Friday, March 13, 2015

The Socialist Invasion Has Begun, And Rubber Bands Are The New Symbol of Surrender.

Big changes reportedly happening at the Pharmacy America used to trust my friends, first and foremost, that artificial corporate person is no longer an American citizen. Remember that vaguely patriotic Walgreen's logo that used to abound in the pill counting world?  Well it no longer fits the global monstrosity that is the new "Walgreens/Boots alliance," and has been relegated to the trash heap of history. Right wing Fox news types take note, the country's largest drug chain is no follower of the doctrine of American exceptionalism, as evidenced by the new logo scrubbed of every trace of red, white, and blue:

Holy crap that thing looks like some sort of campaign sign for the Green party. Could European pussies be replacing good old American corporate assholes? 


Let's break away from the Foxy type of reporting for a minute though and check in with reality. This comes from a source deep in the bowels of the new company who says:

As you’re probably aware, Walgreens “bought out” Alliance Boots. Bought out being the most vague of terms, as (Former Boots and now acting CEO of the new corporation) Stefano Pessina is a much, much smarter businessman that Gregory Wasson was, as the latter was a pharmacist who kissed asses all the way to the top. So Pessina outmaneuvered him at every turn, and now the “Walgreens Boots Alliance” still keeps the Walgreens name, but the upper level of finance is 85% people from the Boots dominion.

USA!!! US....wait....wha? But you thought any country with universal health care automatically had a system on the verge of collapse because evil bureaucrats didn't let anyone make a profit, didn't you? Well guess what dittohead, the land of the National Health Service produced a corporate asshole that just took your home grown one to the cleaners.

Perhaps those Europeans did overestimate American competence just a bit though:

As you also probably know, Walgreens as a company has pledged to cut some obnoxious amount of money.  This is because, when they were preparing for the merger, they were talking out of their ass as much as they could in order to inflate their expectations.  This fell pretty flat on its face, and I’m sure Pessina was thrilled to see the forecasts that he inherited.

Before you get too flustered though, you might be happy to know that some of the language of business is Universal. Mainly the stupid micro-managing bullshit part:

So the initial plan to recoup this billion dollars of loss was to minimize amber vial returns. Logic being that while we only get minimal credit for open stock bottles, we get no credit for pills that are in store prescription bottles. So make sure you use the pills that are in those vials (from return to stocks et. al) before anything out of the stock bottles. This makes sense, right? 
Except the fact that they literally paid someone 50,000 dollars to come up with the idea of.....

Get ready for this. This is great.....

  “rubber banding amber vials to the stock bottle it belongs to so technicians know to use it first” 

BBBBWWWWWWAAAAAHHHHAAAAHHHHHAAAHHAAAAAAAA!!!!!!! I seriously put this in contention for some sort of  "stupidest bullshit directive of all time" award, but upon reflection, I realized the current champion, Rite Aid's "no more than 5 labels printed at a time" rule, had absolutely zero impact on revenue, while this time-waster at least is grounded in an attempt to maximize credits. The rubber band thing will have to settle in at number two.

This part of the experience will be no surprise to those of you plugging away inside a corporate swamp though:

they’re so committed to the idea that I receive eight e-mails a week about making sure those rubber banded vials are all over your shelf, and I actually had a visit from a guy from Deerfield because my store was “a high risk store.”  

I wonder if they sent each store a supply of official rubber bands to be used in this program, in order to keep the risk as low as possible? My money says there's a good chance.

There's more than rubber bands afoot in the new order though. It seems the Europeans aren't too bad at good old American downsizing:

Now, obviously, unless 75% of your stores are completely inept (which, in all fairness, I have met some of my peers and walked away wondering that sometimes) they’re not wasting a billion dollars a year on drugs that the technician just doesn’t pick up off the shelf.  So they went to plan B, which is “firebomb every level above store level.”  This is honestly kind of nice, because it gives us the nice thought that maybe they realize they can’t cut any more from store level (I know this is a pipe dream). 
Walgreens initially had a position known as a community leader - this position was a front store manager somewhere that was also responsible for the six stores around them and making sure things ran smoothly.  Walgreens has “pumped up” this position to take the manager out of the store and responsible for about 15 stores instead of about 5, and is calling them the “District Manager” - based on my experiences with the former community leaders, they are going to have the basic pharmacy understanding of a technician school graduate on their first day.  They’re also slashing the “district manager / district pharmacy supervisor” positions in almost half - the half that doesn’t make it can step down to the new “district manager” position (at a pay cut), and the half that does make the cut is now responsible for twice as many stores.  They did the same trimming for the level above them, and cut out 4 markets, evenly dispersing them over the rest.

And now a war on District Managers, which actually.....makes sense. When I was at Rite Aid we went through an extended period where we were District Managerless, and during that time company emails consistently ranked "vacant" as the second or third best district in various company metrics. I'm pretty sure Vacant even kicked everybody's ass and came in first a few times.

Let's sum up:

So end-game here is a couple things:
1)  The suits who have been trying to make us do more with less now all the sudden have to cover more ground with less help, which is a nice twist on what we’ve had to do for a while. 
2)  Someone, somewhere in this merger has given me hope that someone might have a glimmer of the idea that “you can save as much money by cutting a middle-management paper-pusher who is making 150,000 a year as you can by cutting 15,000 tech hours in his spot, and the tech hours are more productive” 
3)  I’m going to have a whole new level of high school graduate telling me how a pharmacy should be run, and complaining that I’m overpaid.

 Time will tell how profitable the British socialists will be. In the meantime, I think I might buy stock in a rubber band company. Whichever one Fox News says will never succeed. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Let's Go For The Trifecta. Stuff That Somehow Didn't Get Me Fired Part 3.

Blogpost original air date December 21st, 2007

I May Be Single Handedly Responsible For Every Chain Pharmacy In This Country Being Woefully Understaffed

Why? Because Corpo-pharmacy bigwigs know that the very second I am not drowning in prescriptions, things like this start happening to their displays.

The horses have been going at it for two days now. If anyone bothers to notice, and figure out the source, It'll probably make my lobbying for more tech help a little harder.

Does make the 12 hour day go a bit quicker though.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Stuff That Somehow Didn't Get Me Fired, Part 2

Blogpost original airdate: Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Story Of Unparalleled Customer Service. In Your Face Walgreens.

I had been getting the living piss beat out of me for about 9 and a half hours. A customer interrupted the filling of another's prescription to ask if we had a product called "air." I shit you not. If there is a company out there that is dumb enough to name a product "air," I don't want to know about it and will happily blow off anyone wanting to buy it. Then the phone rings. This is the unedited beginning of the conversation:

Me: Thank you for calling corpo-pharmacy, may I help you?

Dumbass: IS THERE A (name of corpo pharmacy chain here) OFF THE LAWRENCE EXPRESSWAY??

Here is a summary of my thoughts over the next two seconds:

Well hello to you too.

There is one highway in this little town. Its name isn't Lawrence.

The nearest city that is big enough to name its highways would be at least 80 miles away.

There is no guarantee that is the city this person is talking about.

Fuck this guy.

"Yeah, you take the first exit after the big overpass, make a right at the light, and it's in the strip center with the McDonalds. " Is what I said. Or something like that. I don't remember exactly, as it was a totally random set of directions for a city that existed only in my mind. If I had been given the name of a real city maybe I would have done better.

The sound the dumbass made before he hung up the phone was something like..."hhhuuurroookk"

I immediately felt bad. What if I just steered some prissy-ass white boy into the ghetto and a carjacking? What if he was trying to get a prescription filled for a kid who didn't know Daddy was both extremely dumb and extremely rude? Crap. Maybe this time the Drugmonkey had gone too far.


He found it. The dumbass fucking found it. I think the key was my mentioning of the McDonalds. "Take a right and look for the McDonalds" just might work in any situation really. I wondered if Burger King might be the key to getting the guy's insurance card to work.

I suppose I could use Google to find out where the Lawrence Expressway is, but at this point I really don't want to know. I also don't want to know where you can buy air.

I hate all people.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

We'll File This Under "Stuff That Somehow Didn't Get Me Fired"

Blogpost original air date : Friday, October 20, 2006

My Employer Really Needs To Give Me More To Do......

.....because when it gets to the point where I'm bored enough to clean, bad things can happen.

Such a point was reached a couple weeks ago. It was a beautiful day and most people had sense enough not to waste it in a drugstore. This left me with a choice of staring blankly at the family planning section while listening to the likes of John Mayer serenade me through the in store music system, or do a badly-needed reorganization of the miscellaneous "we don't need this but don't want to throw it away" section at the back of the happy little pill room. I went with option one as long as I could, about an hour, before the sound of "No Such Thing" was like that of an icepick being driven through my eardrum.

Fine. I'll clean something.

One of the first things I found was a pile of old auxiliary labels. You know, the "may cause drowsiness" type stickers we put on your vial so our ass is covered when you take 10 Xanax then wrap your car around a tree. These days, most of them are printed along with your label and not put on separately, meaning the half empty box of "for anal use only" tags I found would probably never be used. How sad. If only there were some way for these little stickers not to go to waste.

I looked back at the family planning section.

Why not a little experiment? You know, in the name of science, the way the TV show "Candid camera" was all about science. I discreetly slipped over to where my favorite type of Trojans were on display. Two rows side by side, perfect. One row got the "for anal use only" stickers on their front corner, one didn't. After two weeks, here's what I can report:

3 boxes of anal condoms picked up and put back when the customer realized they weren't designed for the planned hole.

1 customer carefully looking over his options and going with the anal prophylactics.

1 customer question to me as to what the difference was. I assured the customer they were both the same product and was shocked, just shocked, that someone could be so immature as to put these stickers on as some sort of sick joke. The customer still went non-anal.

Today I saw the store manager taking the labels off, so these will be my final results. Damn.

Although I do still have some "for the ear" stickers left.......

Monday, March 09, 2015

Here's What The Big Deal Was About At That Bridge In Alabama This Weekend. I Told You About It 8 Years Ago.

Original Blogpost Airdate : January 15, 2007

Free At Last, They Took Your Life. They Could Not Take Your Pride.

At the danger of repeating myself, damn you used to come up with the best lines Bono. Used to.

In case you're wondering why there's no mail today, I'll tell you a little story that might go a ways towards explaining:

In 1965, some smart people in Selma, Alabama noticed something. Only around half of the people in their town were registered to vote, and it seemed that most of those that weren't were black folks. As smart as they were they couldn't seem to figure out why. They all knew Ninety-five years earlier these words were put into the United States Constitution, which meant there was no way the black folks could possibly be being kept from voting on purpose:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

"Maybe it's some sort of typo", some thought. Others said that maybe no one bothered to tell the crackers in the state capital of Montgomery that these words had been put in the document that is the supreme law of this country. They knew the crackers weren't very smart, so maybe no one had bothered to explain to the crackers what the big words in the 15th Amendment actually meant. They decided to walk over to Montgomery to ask the crackers what was up. Here's what happened:

The man in the light coat on the ground is John Lewis. The cops were so jealous of how smart he was they fractured his skull trying to get a look at his brain. Later that year Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, which told the not so bright crackers in language they could understand that they had to let black folks vote. The end of the Voting Rights Act Reads:

"P.S. -We mean it this time. Seriously."

There's one more picture I want you to see that will tell you how the story ended. Take a look:

That's Congressman John Lewis getting sworn in this month to his 10th term by Speaker of The House Nancy Pelosi. That's right my friends, today the Drugmonkey actually told you a story with a happy ending. May you remember it long after the bills resume their flight to your mailbox.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Quickie From The Mailbag.

Hi there,

My name is Judy and I'm with the American Recall Center. I came across your blog while researching health safety topics and wanted to say that, as a fellow advocate, I admire your passion for keeping your readers informed, and healthy.

With Patient Safety Awareness Week around the corner (Mar. 8 - Mar. 14), we want to bring attention to a hidden safety hazard found in all of our own homes, our medicine cabinet. It's so important that we understand the medications we take, how to store them securely, and dispose of them properly. That's why we're asking influential writers, like you, to share their thoughts and experiences in a post.

We want to highlight some important facts about medication safety and we're hoping you'd be willing to help us in doing so!

Please let me know if you'd interested,



Dear Judy,

Strike 1- Use of the word "passion." The new definition of "passion" is "empty buzzword thrown randomly into business jargon"

Strike 2- Exclamation point! Another trendy corporate grammar tool to show how "outside the box" we are!

Strike 3- "Inspire?" Really? What....the......? that is actually worth three strikes all by itself.

The answer is no. Please become very passionate about staying as far away from me as possible!

The word that goes here is sincerely.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Question Looking to Be Crowdsourced By You CVS Chain Slaves

This one showed up in today's mailbag, and here are those out there who know more about this than me:

I recently had to write about a CVS case that talks about the DUR system. After reading your blog, it seems like you are very familiar with it. I have one question for you: Are these “hard stops” exclusively managed by pharmacists? Or could some of them (the silly ones) be handled or “overwritten" by a trained technician? I mean, could some of them be managed by others and then the hard ones, only be handled by a pharmacist? That way pharmacist be more focused on the more important ones.

As a former Rite Aid chain slave, I know we had to override them all, and there was *something* to override on almost every prescription. (Caution using birth control in reproductive age women was my favorite.) Not sure if CVS is the same way.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pharmacy Jesus Saves Another Pharmacy Soul

From today's mailbag:

It's been a year since I left CVS behind, in part due to your incisive, honest assessments of the debilitated state of our profession. I now work in a nursing home pharmacy with some of the best people you'd ever want to meet in a sweet little town in the scenic north Georgia mountains. My stress is gone, my arrhythmia is much better, I'm a better husband and father, and generally a better person for leaving that toxic environment. I think for all the complaining retail pharmacists do, I don't think they realize how bad it is until they get out and see how good life can be again. Thanks again and keep fighting the good fight.

Crucified and resurrected my friends. Curing stress and arrhythmias. Making you a better person with a happier life. That's what I do. I'm Pharmacy Jesus.

And I'm waiting for you, Mr. or Mrs. Walgreen's pharmacist just home from a 12 hour shift, your hands still shaking as you reach for the scotch and the Prozac, to come join us. It is doable. You do not have to live like this. 

Your liberation starts here

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Oh, How I Have Been So Dreadfully Wrong About The American Pharmacists Association.

....and I'm a big enough man to admit it. Lo these many years I've been hurling mean adjectives at them; useless, incompetent, clueless, out of touch with the profession being some of the most frequent. Little did I know they've been working on a master plan for the pharmacist in the trenches. A cure-all elixir of happiness and harmony that will liberate at last those poor souls chained to the retail world of high volume, no breaks, no room for error and no time to pee.

It was unveiled on page 49 of this month's issue of Pharmacy Today  in case you missed it.

First we tackle the problem of stress. You have it, I had it when I was a chain slave, and it ain't getting any better unless you're able to buy your own place and finally do pharmacy right. Fear not though, as the story's appetizer is a stunningly simple solution to the problem:

In more than a decade working as both community staff pharmacist and manager, Jennifer Davis, PharmD, has found at least one solution for countering the stress that inevitably follows a tension-producing incident like a misfill or an encounter with an upset customer: she presses the pause button. 
“Those of you who were involved need to take a break,” Davis, who is now a Fred Meyer Pharmacy manager in Beaverton, OR, will tell her staff. “You need to get off the floor, because the chance of making an error right now is very high.” 

EUREKA!!!!! If only I would have thought of that the time I had to start my Sunday shift as the only person in the pharmacy by dealing with an emotionally fragile rape victim while foaming at the mouth barbarians were demanding their drugs.

My supervisor was disappointed, after 8 hours of playing catch up that day, that the controlled drug inventory wasn't completed. I never forgot their gratitude for my efforts to help that woman. Little did I know it all would have been better if I just would have hung out in the break room for awhile.

But we're just getting warmed up here folks, because The American Pharmacist's Association has been on the case of what ails the retail pharmacy world, and a solution is coming down the pike, baby:

...many pharmacists find it difficult to cope. And rather than promoting the challenges and professional rewards of community practice, many of them advise younger pharmacists to look elsewhere for career opportunities. That was what Mark A. Munger, PharmD, Senior Associate Dean and Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Utah College of Pharmacy, and colleagues discovered in a 2012 survey of more than 300 independent and community chain pharmacists

I just want to pause here and note that it took some egghead until 2012 to realize that pharmacists are likely to tell others to choose another career.

Steps are being taken, though, to reverse these discouraging attitudes, said Munger...


...who is scheduled to lead a discussion, Pharmacist Occupational Satisfaction and Coping with Stress, at the 2015 APhA Annual Meeting and Exposition in San Diego in March


A DISCUSSION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

PROBLEM SOLVED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(cue Beethoven's "Ode To Joy" right here)

And what might such a discussion entail? The article goes on to give some tasty previews:

Munger said he had heard from both independent and chain pharmacies. Many of the chains, he said, “have developed internal oversight committees that handle their employee–pharmacist complaints or suggestions and then address them by building a culture that relates around appreciation for their individual work, the individual pharmacist’s ideas, and empowers them to make more individualized decisions.”



Ok, stop. Need to focus.


Stop, Drugmonkey. Try to forget what you just saw and move forward.

I just want to say I really want to hear from a chain pharmacist that works in a culture that relates around appreciation of their individual work and empowers them. At all. Any kind of empowerment. I'll put up a reward for anyone who can find me a member of that mythical species.

But wait......the bullshit ain't done being served:

Munger added that many of them are also “building clinical services into their labor projections, which will no doubt improve the workplace environment, as we suggested in the paper, empowering pharmacists to make more clinical decisions. We think that was really one of the major emphases that we got from our survey.” 

Yup, no doubt there, baby. I bet there's noooooooooooooo doubt at all among any of the drugstore schleps beating their brains in to meet their metrics right now.

Alright, one more round of this:

Davis has also learned that diplomacy works best when a patient with urgent needs demands time during a period when patients are lined up at the counter waiting for prescriptions or to be counseled. She will tell the patient: “I would love to spend time with you, but can’t right now. Could I look into this and call you back at a better time?” 
“Ninety-nine percent of the time, they’re totally fine with that,” she added.

Excuse me, Dr. Clueless? THERE'S NEVER A BETTER TIME!!!!!!!!! I cut my teeth at a 24 hour Walgreen's that did around a thousand prescriptions a day, and yeah, we might have been able to work a call like that in around 3 or 4 in the morning some nights. I have a feeling 95% of customers aren't gonna be fine with that, though.

"Um, Drugmlonkey?" some of you might be saying. "I thought you said you were wrong about APhA. It kinda looks like they're kinda clueless and out of touch, just like you've always been saying."

No, my friend, they are more than that. Even more than I imagined. Because the only thing worse than a clueless, incompetent oaf who is unwilling to do anything is a clueless, willing stooge who allows others to use them. It's called the American Pharmacist's Association, but it just gave the corporate pinheads who have taken over our profession a platform to tell lawmakers, regulators, public relations agencies, the media and anyone else in the world who will listen about the progressive changes for good they are making in the workplace. Serious decision makers will listen to them, see the APhA stamp on the statement and move on.

That was a knife you just found in your back my friend. Paid for with your dues.

And until today, I never thought APhA willing or competent enough to put it there.

I was very wrong.