Service? Not-so-much…

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I don’t want to turn my contributions here into a LiveJournal collection, as I have no interest in sharing with you my thoughts about my place in society or whine about my friends or lack of a social life. However, there are times when my personal experience really confirms some thought I have about our culture, and heck, columns about the author’s life seem to be fine for the local papers.

I was in Safeway tonight to pick up some medications. I have some chronic health problems that require the attention of doctors and some regular prescriptions. It’s something that I am not good at dealing with but I get a little better every month and try to stay on top of crazy things like refills and other processes that I am sure mystify more than average person. I called today to order my medications at noon and went to store to pick them up before they closed.

When I showed up, I was told that two of my prescriptions had expired and they "called the doctor for refills." Now, I have had problems in the past with this particular pharmacy claiming to "call" only to find out that they never contacted my doctor. When I asked why they couldn’t have called me to share this tidbit (so I could perhaps call my doctor and speed up the process), I was told a number of interesting things. First, they couldn’t call because it is physically impossible to call everyone that has that problem. I say reply that this seems to be a basic level of service that a pharmacy would supply. The woman at the counter began a lengthy description of all the pharmacies she has worked at and how none of those pharmacies would call. I replied that the comparing your lack of service to others doesn’t seem like the way to sell your service. She then says most prescriptions have bad phone numbers and that would be a waste of time. I said that seemed strange to punish me for having an updated record with the pharmacy.

This is where it gets good. In the middle of my reply, she looks over at the guy in the lab coat (I think he’s the manager?) and says "can you ring this guy up? I’m out of here…" and leaves the area in the middle of the conversation. I was shocked.

So, the manager comes over and continues the conversation. The reality is that Safeway cannot tell whether or not you are out because the system is completely automated. It faxes the doctor automatically and there is no human input. The reality is, they can "put a note in my file" but really, it’s really out of the hands of the people behind the counter.

Now, I am all one for technology and automation. In fact, the answer the manager provides is perfectly reasonable. It seems to me an automated system could perhaps give me a ring and let me know, even with a recording, that I shouldn’t waste a trip only to find out that all my meds aren’t available yet.

One of two things is at play here: willful disregard for the truth or ignorance. Really, I can’t accept either. True, the reason why I am at Safeway is because they were the least of three evils between WalMart (an organization that has given me the wrong medications before and lost prescriptions…ugh) or Osco (an organization that rarely had medications in stock) but the lack of service is truly disturbing. The reality is that I’m probably going to survive another day while my doctor thumbs through his faxes but I wonder what happens to those with limited transportation?

I am not quite prepared to announce that the "world is flat" (a phrase that is a little sore to me because it’s become a very overused catch phrase in my profession) as I am not sure that calling a medicine-care-line would make a damn bit of difference. But, this is the challenge of service.

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J N

5 Comments

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  • What I’d want to know is why in the world this woman couldn’t explain that to you and be done with it. Instead she turns her back on you and retreats from an otherwise simple fight.

    That’s the part of the story that really rankles my bagels. Did the manager apologize for his employee’s childlike behavior?

  • The shory answer is no. I told him that his answer was a lot more reasonable and that the pervious clerk has been quite rude and he had a blank stare. Oh well.

  • You know what? I hate to be all nostalgic about the good old days, but I think that we can safely say that customer service is all but dead.

    I mean, you can still go into some local places and get quality service, but those places are going the way of the dodo bird. Man, I sound like my Grandpa here. Seriosly though, in some senses it is hard for them to not treat us like cattle at the big stores. Were herded right through like em.

  • Write a letter and complain, Jason. The clerk had a nametag on. When you put a complaint in writing, it helps…otherwise the clerk learns nothing. And you might get a little discount or something next time. Granted, she was probably just a clerk and feeling pretty powerless, nonetheless, her rudeness shouldn’t be affirmed through not saying anything.

    You handled the situation well– can you imagine my 86 y/0 mom in that situation? I can really appreciate your ire.

  • hey norm. i doubt you remember me but i was in you r history of advertising class.(mariah brooks) so. yep. cool blog. i miss happy bat.

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