beings have more empathy and intelligence than you, so that care is there for everyone. That said, I can only hope that when you come to the ER for your kidney stone, you get a nice therapeutic wait while people like her get treated before you.

  13. cheezfri says:

    I’m only recently familiar with CVS, as they just opened up in my neighborhood, but they have been outstanding so far (knocking vigorously on wood).

    If I were the clerk, I’d happily give a dollar out of my own wallet for an emergency situation. At the very least, the mgr should have been able to offer a small discount.

    • jenjenjen says:

      If it’s a “good” neighborhood you’ll be fine and happy with your CVS. I liked them a lot when I lived in a more affluent neighborhood – they were friendly and would talk to you and my prescriptions were always right. But the CVS in my current neighborhood is like a whole different company that does not give one tiny bit of a damn about its customers. They got my meds wrong three times, shorted me on pills, and seem to think that because a lot of folks here are on some kind of public assistance, they’re less deserving of medication. But boy, the liquor (this is California) and junk food aisles are well-stocked.

  14. danmac says:

    As someone who suffers from allergy-induced asthma, this is ridiculous. Having an asthma attack is like trying to breathe through a coffee stirring straw, and people die from them. A bad asthma attack is the most horrible feeling I’ve ever experienced.

    To make it worse, even generic albuterol inhalers are more expensive then you would expect.

    • Spaceman Bill Leah says:

      It’s my understanding that there currently aren’t any generic albuterol inhalers. Some design change to removed CFCs re-set all the patents. Yippee.

      • danmac says:

        Damn…you’re right…I didn’t think about that because I don’t purchase my albuterol in the U.S.

        • Spaceman Bill Leah says:

          Yeah, tripled my stupid co-pay. Perhaps I should be getting my Canadian in-laws to smuggle me some.

      • jbandsma says:

        You can still get them online and the ones that were supposed to be discontinued were Combivent…which are still available anyway. Of course Combivent ($30 online) is now $150 in the pharmacy and my other inhaler is over $200.

        • scoccaro says:

          I pay $35/mo for my Combivent, their reasoning is that it is 2 medications in one. I was on ProAir and that too was $35. Yet, i can get 60 vicodin for $6.00…

  15. mbgrabbe says:

    In emergency cases like this, the store employees need to make a judgement call and just give the item to the customer for free (at least for now). The cost of dealing with a PR nightmare like this is much MUCH higher than the loss of one item.

  16. AT203 says:

    One, the employee might have been fired for stealing, even over one dollar. I don’t mean to support the employees actions, instead I mean to highlight the effect that top-down, inflexible corporate policy-mindedness has on front-lines customer service.

    Second, we don’t know the area or the people involved. This could be an area where the employees are used to dealing with crackheads all the time, and they may just be fed up with people trying to bargain for things. They may have even seen people collapse on the floor in order to get what they want. (The fact that the victim says they offerred their cellphone and wallet as collateral seems to argue against my crackhead hypothesis. But still consider the general point.)

    • kobresia says:

      I *would* support the employee’s actions. They’re not really paid much as it is, and blaming them for not chipping-in money here and there or risking their jobs by stealing from their employer on behalf of customers isn’t right.

      From the perspective of management and corporate, they really have to take a hard line, because otherwise lowly clerks might be exceedingly “generous” if allowed any discretion to give every sob story a discount. Managers maybe could be granted a little more discretion, but even then, pharmacies probably see an endless parade of emergencies & people without enough money and other sob stories each and every day.

      • Bagumpity says:

        I can’t defend the employee’s action, but I do understand it. They’re not medical professionals. Hell, they’re probably not high school graduates. They might have heard of asthma or even made fun of some kid with a “puffer” back before they flunked the third grade for the third time, but they don’t know that witholding one can result in someone’s death. Nor do they have the ability to understand that someone dying in the store is bad for business.

        All they know (because all that they are taught) is that there are buttons on the register and that NOTHING happens unless there is a button for it. Since there is no “medical emergency discount” button on the register, there is no such thing as a medical emergency discount. People get fired for their tills being off by a dollar! And to a ignorant stupid clerk, getting fired is worse than seeing someone die in aisle seven.

        Hire smart people, empower them to do what’s right, make sure they KNOW what’s right, and your business prospers. Hire stupid people, make them blindly follow policy, and you get situations like these.

        • 99 1/2 Days says:

          Name one person who got fired for their till being short a dollar. And seriously, for them to fire her for this would give them worse headlines: CVS Employee Fired For Helping Customer in Emergency

  17. LuckyLady says:

    So this girl has been having acute asthma symptoms for four or five days, and ventured out without her inhaler. Problem number 1. Problem number 2 is, your asthma is NOT under control if you are using a rescue inhaler repeatedly. She should have already reported her breathing problems to her primary care physician per her asthma management plan for evaluation and/or a step up in treatment. Problem number 3 is asthma can kill you because you are unable to get oxygen to your lungs. The boyfriend should have called 911 because not being able to breathe is a serious medical emergency.

    You know why every single doctor’s office you call these days has that recording that says, “If this is a medical emergency, hang up and dial 911?” This would qualify. Worry about the money later; it’s your life.

    • goodfellow_puck says:

      #1 If she’s in the habit of not carrying it due to not having attacks most of the time, it could have slipped her mind. People forget things. Also, it was a short walk so I’m sure she didn’t think it would be needed. #2 & 3 If you are poor and have shitty insurance, you don’t go to the doctor or call on EMS as quickly as other folks who have the cash. You wait much longer than you should because you know that $2000 bill (or even something as “cheap” as a doctor’s visit) is a whole lot of food, and utility, and getting-to-work money that you can’t make up. You do without. It sucks, and that’s one of the arguments for insurance reform. You can say “It’s your life!” but at the time, you don’t know if it is for sure. You take the chance on bargaining for $2 so you can eat for the next few months.

    • SNForrester says:

      “Worry about the money later; it’s your life.”

      That’s what’s wrong with the US healthcare system. People are encouraged to jump into care with no consideration for the cost. That’s just a denial of reality. Why can’t people make an informed choice about their healthcare that also takes cost into account?

  18. RandomHookup says:

    If there’s no one in the line who wouldn’t pitch in a buck and change just to get the deal done, then there’s no hope for humanity.

    • hypnotik_jello says:

      I think there isn’t much hope for humanity… just read the a number comments in this thread and you’ll see that. “CVS isn’t a charity” “they’re a business” blah blah blah

      • runswithscissors says:

        Check out the survey results. Looks like humanity is currently running at 90% decent human beings. On the one hand, 90% is pretty good. But on the other hand, man – WTF at that 10%?

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:


      Was there no one else in the store?

    • stint7 says:

      Honestly if I was in earshot of that conversation I would gladly pitch in the money, even if they needed $10. Asthma is some serious stuff.

  19. MaytagRepairman says:

    Meanwhile they sold a case of sudafed to the meth-maker waiting next in line — no questions or id asked.

  20. SNForrester says:

    You can’t reason with a cash register so I can understand why the cashier couldn’t complete the transaction.

    What I don’t get is why neither he nor any other customers would be willing to help. I don’t normally give handouts to people, but even I would cough up a dollar or two to a guy right there at a cash register trying to buy an inhaler for someone obviously in distress.

    • Hoss says:

      The pharmacist seeing someone in distress should have acted more professionally.

    • minjche says:

      Former CVS (and Eckerd) cashier here, sure you can’t “reason” with a cash register, but it’s possible to type in a different amount than what is being paid. The cashier counts the money for each transaction, not the register.

      At the end of the day, the drawer is counted, and assuming this cashier isn’t terrible, their drawer would have been off by under $2, hardly an offense they could be fired for.

      There’s also an in-store intercom where the cashier can call up their manager and pass the decision to them.

    • dilbert69 says:

      But you can key in that the person tendered the appropriate amount, put the $20 in the cash drawer, and hope the customer comes back to pay the rest.

    • aloria says:

      The cash register doesn’t know how much money the customer has in her hand when you ring up the transaction. You can absolutely ring up a $21 transaction and only put $20 in the drawer. Most employers allow you to be a dollar or so over or under on your till when you cash out for the day.

  21. Caffinehog says:

    What is shocking to me is that NOBODY was willing to cough up

    • common_sense84 says:

      I wouldn’t do it. I would yell at the manager for not doing his job.

      All the manager had to do was take the 20 bucks, log their ID, and tell them to come back by tomorrow to pay the difference or it will be reported as shop lifting.

      Cops will arrest people no matter how small the amount that was not paid.

      • haggis for the soul says:

        And in the time it takes to complain, she’s not getting any better. I’d cough up the difference, then worry about the piss-poor customer service.

    • EWU_Student says:

      Wheeze a people shouldn’t stand for this!

  22. sixsevenco says:

    The bad publicity resulting from this will cost a lot more than $1.

  23. arsenicookie says:

    This is an unfortunate side effect of working for a large corporation. You have strict policies and loss prevention procedures that employees must follow, common sense and compassion are not part of the training material. I’m sure the right person could have made an exception and a quick decision to save someones life would not result in disciplinary action but your bottom of the totem pole cashier is only taught that not following policy or “contributing to company loss” is grounds for termination.

    • Dover says:

      I think this depends mostly on the local management. If this had happened at the store near me, I’m certain the cashier would’ve taken the $20 and experienced no negative repercussions.

    • Zydia says:

      This. Most employees have been trained to be automatons. I wouldn’t be surprised if the cashier did help in some way and was penalized for it because of some lawyered up regulations.

  24. outlulz says:

    This is another one of those situations where employees are so afraid to lose their jobs that they refuse to bend the rules even a little. And this crap only happens because of how strict and unforgiving corporate is, and how desperately people need to keep their jobs.

    • minjche says:

      +1 from a former CVS clerk.

    • SG-Cleve says:

      Yes, and it’s tough enough to find a job, try finding one when you were fired from your last job for giving away merchandise.

    • Kristoffer says:

      Don’t agree – This is a situation where an employee is too stupid to know the difference in someone trying to get something without paying full price and a medical emergency.

  25. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Is this inhaler behind the pharmacy or grabbable? If the latter, just grab it and use it and save your life. Then deal with the consequences afterward.

    Or since the inhaler was at the register, you could grab it either way.

  26. Hoss says:

    I’d report the pharmacist to the local ethics board (or licensing board). Maybe the pharmacist didn’t break any rules, but they should use better judgment. They should be getting paid for doing more than just counting from 1 to 30 over and over all day

  27. digital0verdose says:

    This is absolutely amazing. I would have grabbed the box, put the $20 on the counter and told the asshole behind the counter to call the cops over the $1. The fact my girlfriend would have still been alive would have made it worth it.

    The quickness at which people turn away from helping others is depressing. We’ll float $20 mill to save miners, but a dollar to save an asthmatic girl is out of line. Get the f**k out of here.

  28. The cake is a lie! says:

    I’ve been in that situation before, sort of. A customer in front of me did not have the right amount and it was an emergency. I went to the counter and paid whatever the difference was so the customer could get what they needed. I wouldn’t have done it if they were a buck short for their cigarettes, but for medication it is another story. The employee should be taken to task by CVS for not coming up with another solution. The customer was promising to come back and pay the difference, so he could have made an exception. Let the woman sit there and recover for a minute while her boyfriend went to get some extra money. I’m having a hard time understanding why an asthmatic was walking around with out her woo-woo and why they only had $20 on them with no plastic or anything else, but stranger things have happened. CVS should have helped. If she would have died then I wouldn’t be surprised if negligent homicide charges were brought on the cashier.

  29. minjche says:

    In any normal situation I’d say no sale, but if the girl was clearly having an attack then I would have figured out an alternative (like to allow her to use the inhaler while her friend goes out to grab more cash, or even to just comp her the dollar).

    Speaking from a business standpoint, the customer loyalty that CVS could have gained from this would probably pay out better than the bad press involved in denying her the inhaler.

    Most important of all, this girl needs to carry around an inhaler of her own. Her health is her responsibility.

  30. Bruce W says:

    If the store would not allow it, the sales clerk should have reached into his/her pocket the for dollar and change.

    • common_sense84 says:

      Fuck that. The manager should allow it. If I worked somewhere, I would never hand out personal cash to customers for any reason.

      Not only it is dumb, I am not here to do that, I could probably be fired.

      But my stupid manager should happily take what they can pay, log their IDs, and tell them to pay by tomorrow or it will be reported as shop lifting.

  31. Bruce W says:

    If the store would not allow it, the sales clerk should have reached into his/her pocket the for dollar and change.

  32. twiggr says:

    What was the “registered pharmacist” doing while this woman nearly died? Could this be considered negligent indifference or maybe even a crime? My family gave up CVS years ago due to hostile bitch pharmacy technicians.

    • Clyde Barrow says:

      I am not impressed with them either. Last time I got a prescription was about six months ago and the tech lied to me about the wait time. It’ ended up being over an hour and they never called the intercom to notify me of it. I drove home and came back and still waited for the damn prescription. Secondly, the employee’s looked like zombie’s and indifferent. I go to Kroger’s Pharmacy and they’re fast and friendly but more often, they don’t BS me in how long my script will take; if they’re busy, they’ll tell me to return the next day otherwise, they’ll give me a reasonable time to return within the hour.

  33. dush says:

    Obviously the customer well being wasn’t their highest priority.

  34. Southern says:

    Sorry, but I don’t fault the CORPORATION for this. CVS didn’t have anything to do with this. The CASHIER did. He could have called a manager (unless he WAS the manager).

    Would it have been the morally RIGHT thing for him to do? (Sell the $21 item for $20?) Sure. I’d have done it, even putting in the $2 myself if necessary.

    But I fault the cashier/manager, not the corporation. They can’t put out a policy that says “If a customer is short $1 for medicine, just give it to them anyway.”

    • Dover says:

      Well said. No matter how much a chain tries to standardize all of its locations, there are going to be variations in quality of service (and product, when applicable) from region to region, store to store, and employee to employee. You can see this right in the comments as several commenters have had poor experiences with CVS while others have had good experiences (dare I say it, I enjoy shopping at my local CVS).

      • Clyde Barrow says:

        “variations in quality of service” based upon unpredictable outcomes of customers’ needs. If management wants its employee’s to take ownership, they also must be willing for its employee’s to make mistakes without fear of retribution. Mistakes are human and so are processes.

        Perform a cultural audit. Organizations need to evaluate the culture of the organization periodically. Can people raise questions and concerns to managers and supervisors and get the help they need? What is happening that signals it’s not acceptable or allowed to ask for help? If managers find themselves often asking their subordinates, “Why didn’t I know about this sooner”, then the first place they need to look for an answer is in the mirror. Because for some reason, many managers have created a culture that discourages the upward communication of negative information.

    • katarzyna says:

      Agreed completely. I use the local CVS and their pharmacy is very flexible. I once accidentily dropped a handful of my blood pressure pills down the drain. When I explained what happened to my CVS pharmacist, he replaced the pills free of charge. (I did offer to pay for them, but he wouldn’t take my money.) This guy is still working there, months later. So CVS obviously allows their pharmacists to exercise some flexibility. (And that wasn’t even an emergency.)

      Also, I can’t fault the other patrons of the store; they might not have understood what was going on. This is on the cashier.

    • oloranya says:

      I’d fault management before I’d fault the cashier. People have been fired for less in retail.

  35. Bob Lu says:

    CVS didn’t “have” to sell the inhaler for $20, but the woman didn’t have to buy it before using it either, since it is a life threatening situation. I believe it is called “necessity” or something in law?

    I am not a lawyer, tho.

    • Thyme for an edit button says:

      I think that’s right too. She could have just taken it and used it because of the emergency then paid for it later.

  36. lehrdude says:

    If she stays in the store and doesn’t go past the “last point of sale” until her boyfriend gets back with the extra $2, is it still shoplifting???

  37. adrienna says:

    Something’s shady about this story. So she left her inhaler at home (and she’s been having attacks for the past four to five days), which wasn’t far away, but instead they called a paramedic friend who happened to have an inhaler. I have to wonder how severe her attack was.

    In any case, you have to have a prescription for ProAir (like shown), so I’m guessing she was trying to buy Primatene Mist. (I can’t watch the video b/c I’m at work, so maybe they address that in the video.)

  38. DovS says:

    I understand the importance of loss-prevention for a business but standing by and letting a customer die on the floor of your store because they were a dollar short seems like the bad PR would outweigh the dollar. Thankfully, the customer was able to get outside help in this instance but it could easily have been too late by the time help arrived and they had the inhaler right there in the store.

    $1 versus very bad publicity of letting a customer die through corporate callousness. Don’t you think the bad publicity would probably cost more than $1 in lost sales down the line?

  39. buzz86us says:

    wow they make her go to the ER over a damn dollar I smell a lawsuit CVS should have to pay her medical bills along with pain and suffering. That dollar went a long way didn’t it CVS??

    • Southern says:

      What on earth would they sue for? She couldn’t afford the item, so the store should be bound, by law, to give it to her anyway? What, is Obamacare going to apply to CVS?

      What if she had been a diabetic, and was low on blood sugar? Should CVS be responsible to give her a bottle of Orange Juice and a candy bar without her paying for it? (And trust me, you’ll pass out and die from low blood sugar).

      She couldn’t afford to pay for the item. CVS as a coroporation has no legal requirement to give her the item anyway.

      They COULD be legally held liable if they didn’t call an ambulance for the woman (which she declined). I’m fairly confident that the paramedics responding would have HAD the inhaler she needed (or perhaps even something that works better/faster, in terms of a shot or something, I dunno).

      • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

        You truly live up to your screen name.

      • buzz86us says:

        its called common human decency someone shouldn’t have to keel over over a measly dollar. I think CVS should be liable for medical bills at least because why for lack of a freaking dollar should she have to pay medical bills upwards of $600 (ER visit) when all she needed was a 21 dollar inhaler. To me when it is a matter of life/death money doesn’t matter.

  40. ChiDoc says:

    I used to be be a Pharmacist (went back to med school but thats beside the point). One day while working at (the major competing chain) a women came in and did not look right and was incoherent. I knew her name and quick checked her profile to see that she had diabetes. I had her sit down and we checked her blood glucose (store’s meter and store’s strips). It was too low for even the meter to read. So I busted open some glucose gel I grabbed right off the shelf and gave it to her as we waited for the ambulance in case it was something more serious. I didn’t even think of charging the lady for the products I had used. Really if it was the pharmacist that refused this sale that is ridiculous.

    • quieterhue says:

      That was 100% the right way to handle that situation. It baffles me that a pharmacist – a trained medical professional — would refuse treatment to someone who was in imminent danger. Even if she had NO money on her, they should have given her the inhaler on the spot and dealt with the $$ issue later.

    • haggis for the soul says:

      Thank you for doing that.

  41. zombie70433 says:

    I wonder how much of this 21 and change was sales tax? The only reason I say this is that businesses get some of the collected tax money back if they get their monthly sales tax payments to the state/parish on time. This means even if the guy didnt return to pay the difference, CVS would have been out less than a dollar.

  42. SG-Cleve says:

    I haven’t worked retail, do stores have rules about co-mingling your own money with the cash register? Can you take money out of your pocket and put it in the register? If the customer does come back and hand you money, can you put it in your pocket instead of the register?

    Those cameras at the cash register are there to watch the clerks who are handling the money.

  43. TheGreySpectre says:

    CVS was right in not selling the inhaler for less, but the cashier could have used a dollar of his/her own money to be a decent person.

  44. pegasi says:

    you’d think if cvs can donate 5k to 50k to extreme home makeover, the person behind the counter could use common sense and “float” 1.50 to someone having a medical emergency in the store. The clerk could have taken the guy’s name and address down and let him come back to pay the 1.50, or let the girlfriend sit there and recover while he went and got it. Or for heaven’s sake, someone in the pharmacy could’ve just taken 2 bucks out of their wallet and covered it for them. what happened to compassion and human decency these days? Was the pharmacist such a stooge that he wouldn’t loan them 2 bucks?

    Pharmacies routinely give several days of meds gratis when they’re waiting for a doctor to refill a patient’s medication that they have to take daily, so why couldn’t they help out with a rescue inhaler for someone in obvious distress?? They had to have an rx to get the one shown in the video, so it’s not like they weren’t known to some of the store staff (not the ones on duty, obviously).

    C’mon CVS, make this right….

  45. the_wandering_monster says:

    Fuck selling it; if I was the cashier and somebody was having an asthma attack in front of me my first reactions would be to a) give them the fucking inhaler b) call a fucking ambulance.

  46. jbandsma says:

    Straight albuterol? (yes, I recognize it because I have to carry one) And they wouldn’t let her have it? She needs to order on the web where you can get them for $10 each when you buy 6. And NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT.

  47. Sky75 says:

    I once gave a woman in front of me $2 because she was short for her diabetes medication…the poor lady was literally counting out pennies and I felt so bad for her. It wasn’t an emergency, but so what? It mystifies me that she couldn’t get the $1 from SOMEONE in that store.

  48. EJ25T says:

    Way to keep up the bad PR, CVS.

    Just wanted to add that the new HFA inhalers are terrible. Nowhere near as effective as the old ones.

  49. evnmorlo says:

    CVS gives away a LOT of merchandise during sales, so it’s rather ridiculous that the robot clerks can’t do this. I imagine at a chain that large medical emergencies aren’t uncommon, and it would make sense to add a few lines of code for advertising purposes if nothing else.

  50. Thyme for an edit button says:

    Wow, CVS worker. That was a be an f’ing human moment and you failed.

  51. Etoiles says:

    I used to work for CVS in years gone by, for a while as a regular register monkey and for a couple of years as a supervisor.

    Anything that cashier does is going to show up in the system in such a way that s/he gets in trouble, there’s no way around that. Mystery coupons, mystery discounts, $1 missing from the drawer — those are all going to reflect badly in the computer system on the person at the register.

    That said:

    If a regular customer that I recognized did indeed come in to my store in distress, I’d sell it for $20 and explain to the store manager what had happened. If someone I didn’t (or did) recognize came into the store in extreme distress, I’d flat-out call 911. But a lot of people ask for a lot of favors over the course of any ordinary 6-hour shift, so there’d have to be a pretty extraordinary thing going on for one to be worth granting.

    I myself am asthmatic and have lent my inhaler to asthmatic friends when one of us was stuck in a bad situation. But I don’t think I’d ever hand it to a stranger, while working, because I’d be too afraid of getting fired or sued or both. 911 would be my call.

  52. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    I’m going to pose a question not taking either side per se, but what if “just letting the drawer be off” was the difference between the cashier keeping his job and being fired? What if he had a starving family at home and couldn’t afford losing his job?

    Most of us would sit here and say “be a f&@#$ human” but that’s not always the choice that EVERYONE makes – it doesn’t make them less of a human, it doesn’t mean they’re not “thinking for themselves” – it just means they have their own sh*t going on that bends their thought processes a bit differently than the majority.

    Were I in the cashier’s position, hell ya I would’ve let the drawer be frickin’ $21 off and just given the damn inhaler to them. But I also don’t know the policies at the store, the consequences the guy was facing by letting that happen, etc.

    We all go with our gut, and this guy’s gut obviously wasn’t in tune with what the rest of the moral majority has to say. It is a sad state of affairs, but it is what it is, and we should be thankful this woman is alive, inhaler or not.

  53. blinky says:

    might have used a debit card. What if he’d had no money?

  54. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    They should have been human and handed the inhaler to her. There is a much bigger picture though. I recently watched a movie called SICKO. One of the people used an inhaler that cost her $120 each but was able to buy a similar product for five cents in Cuba. The point is, the pharmas and insurance companies in the USA have us in a chokehold over healthcare. We need a system where people get the care and meds they need, no questions asked. The corporate attitude to let someone die right in front of them for being buck short stinks.

    Obama had the power to change that but sold us out. Imagine what life would be like if we had a medical system as good as one of the 50 western countries with better systems. Don’t rebut this by pointing out some rare instance where someone got poor care because I just as well point out things like people getting the wrong leg amputated here. Don’t fall for the soundbites, think. Single-payer is the way to get back some of that $7K/year per person we spend now.

    • 99 1/2 Days says:

      Americans pay for the medicines everyone else gets subsidized. Once the pharmacy companies are forced out of business by socialized health care, we won’t have to worry about high prescription drug costs anymore.

  55. Goldensummer says:

    If I had been a manager at the store I would have done everything in my power to find some way to get the inhaler to this woman while she was in the store, however that is not the store’s obligation. I work at LensCrafters and I have had situations where someone needs glasses ASAP (broken glasses and high RX) and is 10 dollars short and I have found ways to make it work, but not every corporation or location has that amount of power or gives its emplouees that amount of individual control. Maybe it was an insurance sale and they don’t have the power to discount further, maybe a lot of things and this situation was not handled the best it could be, however we don’t have enough information to judge.
    I also can’t believe people are saying that a store clerk should reach into his own pocket and give money to a stranger. Sure that would have been amazing and noble but its not an obligation. Call a manager, explain the situation, use common sense yes and all of these things seem not to have happened, but reaching into your own pocket is not an obligation any employee has. I personally have worked places where I could be fired for purchasing something while on the clock.

  56. jeepguy57 says:

    Sounds a little fishy to me.

    1. They live right around the corner and had time to wait for a paramedic friend to arrive, but the boyfriend couldn’t just run home and get the inhaler?

    2. In the wallet full of stuff he showed, there isn’t one credit or debit card?

    3. They were worried about the cost of ambulance? I’ve never heard of anyone being billed – or atleast having to pay the bill – for an ambulance. I’m sure it happens but I know you usually don’t have to pay. Where I live (also in NJ) you don’t get billed – although they appreciate a donation, though they don’t solicit it from you.

    Perhaps they wanted some camera time, or are hoping for a settlement of some kind?

    Regardless, the CVS employee should have just given them the inhaler and let the manager figure it out from there.

    • Thyme for an edit button says:

      I could understand the boyfriend wanting to stay with her and call for help rather than leave her in the care of the CVS workers who don’t give a shit if she dies.

      Some people don’t carry credit or debit cards. Some people do not even have them.

      Ambulance bills are pretty steep. You’re lucky if it is a free service where you are our if you have insurance that will cover the bill.

    • fantomesq says:

      In Texas currently, ambulance transport costs $415.00 dollars plus $7.50 per mile, with an average distance traveled of about 5 miles for a total of $452.50 dollars…

  57. mystery79 says:

    From a common decency perspective – the workers should have paid it out of pocket or a shopper should have offered to pay the extra.

  58. raybury says:

    A company can’t make a policy for every situation, and you can’t count on someone else to exercise good judgment when you don’t. Both parties should have escalated to someone with the authority to approve one approach or another.

    That said, I have to call shenanigans on the time factor. She had an attack, and then what? Found the only CVS without long lines and slow service? Which just happened to have her RX on record, and managed to find the record with no problem? But then the CVS pharmacist who managed these Herculean feats did not have the judgment or even authority to do no harm?

  59. ellemdee says:

    When you have an emergency situation where a few minutes matter, give the person what they need now, and worry about payment later. Yes, it’s a business, but this was an emergency. It’s not like she was trying to underpay for lipstick and Cheetos.

  60. CurtBabarong says:

    I’m pretty sure if it was my girlfriend I would have just ripped open the inhaler, let her use it and worry about the consequences later. You know what they say, sometimes it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

  61. ElDiablo says:

    Why not just open the box and get the medication you need… and sort out the bill later? The cashier is a low-paid flunky. So they wouldn’t sell it to you at a discount or any amount of pleading… put the ball in their court. Let them call the cops and accuse you of stealing OR take your medication and settle the bill afterward.

    (Seriously, you didn’t have a credit or debit card?)

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      All these people saying they should have just opened the box don’t seem to realize that these drugs in the pharmacy are not on the shelf, they are in the back and very well guarded. You HAVE to have someone get it for you, you can’t just stroll back there and start fishing around.

  62. jaredwilliams says:

    CVS sucks. Their rule is that they are supposed to open another register if they are 3 customers deep in a line. They never do. They always have workers standing around ignoring you.

  63. lidor7 says:

    Umm, failure in humanity? To me this isn’t as much of an issue as to whether CVS should have sold it for $20 but if SOMEONE, ANYONE, whether it be the cashier or the customer behind them, could have spotted them a buck. I think people these days have gotten so jaded and self-absorbed that they won’t even help out a stranger in need.

    I had a similar situation just a couple days ago except nobody was dying. The guy in front of me at Safeway kept having his debit card rejected so he pulled out a $20 bill to cover the $21 charge. He quickly removed some garlic out of his already bagged groceries to make up the difference. Realizing the situation, I offered to give him a dollar but he politely refused.

    I suppose there’s always a risk of being scammed when you help someone out, but it’s a dollar and from the sounds of it, the lady was visibly suffering.

  64. cvstrat says:

    I worked for AT&T for years and I used to feel bad when people came in and had broken phones, but eventually you get used to it. The problem is that most people treat them like shit and feel entitled to a new one. It gets to the point where someone crying about not having enough money for a new phone, telling you they need it to call the babysitter, mom’s in the ER, whatever and it gets harder and harder to feel sympathetic each time. The reason? Because it happens several times a day, every single day. Sob story after sob story, pissed customer after pissed customer. While you make every attempt to use reasonable judgement as to who really needs/deserves a break, you have to be pretty rigid sometimes or get taken advantage of.

    In this case I’m guessing people with poor insurance and low income probably cry to the pharmacy all of the time because they can’t afford their medication. Sometimes it could be life threatening if they do not get it, but I’m guessing it happens on the regular. I’m guessing one too many people tried to negotiate the price at the register and the cashier had enough, or was told not to discount, or simply really couldn’t discount and was young/immature enough to fear for his job.

    Personally I would have sold it for $20 and took the heat, or threw in the extra dough if I had it on me. Either way I’m not about to let someone die. Nobody is going to fire you for that, unless you’re already a f’up.

  65. UnicornMaster says:

    Definitely the stupid cashier’s problem. Not an obligation for CVS. I think if I were in that situation I would have given a dollar of my own pocket.

  66. AEN says:

    Couldn’t she have just shoplifed it?

  67. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    This is pretty much the reason why 99% when I leave the house I always carry at least: my driver’s license, credit card, and health insurance card.

  68. Portlandia says:

    It’s CVS, what do you expect, at Target that inhaler probably would have cost $4.

    CVS and Rite Aid are the most overpriced ripp-offs around.

  69. Pax says:

    They would not have lost money. They would have failed to make as much as they NORMALLY would, but …

    … to me, this is like refusing a glass of water to someone who is obviously dehydrated, and then they collapse on the sidewalk in front of your store: “hello, Liability suit”.

    The employees and management of CVS do have a small Duty of Care. Making a special deal to chop $1 off the price for her, is NOT sufficient hardship to excuse them.

  70. PLATTWORX says:

    IDIOT EMPLOYEES! You give the inhaler away in an emergency like this.

    Now, it is on the news, it is all over the web and alot of people are going to drive by CVS thinking of this story…. costing the company bad PR and thousands in sales over a $21 inhaler. Foolish.

  71. EvilTapioca says:

    CVS is a terrible pharmacy and the one in my town hired incompetent fools. No really they let some woman call in narcotics,pretending to be a doctor,and filled them for her. This same woman has passed out in my floor using the phone because she was so high. Yet they refused to fill my mothers medication in a timely manner,lost multiple prescriptions(Including my fiances seizure meds which caused a seizure from him not having them) and did a terrible job of transferring them to Rite Aid. Fuck CVS

  72. Mr. Spy says:

    She was lying on the floor wheezing. They should have just given her the inhaler. Later, after the press conference about how wonderful CVS is to save a womans life, if they didn’t get enough publicity, they could always ask that he pay.

  73. f5alcon says:

    It isnt up to the CVs as a corporation to give stuff for less than the price, but the individuals could have worked it out, somebody in the store had to have the one dollar needed. Doing the right thing at a personal level is what was wrong here not CVS at the corporate level.

  74. rph1234 says:

    In an emergency there is one thing to do, call 911. Anyone who believes they are witnessing an emergency can call 911. They are the professionals who respond to emergencies, not pharmacy staff. If she was on the floor wheezing, how did she manage to “leave the store empty handed” and discuss what to do next in the parking lot?

  75. YukonSid says:

    Really, what the poll is asking is: is healthcare a right, or a privilege?

    If it’s a right, than a woman in an emergency shouldn’t be denied it. If it’s a privilege, then a store can set whatever price they want, and turn away anyone they want, regardless of need.

    (I personally think it’s morally a right.)

  76. ninabi says:

    My mom worked PT as a pharmacy tech as her post-retirement job. She told me that on several occasions they (techs or pharmacists) helped customers pay for meds by reaching into their own wallets. Some customers were in some really sad situations- young single mothers with terminal cancers- and even some who had copays couldn’t even afford those but who’d be mean enough to send someone home without a needed medication? My mom’s group wouldn’t.

  77. RxDude says:

    I’m a pharmacist (thus, the clever name), and kind of an asshole. Still, if the person had a script on file, I’d let them have the inhaler.

  78. rph1234 says:

    In an emergency there is one thing to do, call 911. Anyone who believes they are witnessing an emergency can call 911. They are the professionals who respond to emergencies, not pharmacy staff. If she was on the floor wheezing, how did she manage to “leave the store empty handed” and discuss what to do next in the parking lot?

  79. VOIDMunashii says:

    As a business, the price is the price.
    As a human being, give her the damned inhaler!

  80. Phexerian says:

    Oh geez I don’t even know where to start with this.

    Disclaimer – 1. I am a pharmacist. 2. I hate CVS.

    Someone is most likely telling bullshit in this story. It is fishy and everything doesn’t add up.

    In the video, the girl says she had been having asthma attacks for the past 4-5 days… and she goes out without her freakin ProAir Inhaler? WTF? Is she inherently retarded?

    Second of all, the boyfriend said his girlfriend was on the ground having an asthma attack. If she was on the floor having an attack, just about every pharmacist I know would have been at her side with an inhaler and an epi pen with an ambulance on the way.

    For the pharmacist to refuse an proair inhaler or even primatene mist to someone, most likely it would have meant that the pharmacist didn’t think it was an emergency/urgency at the time. She may have been standing there at the counter asking for it and looking like she was breathing just fine.

    I will say, I get customers walking in off the street, wanting me to loan them an inhaler without paying, yet they are breathing just fine in front of me with no trouble. Thus, I refuse. Especially when they don’t have a script for it in their med profile. (Yes we get people asking us for drugs with no script)

    If these two kids had enough time to call a friend paramedic to drop off an inhaler to them, then it may not have been an emergency. We don’t know for sure, we are just taking people at their word, but something in this story doesn’t add correctly to me.

    Now if it really was an emergency, the cashier should have asked the pharmacist about it. Most pharmacists, seeing that it ACTUALLY WAS URGENT (not an emergency), would have footed the 1 dollar. Urgent meaning she was turning slightly blue from hypoxia and making wheezing sounds. In the case of an emergency, eg patient on the floor and can’t breathe, any pharmacist would have done what I previously stated with an inhaler and epi pen and 911.

    Now as far as the guy claiming to come back and pick up the rest of the tab later, sorry to say that has no weight in a pharmacy. Our work culture is pretty extreme. We get people trying to con us for narcotics and drugs all day long. We have heard every excuse and lie under the sun and moon. Telling us you will come back later and pay for something does not cut it. People try to scam us every day so we inherently don’t trust anyone. We don’t even trust some of our truly honest patients because they just don’t know what they are taking medication wise and then they get angry at us when we fill the wrong medications.

    The media asking the pharmacy about a patients inhaler was amusing. I guess they didn’t realize that the patients health information is confidential and that the pharmacy couldn’t talk about it.

    Now as a former CVS employee, as long as the register is not 5 dollars over or under, you won’t get written up. (Yes, CVS disciplines people if the register has too much money in it. CVS makes more money, and then punishes its employees for it. Fucking retarded, I know.)

    So I can’t really say what I would have done. I wasn’t there at the time and everything doesn’t add up correctly. It comes down to, if they patient is turning blue in front of me and I can see troubled breathing, I’ll do what I can. If you tell me you are having asthma problems but I can’t see any problems, tough shit (depending on the situation). If the problem is over 1 dollar, I’ll give you a small discount so you can pay for it one time, just don’t make it a constant thing. We remember stuff like that.

    Other comments people have posted….

    As far as the statement about there being no generic albuterol inhalers, you are incorrect. Proair and ventolin are the generic inhalers, they are just branded generics. They have a trade name but are generic meds. If another drug company wanted to, they could come out with an albuterol inhaler.

    To buy Sudafed, one needs a US federal/state issued ID. Sorry, your attempt at humor is inaccurate.

    It is not really up to the manager of the store to make decisions regarding prescription medications or medications held behind the counter. That is up to the pharmacist and the pharmacist only, as the entire pharmacy runs on that pharmacists license and name. The pharmacist has all final decisions regarding drugs in a pharmacy.

    @Hoss, you obviously have no clue what a pharmacist does all day. Your comment is mildly insulting. Scratch that. Your comment is blatantly ignorant. You want a small taste of what we retail pharmacists do? Read this:

    That doesn’t even include life threatening drug interactions or the fact that your dumb ass resident MD called in some septra for your wife while she is pregnant or your GP writing a script for your kid for 6 grams of tylenol in a 24 hour period.. Thats just about 15 minutes of my day. I get paid 120k a year to babysit morons like you and this idiot girl who (questionably) almost died of an asthma attack and to get medications to people and their children without killing them.

    Perhaps when you can make decisions regarding the possible life and death of a child, you will understand what a pharmacist does.

  81. LotusNJ says:

    What some people may not know is that it is illegal to discount medications in the state of NJ so he would not have been able to subtract the $1 and change. Should the kid behind the counter ponied up the difference? Absolutely.

    But I still think something in the milk ain’t clean with this story.

  82. CaptCynic says:

    I can’t believe the guy at the counter wouldn’t spot her a buck and a half, any decent human being would. Crap, I’ve given people extra change when they didn’t have enough for a vending machine, I’d sure give a couple of ones to someone having an asthma attack.

  83. stint7 says:

    Needing an inhaler really bad is an awful thing to have to go through. Nothing but a few puffs of it will bring relief. Either that or a nebulizer (sp?), but many people don’t have those handy.

  84. maztec says:

    No, they should not have sold it to her for $20.

    CVS should have given her the puff for free, took the $20, and told her and her boyfriend that they could pay the remaining $1.xx next time they came in.

  85. duncanblackthorne says:


  86. nallanos says:

    this is dumb. you should not HAVE to sell the inhaler. you may if you wish, but someone could come in and lie about it. it’s not cvs’ fault she didn’t have the money. it just sucks that it was a few bucks.

    don’t be stupid, consumerists.

  87. Sean says:

    If I were the clerk I would have given her the inhaler and paid the dollar out of my own pocket.

  88. FiorellaMajumdar says:

    As an asthmatic, I carry my albuterol (rescue inhaler…generic equivalent to her ProAir) everywhere I go. There’s no excuse for not having her inhaler but, since she didn’t have it, why are they going into a CVS? If her attack was that bad, she should have called the ambulance immediately; if not, she could have just had a cup of hot coffee because it contains theophylline, a drug formerly used to treat asthma.

    But it just smells like an opportunity for a payday at CVS’ expense (not that they don’t deserve it).

  89. sopmodm14 says:

    wow, $1.00 could’ve prevented her death if it was that close

    does CVS care about their customers or the profit they can make from them ?

    couldn’t they have entered some code for a damaged product for like, 5 % off ?

    shoot, i would’ve used my staff discount card to get the discount, buy the item for her and have her pay me back.

    i don’t want a lawsuit or the gulity conscience or the karma…..for $1

  90. sparc says:

    the CVS manager should have just given it to her for free as it was an emergency. It wasn’t even a controlled substance and she probably had a valid prescription on file with them.

    a lot of people don’t have any sort of common sense or decency though… not exactly surprised this happened.

    It’s a lesson to anyone who is very dependent on prescription medication for survival. Have a backup plan if possible.

  91. dragonpancakes says:

    I wouldn’t even waste a manger’s time for this! That’s ridiculous. If you’ve got $2 in your pocket you could save a life. Honestly?! Giving someone a hard time over less than $2!?!?!

  92. WhiteWolfAniu says:

    I work at a CVS in MN, and yes, I would have just given the inhaler to the guy. Yes, cashiers do get written up if they are +/- 4 dollars, but whatever. I do though, agree, if this woman was having reoccurring attacks, that maybe she should have planned for it… Also, I have been working at CVS as a shift for 6 years.. I have seen many things. I have lost my faith in humanity. Being a good person, I would have helped out, but honestly, CVS pays their cashiers minimum wage and have to deal with people you wouldn’t ever want to deal with. Sometimes you just go ‘oh well..’ and move on. Survival of the fittest (or smartest).

  93. mrbobvilla says:

    I actually worked at CVS when I was in high school. I find it ridiculous that she couldn’t get the inhaler due to being a dolalr short. I would sometimes cover in the pharmacy when a technician was out or it got extremely busy. I have no idea what the official policy was but I actually had this happen to me. A guy came in and was $5 short on a roughly $40 prescription. He promised to come back with the money and seemed pretty desperate so I just gave him the $5 myself. I figured most likely he would come back but even if he didn’t I’d only lose 5 bucks out of the whole thing.

    The guy ended up being so happy he emailed the district manager who was happy enough about the whole situation. Maybe I should have brought over management and had them give the 5 bucks but with a line of customers 6 long and me being the only (not even real) tech I figured it was the right thing to do and it helped everyone else obtain their prescriptions a little faster. When people go to a pharmacy they are often sick or otherwise frustrated. It is so easy help make someone just a little happier by just practicing common human decencies and it’s completely appalling that this CVS wouldn’t even loan someone a dollar. Hell, when I worked there at least you wouldn’t get in trouble unless your register was more than $4 off.

  94. Quantumpanda says:

    The inhaler shown in the video is a prescription-only inhaler. The only way she could have got one in the first place was to already have a prescription, either a hard copy on her or one on file with CVS. Any other way of getting a prescription would have taken too long. Since most people don’t just walk around with unfilled prescriptions in their pocket (especially someone who didn’t have the foresight to bring her inhaler with her WHEN SHE ADMITS SHE’S BEEN HAVING THESE DAILY ATTACKS FOR FOUR OR FIVE DAYS), she may be a customer of CVS already. The only other option is if New Jersey pharmacy law allows dispensing of emergency medication without a prescription if one cannot be obtained under the circumstances.

    Ultimately, I would hold the pharmacist responsible. In most chains they have managerial authority to offer discounts when appropriate, and a good pharmacist will make sure that no one has to go without a life-saving medication unnecessarily. But there are an awful lot of pharmacists out there who are hard-headed about following the rules to the letter and bending them for no one.

    And the reporter seemed surprised that the pharmacist wouldn’t comment about the incident. Pretty much every large retail company in the US has policies barring store employees from talking to reporters about anything that happens related to the store or the company. If he’d admitted anything to the reporter, he’d have lost his job.

    And NJ subjects prescriptions to sales tax??? WTF is up with that?

  95. XTC46 says:

    Should CVS given her the product for a dollar off? Nope. Should they have just given her the I dont fault the guy for not giving them the dollar off, thats not his call. I do fault him for not saying “here is 2 bucks, live damn you…LIVEEEEEEE”

  96. ShariC says:

    These comments illustrate all too well what living in an affluent society does to civilization. Honestly, blaming someone for forgetting to carry an object with them? Watching them suffer surrounded by the medicine that could end their suffering and saying they should not be given the medicine? I realize there are scams, but I think anyone with any sense at all could tell this wasn’t one of them. There’ s no way this woman was faking an attack to save a buck fifty on her inhaler cost.

    This reminds me of the stories in the New York Times about a Japanese man who starved to death because his welfare was cut off (because the government workers in charge were given quotas to meet in terms of how many people they cut from the welfare rolls and their promotions and bonuses depended on meeting those quotas). People who came to collect the utilities money at his house saw him crawling to the door as he was dying and walked away. His neighbors didn’t do anything to help. He was surrounded by people who could have given him food or money, but they l let him die because they felt that he was irresponsible for not somehow finding work.

    The more we have, the pettier we become. We let people die over pennies, and we find ways to justify doing so.

  97. psanf says:

    OK people, all together now.
    What’s it all about? PROFIT.
    Do they care about their customers? NO.
    Who are they looking out for? THEMSELVES.

  98. fuceefacee says:

    I guess I’m surprised no one in the store offered her a dollar. Looks like her boyfriend had no cash what so ever? All the same a poor decision by the CVS clerk.

  99. WinHac says:

    “It’s been happening everyday for 4 or 5 days” Why did she not have it with her. Not like this just came out of no where. Its a store not a emergency clinic. She should take some personal responsibility. If I had a condition that was acting up everyday for the last 4 or 5 that could be fatal I would keep my medication with me.

  100. Bladerunner says:

    On the flip side, people let THEMSELVES die over pennies, expecting everyone around them to do everything for them.

    This woman is 100% at fault for not having her inhaler. Yes, she just forgot. People forget. And you might forget that there’s a live wire in a wall, and electrocute yourself. You’re still dead. She made a mistake, and there were consequences. That’s life, in the real world.

    I don’t believe she was “on the ground”, I believe that was hyperbole, because as previously noted if she WAS, 911 would be called whether they wanted to or not because the store would have to for liability reasons.

    I don’t believe her attack was life threatening. The fact that instead of calling 911 they called a friend seems to show that…”we didn’t think they’d get there in time” is a stupid argument. They have lights and sirens and are undoubedtly fairly close (cities have more than one station, y’know). More likely, and I’m speculating here, is that she didn’t want to have to pay for 911 services. So she didn’t want to pay the full price, and didn’t want to pay for 911…she just seems like she downright doesn’t want to have to pay.

    All this lady had was a 20, no cards whatsoever? I find that suspect.

    Should they have taken the collateral and/or given a discount? Maybe. But also maybe she’s pulled this stunt before to get cheaper meds. Or maybe she was the 8th person today to pull this stunt and the pharmacist was tired of it. We don’t know.

    What we do know, is that she wanted something for less than its price. We can sit here all day and say “well they shoulda”, but I think that’s wildly unfair without knowing more. To say the cashier should pony up the money is unfair… I’m not a cashier, but there have been times when I don’t HAVE even a dollar, and we don’t know that that’s not the case here.

    I find it hard to believe that a person in genuine distress, ASKING FOR HELP, was ignored by everyone, including all the staff and all the customers, over a matter of slightly more than a dollar. I find it easy to believe that a woman, NOT in genuine distress but trying to cause a scene and act like it, was ignored by everyone. Applying a little Occam’s Razor, I come down on CVS’ side unless more info comes out. They took a harder line than I would have, but they aren’t obliged to give stuff out for free/discounted.

    People have a responsibility for their own lives, and that’s often forgotten, I think.

    (If your example from japan is the one I’m familiar with, from late 08/early 09 Osaka, that guy hadn’t paid rent in 3 months (which is why they found his body, actually). So he’d been given 3 free months rent, essentially. That’s something, though it isn’t food. In that case, it appears his feelings of shame led him to not leave his house to seek help, and while maybe some people saw his distress he never reached out. Maybe you were thinking of something else.)

  101. Destron says:

    When I worked at Walmart is used to help people out all the time, knocking off some change because they were short or something.

    As for the management, when I worked for Walmart store management was not even allowed behind the counter of the pharmacy unless the pharmacists invited them, and they had no say what so ever in what decisions he made, it’s federal law and you could be fined or even do jail time. so unless the store manager of the CVS is a licensed pharmacist I doubt he could have done anything, aside from being a human and giving them a dollar.

  102. Gregg Araki Rocks My World says:

    1,965 people are heartless bastards. Do these what I assume libertarian leaning jerks really think people should die over $1. How are you going to learn anything when you freaking die? But no, that’s the world these people want us to live in. Makes me sick. Have a heart and care for your fellow person.

    • Bladerunner says:

      You, as many on here, are assuming she would actually die. As I stated in my comment, the story as presented doesn’t lend itself to credibility. Yes, if she was in genuine, about-to-die distress, someone should have helped her…but I find the chain of events as described indicate to me that it is HIGHLY UNLIKELY that she was in genuine distress. And if she wasn’t in genuine distress, then she was just a lazy cheap person who was trying to cause a scene, for whom we should have no sympathy.

      I’m tired of all the people on here saying “human being fail” or, “die over pennies”, when we don’t know that that’s the case, we have only the word of the people who have a beef with CVS, whose story is very implausible.

  103. Siendra says:

    My father and I are both serious asthmatics. My own asthma has calmed down a great deal the last five-six years, to the point where I go months between needing my inhaler. My fathers heart problems prevent him from using more traditional rescue medications.

    Still, we both carry our own inhaler with us (Or nearby as dad’s prone to leaving his in the car) at all times. That’s just common sense.

    The cashier should have given them the inhaler for two puffs, taken the inhaler back, and called the/a manager to work out the rest.

  104. cecilsaxon says:

    Pay as you go is the rule of the land- of course i would have snatched it and told CVS to F@&K off. Then sued them for whatever I felt would make me some quick cash.

  105. Bojangles says:

    There are plenty of con-artists out there. If they were living just around the corner, why didn’t the boyfriend take the girl home, where there is an inhaler? And for real in an age of Debit and Credit Cards neither one of the two had one? Most of us have one or two Debit Cards and up to 5 Credit Cards. The employee is not a doctor, otherwise he would not be working at CVS. If you have a medical condition be ready it before you leave the house. Tell those folks to stop living paycheck to paycheck.
    Offered the employee his “empty wallet”, as he didn’t have the extra dollar, and the cellphone was probably not worth much either, how old was the cellphone? Should have offered the employee some gold, silver, diamonds, or something that actually had value.

  106. Sanveann says:

    Super-scummy of CVS (or the cashier, or both — I suspect the blame lies with both corporate policy and the individual, though).

    Hell, I’ve even had fast-food joints like Subway and Wendy’s tell me to just pay next time I came in, on occasions when I’ve forgotten my wallet. If they can front me a burger, then certainly CVS should be able to do the same for someone’s medication in an emergency situation.

  107. consumeristjames says:

    If I worked at CVS I think I would have just covered the $1.50, but there’s a lot of problems with this story:
    1) she said she’s been having an attack daily, but went walking without an inhaler?
    2) They don’t have more than $20 between the two of them? No credit cards, nothing?
    3) They only have $20, but thought eating at McDonald’s was a good idea?
    4) She’s dying, but don’t call an ambulance because it’s expensive?

    Don’t get me wrong I think CVS could have done something but obviously this couple is mostly to blame. What if there wasn’t a CVS there and he didn’t have a paramedic friend? Would she had died?

  108. selmorestuff says:

    Today I am an unfeeling accountant money changer.
    This good hearted discount represents a 5% discount from our gross sales and changes the margins from an acceptable 70% to an unacceptable 60%.

  109. chemicalx9 says:

    As a pharmacist I have had this happen…I pulled the difference out of my pocket. Its just the right thing to do.

  110. brinks says:

    Cashiers aren’t empowered to change prices, and management has to justify any price changes. Who knows what kind of a-holes might be in charge. I’m not trying to be unsympathetic, but someone could have gotten in trouble.

    That being said, I would have given a dollar out of my own pocket in such a situation, and it amazes me no one did. Either that, or I’d let my drawer be short. There usually aren’t dire consequences for a cashier coming up short by such a small amount. I’m not going to let someone possibly die over a freaking dollar.

  111. MSUHitman says:

    Just out of curiosity, if the OP’s girlfriend had died in the store because she was denied the inhaler and help couldn’t have gotten to her in time, would CVS be liable in her death?

    • Bladerunner says:

      Possibly by law they would have been. Especially since they would have to call 911, and if they waited too long to do so, they might be liable because of that.

      But also keep in mind: anybody can sue anybody for anything in this country. Whether there’s an ACTUAL tort or not, do you think 12 people on a jury are going to say “Oh, well, technically CVS the big bad corporation isn’t liable”? No, it’s stories like these that end up with bazillion dollar judgments.

      • Bladerunner says:

        Oh, I also forgot to mention that the pharmacist might have had a duty to act (maybe one the pharmacists who have replied might be able to answer that), and if so they would be liable for sure.

  112. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Between the two of them they only had one twenty dollar bill and no debit or credit cards in the wallets they offered as security?

  113. Eterion says:

    This is beyond fail. Most companies give their employees certain leeway when it comes to “special” circumstances. When I used to work in retail banking, I was very flexible when it came to reversing overdraft fees. CVS should fire the retard who refused to budge on a item in a life threatening matter, over a buck.

  114. MacUser1986 says:

    Whomever voted no, you need to go get a dose of reality…

    • Bladerunner says:

      Those of us who voted no I think HAVE a dose of reality…we see that this story doesn’t add up, and she’s likely full of it.

      I think it’s those who voted yes who are the ones who need a dose of reality, the reality where people will totally lie to get what they want, and try to cause a scene because they don’t want to pay full price like everyone else.

    • Bladerunner says:

      Also, and this is stupid and petty of me, but you misused “whomever”. In that context you’re taking the place of the subject, rather than the object, which means it’s “whoever”. /end pedantic correction.

  115. thelauhingsun says:

    Geez, what kind of managers must work that store if the employees are so afraid to show a little compassion?

  116. DracoSolon says:

    Who are the 9% of people who said no in the poll? A woman is laying on the floor wheezing in what for all appearances could be a fatal attack you you side with CVS and some kind of libertarian/corporatist/capitalist principle? Also I’m an atheist but I hope not a single one of you call yourself a christian. If you do I think you really really need to reread the New Testament and think about it. Would you also deny care at the emergency room of a hospital if a person can’t pay upfront?

    • Bladerunner says:

      That or we don’t believe the one-sided story because it doesn’t add up, and therefore we say that CVS was right. I do not believe the story that she was “on the ground”. I find it FAR more likely that she’s full of crap, wanted to get something cheaper than its cost and caused a scene when she didn’t get it. Therefore, I am okay with her not getting her way.

  117. LOsGatosCA says:

    Just go to CVS and post this link in their feedback section.

    They require at least an overall rating – I chose ‘Poor’

    My feedback was that I hope I never get an asthma attack in any of their stores.

    I do wonder if there were mitigating circumstances though. Perhaps the woman was trying to get Plan B, which the pharmacist could not give her due to his mission from the Republican god and when she had the asthma attack he considered it an act of the Republican god to strike her dead.

    Or perhaps she looked like a parasite trying to sponge the last $1 plus change and it was his duty to go Galt at that moment, since he’s a producer, of course.

  118. PDQ says:

    Neither of them had a debit or credit card that they could use to pay the twenty one dollars and change?

    We’re not getting all the information – something’s not right with this story.

  119. djlotus says:

    I’m more surprised by the fact that the guy didn’t just pull out an atm/credit card and taken care of that. This would be a non-issue.

  120. nalts says:

    That’s ridiculous. What cashier wouldn’t have just tossed his or her own dollar in? Unless they were being jerks to make a point. Hey what if it was a fat kid, and he was in desperate need of Funions? Then holding out would be unethical.

  121. DragonThermo says:

    the human inside me would like to say “yes” if she was definitely showing signs of distress and was having difficulty breathing. However, the employee inside me says “no” because I will be fired for “stealing” a dollar and change, plus my register will be out of balance. Then again, we live in America where everyone is sue-happy. If I did sell the inhaler at a discount, and did not get fired, and the customer had a bad reaction to the medication or their condition got worse, they would sue me for negligence for allowing them to buy a product that I could not vouch to be effective in this situation.

    Unless was a certified Paramedic or First Responder, I would rather call 9-1-1 than take the risk of being sued for making the wrong choice when someone was having a medical emergency.

    In summary, as much as I would like to vote “yes”, the prudent response is “no”.

  122. KevinReyn says:

    This is just another symptom of the loss of humanity in our society. The simple devaluing of other people. As mentioned if I was the cashier I would have taken the money given the inhaler and sorted out the sale after the woman as breathing again. If I had to cover it I would have, any decent manager would have done the same. It makes me think of all the youtubes and such showing people in obvious distress and people just walk by as if there is nothing wrong.

    Its sad that we have raised generations of robots who simply do as they are told and dont think for themselves, even if it puts another human being at risk.

  123. Cyori says:

    I work at CVS, the cashier can do this, and most of the people I work with probably would and the manager would never know/care. CVS’ policy is doing whatever it takes to make the customer happy. I don’t know if it’s a district thing, but I have heard it called the $10 rule. If the customer wants something and it costs the store less than $10, just do it without asking for approval from the manager.

  124. peebozi says:

    if they give this deadbeat a $21 product for $20 then where will it stop?

    Customer: “I only had $1 but I wanted to buy everything in the store and they said NO!”

    Publicly Traded companies are in business to make a profit! That is the only reason they operate and that is the only metric they use to measure their success. This comes at the expense of ethics, morals and laws. If the company believes it will be fined less than they can profit (taking into bad PR for any law/moral/ethical indiscretion, then they have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders to make that profit!!!!

  125. bishophicks says:

    Clearly CVS has no money or humanity to spare in spite 100 billion in revenues per year.

    So we should take up a collection. The goal: One dollar per store (about $7,000). And then offer it to CVS nice and publicly so the next 7000 people suffering in their stores for lack of a dollar can get the help they need. We can call it the Be a F*cking Human Being Fund.

    And to those of you saying the person should have had their inhaler with them or shouldn’t have been out or should have behaved diffferently in some other way: There is a person on the floor suffering right in front of you right now. What do you do? Do you quiz them to see if they deserve your help? Skip the questions and simply assume they don’t deserve your help? Or do you just help them?

    To those who suggest that it’s not the store’s problem and an ambulance should have been called to take the person to the ER: Paramedics, an ambulance ride and an ER vist COST MORE THAN A DOLLAR. Whether they pay, insurance pays, the goverment pays or the hospital eats the costs it still counts towards our ridiculously high health care costs. It’s potentially hundreds for those things. Compared to a dollar.

    “Yeah, but it’s my dollar.”

    I knew you’d say that.

  126. chirish1025 says:

    My thing is if this woman was indeed having a full blown attack on the floor of CVS customers, employees etc would have been calling 911. Poor people use the ER all the time (right or wrong) and if this was the emergency the customers are making it out to be that is where they should be! Then when the pharmacist is like no (which also makes me question the emergency) suddenly she goes from being on the floor fighting for life to walking out the door wondering what to do. Then instead of heading home to the inhaler (by their own admission nearby) they choose to wait for a mysterious friend with an inhaler to arrive on the scene. There is more to this story than what we know, has to be.

  127. EcPercy says:

    Um… you don’t have a visa/mastercard? I fail to see how the store setting a certain price for an item entitles you to a discount.

    Now, on the other hand. There is the human decency factor. They could have just let you have the medicine and written it off…

  128. StevePierce says:

    The clerk may have been able to use the managers employee discount to fix the problem.