Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Perspective and survival, huh? That explains a lot.

Back in December I wrote about how pleased I was that my doctor had changed most of my prescriptions to generic ones and all of them to 90-day refills, which meant I’d only have to go to Wal-Mart once every three months. Sounds really good on the surface, doesn’t it?

The reality was slightly different. When I went to the Wal-Mart pharmacy to get the prescriptions filled, there was a problem with one of the two meds I take for high blood pressure. It was explained to me that Wal-Mart was having trouble getting this particular medication from either of their two regular suppliers. The pharmacist gave me three pills (instead of 90) and told me to come back the next day. She was sure she’d have some then.

Given the condition of my achy knees, my (politely masked) reaction to that instruction was the same as it would have been if she’d told me to go home, hurl my body to the floor, and roll around until I’d bumped into every piece of livingroom furniture –- hard -- at least once. Nevertheless, I went back the next day.

"Oh, I’m sorry," she said after I’d stood in line for half an hour. "They still didn’t send us any of that. In fact, I don’t know when or if we’ll get any more. Here, take these six pills to get you past Christmas, and I’ll fax your doctor tomorrow and see what she suggests."

Needless to say, I didn’t hear from the doctor, and I didn’t hear from the pharmacy. It was Christmas, after all, and then New Year’s right after that. What kept me from panicking was that I hadn’t waited until the last minute to fill my new prescriptions, and I still had a couple weeks’ worth before they parceled out those nine pills.

So, I made it through the holidays, and this past Monday, when I saw that I’d be out of those pills by Friday, I called Wal-Mart. The lady said they’d found a new supplier for the drug I needed. She said she’d order it "right now" and it "should be here tomorrow." I called again Tuesday afternoon. Lo and behold, they not only had the right medicine, but they’d already filled the prescription and it was waiting there for me. Things were looking up!

After work I stopped at home just long enough to let Butch and Kadi outside for a minute, then continued on to Wal-Mart. Bad idea, going there right after work. The pharmacy line was so long that it turned a corner and stretched back across three aisles. I stood in the same spot for about 15 minutes, shifting from one foot to the other, bouncing slightly to keep my knees from stiffening and locking up, realizing I was fidgeting like a child in need of a restroom. Finally, the line started moving. Ten minutes later I turned the corner and saw that I was the eighth person in line. Good. I had a goal then. I could count each customer and measure progress in minutes per person.

By the time I was the fourth person in line, another pharmacy clerk showed up. As the first clerk rang up first-in-line customers, the second clerk asked for names and birthdates to pull prescriptions for people farther back in the line. When I was the third person in line, I gave him my information and watched him find my prescription and lay it on the counter by the first clerk. When I was the second person in line, the second clerk was getting information from the customer behind me. We were moving faster.

And then it was my turn. I stepped up to the counter with my money in my hand and gave the first clerk my name. She picked up a prescription bag, checked the name on it, did a double-take when she realized the name wasn’t mine, looked quickly around the counter and then at the second clerk. "It was right there," he told her. "Did you give it to the last customer?"

We all waited again. We waited while the first clerk burst through the door of the restricted pharmacy area and ran down the aisles in search of the last customer she’d served. The clerk might not have been attentive to detail, but she did earn some approval points for agility. She caught up with the customer who had my prescription and, after a total of about 45 minutes of standing in line, I finally had the elusive pills, and I could go home.

My knees hurt so much I couldn’t sleep last night, but there was a smile on my face as I tossed and turned. I survived the pain-inducing trips to Wal-Mart, and I don’t have to go back for almost three months. Are there any questions about why that makes me so happy? It's all a matter of perspective.

Michael Bergdahl: "From Sam Walton's Darwinian, capitalistic perspective, survival of the fittest was the natural order of things."


  1. oh, boy. Good thing you don't have to go back for three months. I think this one beats my pharmacy story. ;-)

  2. Walmart is the worst for getting scrips filled! I HATE going there for my mom. My sister still uses rite aid ( or as I like to call it, Wrong aid; they lay their stores out so poorly, I have to walk and walk...) but she's in and out. No waiting.

    Walmart could do a lot better. Or at least provide chairs!

    I find it amazing that they expect sick people to stand up for that long!

  3. Oh, fer cryin-out-loud....what a bunch of crap. I am so sorry you have/had to go through this. I had to go to the pharmacy Monday..I find I wait as long there, as I do in a Drs. office.

  4. What scares me about this story is that someone came so close to walking out with the wrong medicine. Depending upon that person's health, your medicine could have caused serious problems, or if the name not checked, their medicine could have caused you serious problems. Walgreens once gave me medicine with a typo in the instructions that basically told me to take all the medicine in the first dose. Can you imagine if I'd shrugged that off as being odd but okay since it's printed right there?
    p.s. sorry about your knees.

  5. Velvet, I have 3 things to offer about Walmart pharmacy:

    1. Call first.

    2. Take a book.

    3. Greet the people by name (see name tag) & make them think they know you from somewhere. They'll be nicer!

  6. That's really the pits but I'm glad you got three months worth. We got real lucky in that we can get our prescription drugs through our insurance...they just automatically mail them every three months. Unfortunately, my celebrex prescription just ran out so I have to go about gettins special dispensation again.

    PS, just wanted to add that it was running across your entries about Butch's surgery that made me start reading your blog. Figured you *had* to be a really nice person and I was right! Carmon

  7. Janet, I go there for the $4 generic prescriptions, so I guess I shouldn't except that low price to cover good customer service, too.

    Creekhiker, I was thinking they should provide chairs, too. Or additional clerks or *something* to shorten the wait time.

    Maxngabbie, there's bound to be a better time of day to go there. I just don't know exactly when that would be.

    Duly Inspired, that's a good point. I remember once when my kids were little, I picked up prescriptions for an antibiotic (liquid) and cough syrup. Always before, the antibiotic had been cloudy and the cough syrup clear, but this time, according to the labels, it was the other way around. I called the pharmacy to ask, and, yup, they'd switched the labels.

    Third-Cat, I did call first (I've learned that lesson). Taking a book is a great idea, although I'm usually very patient about long waits -- as long as I'm not standing. Calling them by name is a good idea, too. I wouldn't have thought of that.

    Carmon, having prescriptions delivered would be ideal. Thanks for your nice comments about the early Butch posts. You were one of my earliest readers, and I was so glad to make the blogospheric connection with you.

  8. Getting medication is a big pain....I have been thinking about using Wal-Mart but have not as of yet.....My last perscription was for my throwing up.....the insurance would only pay for 4 pills a month....yes 4 pills a month...My husband came home from the pharmacy with those 4 pills costing 35 bucks and right on the directions on the bottle they still had the nerve to write "take 1 pill daily" ......The doctor gave me some samples when I went back to him last week....thank goodness...


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