Another reason I’m not in retail

At the first of the year, I have to suspect that drugstore pharmacists have the most thankless job around.

January has now become the time that millions of workers and retirees see their prescription drug benefits switched to a new provider or a new cost-cutting plan–cost-cutting for the company providing it, that is. While waiting for my daily meds at the Walgreens counter, I saw people who had to cut their vacations short to switch their prescriptions, and at the counter, they find out they’re paying $100 more for a month’s supply of something they need to live.

Somehow I got off easy. My meds are pretty common, and I paid the same amount I had the month before. But I’ll have to jump through hoops later because the new provider will insist I sign up to get my pills by mail.

For the most part, the customers were angry, but at least they knew the people ringing up the sale weren’t responsible for the prices. I bet that at another time or place, a fist or two might have been thrown around.

Consider that just to stand behind a pharmacy counter, you need at least a Pharmacy Technician certificate from the state, and at least one of the staff needs that Pharmacy sheepskin. That’s a four-year degree, the receipt of which implies you could have had a shot at med school, or a decent research job at a drug company. Instead, you’re doling out pills to people who don’t understand why all their meds aren’t free. There’s usually five customers at the counter, two on hold on the phone, a crabby computer that you’re trying to pull someone’s benefit coverage up on, and, if you’re at Walgreens, two or three cars honking in the drive-though window (that’s one reason Walgreens closed all its strip-mall stores in Chicago and opened free-standing buildings across the corner: so they could have a drive-through). If you’re at a 24-hour Walgreens, you’re probably covering for associates who call in sick on third shift.

And every four or five customers is going to harass you over the fact that their meds cost more than they did last time.

You could always consider becoming a copier machine repairmen. People are always glad to see you, and the employees who sign your invoice aren’t the ones who have to write the checks.

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