Help with composing script for calling a store manager
August 20, 2021 4:05 PM   Subscribe

Had a bad time at the pharmacy, and was able to resolve the issue for myself with a different resource. I'd like to effectively convey what happened to the store manager so that no one else experiences it, though. I'd really appreciate your assistance planning the call (and/or the email to the corporate chain).

This week, I was notified via letter from my healthcare provider's online patient portal that I was eligible for an additional mRNA 'booster' shot. I printed the letter, attached it to the similar "you're in Phase 1c of California's Vaccine Priority Population" myChart letter from March, checked the drugstore-chain website, and went to my local store with my vaccination card. This location dispensed my spring COVID-19 vaccine doses, fills my usual prescriptions, and my pharmacy customer history with the chain dates to the mid-aughts. (These records are accessible -- last year, I called to ask about medications I was prescribed in 2006, and they found the prescription names and dates I needed.) Specific medical information is not included in these patient documents, only that my eligibility was determined based on my medical history.

After checking my driver's license at the pharmacy window, the technician took my letters and vaccination card to that day's pharmacist. The pharmacist behind the counter was not the usual pharmacist I see or talk with a couple of times a month, whom I know by name and who remembers my name/details about me. I didn't see this man's name tag, and things went south pretty fast. (Part of why I'm thinking manager call first, maybe an email later?)

This pharmacist initially misread the 'additional dose' letter and thought I was there for a belated second vaccine dose, though he had my vaccination card, filled out in that store, in his other hand. He demanded, loudly, to know my qualifying medical diagnosis for the booster, and wasn't happy with what I told him ("autoimmune thyroid disease, enzyme metabolism issues, probably some other stuff"). I asked if they could call my doctor for more information, and he said he was talking to me right now. I said I get all my prescriptions filled here, could you look at my patient file? He did, with three techs crowded around the screen; the file didn't have what he wanted.

I said, I don't understand what you're looking for, my COVID vaccinations were performed here starting in March, that's the letter that put me in phase 1c. He said he didn't know what phase 1c meant. I said it was one of the earlier vaccination phases based on medical history, and that there's probably more information on the county website. And that I'd brought the latest letter from [health system], with my current eligibility. He said he didn't work for [health system].

Finally, I asked if it would be any help to read my medical ID bracelet, and he said, sure, so I flipped the plate over and put my hand under the divider. He skimmed it, walked away, came back waving a document too far away for me to read and said, no, HYPER-thyroidism is a qualifier, not HYPO-thyroidism. I was told I needed to come back with proof, in writing, from my doctor specifying my immunocompromised medical condition. (In typing this, I'm remembering he kept referring to my doctor as he/him, saying "He needs to provide specific diagnoses"/"You need to contact him," when my doctor's obviously lady name was on the letters and maybe in the patient file as prescribing doctor.) And that a vaccination appointment is necessary now, why didn't I make an appointment online, at the website? I said when I'd opened the scheduler, it only let me declare one previous dose, but that wasn't my circumstance. [BTW, the website reads make an appointment or "walk-in to your local" store and "Walk-in appointments are available!" There may still be a sign in the store window to that effect, too. There were dozens of appointments open that day at this store location, and no one was being immunized in the time I was there.]

After the pharmacist pushed my documents back under the divider, he was turning away when he said third doses are not recommended until eight months after previous 'full immunization' status, so "April-May-June-July-August-September-October -- November, you're actually due in November."

The pharmacist was just pretty loud and weirdly aggressive throughout. I was already uncomfortable being there, and got flustered and a little tongue-tied. I know I did ask them to call my doctor at least three times: after initial medical diagnosis demand; after he didn't see what he was looking for in the customer database; and when he wasn't satisfied reading my bracelet, which has the Hashimoto's (that vacillates between hypo- and hyper-, come to think of it) and the enzyme drug metabolism issues (but not iron-deficiency anemia, or the 'other stuff' still being evaluated).

I apologize for length of this question. I wasn't sure what to include, which is closely tied being unsure what's important to stress during the call and/or email. Normally, I have good experiences in this drugstore and with its staff, and I know I want to emphasize that.

Here's my big-picture concern: I was pretty upset, but afterward I got back into the online patient portal, found a 'walk-in' appointment later that day in a healthcare-system-run, parking-lot tent site about 45 minutes away, drove there, stood in the sun for about 15 minutes, received the shot, sat for observation, and got myself home. This early-eligibility phase for "Moderately to Severely Immunocompromised People" is going to include patients with mobility issues, cognitive issues, limited alternatives, and so on. If this pharmacist is going to turn them away from their easy-access drugstore (5 minutes from my home was the draw for me), if he's usually this abrasive/interrogatory (which left me shaking and little dazed), and especially if he's telling them they're actually due for a third shot 8 months from their 'fully immunized' date (dangerously untrue for this cohort), they might not pursue the matter further.
posted by Iris Gambol to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This person was/is *way* out of line, ought not to be in their employ.

Phone call to manager, and yes, email to manager and up the chain also, and let him know that you're copying up the chain.

I'd start by calling the pharmacy and getting the mans name and employee number, if he has one, and will provide it to you.

Then you can pretty much use what you've written here in this Ask. Go long in how you've always had good luck with the pharmacy, on first name basis with the other pharmacist, how long you have been a customer.

Ask in the email if they need permission to look at your long-term records, and give it to the manager at least, showing that you're a citizen, a good customer.

Possible that this guy will at least get reprimanded, possibly fired. Good. He doesn't need to be in a public facing job.

Good luck.
posted by dancestoblue at 4:41 PM on August 20, 2021 [9 favorites]

Best answer: You've written what you need the store manager to know right here. Eliminate your first paragraph and add your specifics, the date, the time, the pharmacy, and your doctor's name. You might also include the name of the pharmacist you usually see.

I totally agree that this man has no business being the gatekeeper for a vaccine booster that vulnerable people need and I agree that you will be doing the responsible thing by bringing attention of his behavior to his supervisor. My 97 yr old friend got hers a few days ago, no questions asked, at her local CVS and that is as it should be. Another much younger friend with multiple health problems got an appointment for next week just by calling her friendly familiar pharmacist.

Glad you got your booster.
posted by mareli at 4:42 PM on August 20, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I'm usually a "Get in, say what you have to say, and get out" kind of person when it comes to writing letters, but the incident was so complicated, and the pharmacist repeatedly disrespectful and just plain wrong, that I don't think it's possible to keep it as succinct as you might like.

I would state at the start of the letter that you know it's long, and wish it were shorter, but the incident was so complicated and fraught with bad behavior by the pharmacist that you want them to know the entire story.

Agree with getting the pharmacist's name if possible.

Sorry you had to go through this.
posted by Dolley at 4:46 PM on August 20, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Agree that what you've already written here is excellent (after adding some specific identifying details like date/time/store/etc. and maybe editing out some of the context details that you included for MeFi).

The only thing I would suggest is to call the manager in addition to sending a letter, because some people do not do well with written material more than a couple of sentences long and delivering the information in two modes will make it more likely that it is fully absorbed and not just ignored. You can honestly just read aloud over the phone what you'd also be writing in the letter. If the manager tries to cut you short, you can tell them that it's important that they are aware of the full picture.
posted by heatherlogan at 7:24 PM on August 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I suggest framing this at the beginning as “I had a bad encounter with a pharmacist and I want you to know what happened. I am concerned that his actions will prevent eligible people from getting their booster vaccines”

That should help the manager get into supervisor mode with some helpful context for this conversation.
posted by calgirl at 7:52 PM on August 20, 2021 [24 favorites]

Best answer: The pharmacist behind the counter was not the usual pharmacist I see or talk with a couple of times a month, whom I know by name and who remembers my name/details about me. I didn't see this man's name tag, and things went south pretty fast.

I had a recent pharmacist interaction that was completely different in specifics yet absolutely the same in spirit. there was no way to ratchet the pharmacist-aggro level down to rational interchange or get them to hear my words.

in my case I called the pharmacy back the next day as I still needed the prescription she'd refused to fill, and the guy who answered the phone apologized profusely and told me the unprofessional monster was a float fill-in who was only there for the day. so if you never saw this person before, chances are reasonably good you will not see them again if you go back after a shift change.

If you'd been able to get their name off a name tag, you could look up your region's pharmacy board complaint process, because float pharmacists of that type may never trouble you again, but they flit hither & thither wreaking havoc wherever they go. but to be very honest with you, I don't believe those review boards give a shit about customer complaints. I truly wish I believed they did.
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:02 PM on August 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Above information is great.

As a previous store manager of a pharmacy, in any complaints the best format is usually:
1. Your information, who you are, what your relationship with the business has been
2. Your experience at the store/pharmacy- details on what exactly happened, when, who was involved, and so on.
3. What the outcome was for you in that situation (aka why is this a problem)
4. Optional- what the outcome for the store/pharmacy might be as a result of the problem
5. What resolution you are looking for from this problem. You don't need specific details all the way, but it's good to describe your best case scenario as a result of the problem.

I'd use whatever portal/official complaint line that you can if it's a corporate store- they generate internal tickets and create a paper trail that they will have to follow to resolve your complaint. It does sometimes create a slight lag in response times if the system isn't quick to generate the ticket, but it does help for there to be documentation and it puts extra pressure on them to properly resolve it as quickly as possible.

If there isn't an official complaint line, I'd first email it and then call. Again, the paper trial is a good thing to have and it gives them a bit of a chance to look into whatever they might need to do on their end to determine what their next steps should be.
posted by shesaysgo at 11:26 PM on August 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Update: I spoke with the store manager, who apologized and said he'd clarify early-phase protocols with "Ivan," the floater pharmacist (always bet on queenofbithynia). Floater name secured, I sent an email with a streamlined narrative to corporate. In both instances, I led and closed with my fear that other dose-eligible customers are getting the bum's rush.

Lovely peeps, in simmering down and sorting through this with your help, it occurred to me that if this had happened to a fellow shopper, I would have swiftly and purposefully gotten involved. But when I'm a principal in some unnerving encounter, usually I'm apologizing profusely, certain the bulk of any misunderstanding is on me. Or I'm peeling off like a wet Band-Aid, thinking, customer service jobs are really tough, and anyone can have a bad day; this is not personal. Mostly, though, it's stop overreacting already, on repeat.

You helped me disable the Milquetoast Minimizer 5000, organize my thoughts, and get these tasks done. I feel better. Thank you so much.
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:28 PM on August 23, 2021 [6 favorites]

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