Watch my life unravel...



Top Canadian Blogs - Top Blogs

Local Directory for Ottawa, ON


Five things I hate about my pharmacy

After teetering on the edge of sickness yesterday morning, I rallied and carried on with my day’s plans, which included lunch with my favourite sock monkey lady, and coffee and banana-butterscotch cake at Raw Sugar with Grace. (I confess I whined to Grace that the cake didn’t taste very butterscotchy, which might have been due to my taste buds being stifled by an impending cold. But I think someone forgot to put the butterscotch in the butterscotch icing.)

At any rate, I was very glad I summoned up the energy to socialize, because I had a lovely time, impending illness notwithstanding.

It’s not the swine flu. My temperature was well below normal. I had a whole litany of complaints, ranging from mundane stuff like headache to more exotic things like all the ligaments and nerves and tendons in my legs felt like they were too short. My breast was sore because the radiation continues to cook it for two weeks after treatment. Also, I’m in the process of weaning myself off my addictive painkillers, so various pains are starting to break through the painkiller barrier. And I think I’m coming down with perimenopause, and a touch of hypochondria too.

On top of everything else, I just started taking tamoxifen yesterday, and will be taking it every day until 2014. It’s the final part of my breast cancer treatment plan. It will likely produce symptoms that mimic perimenopause, so I expect to be completely confused in that department for the next five years. I won’t know what’s real perimenopause and what’s fake perimenopause. And what happens if menopause occurs during the next five years, as I sincerely hope it will? Will I have real menopause and fake perimenopause simultaneously?

You know what else? I hate my pharmacy. Earlier this year I switched from the world’s best pharmacy (Shoppers Drug Mart at Bank & Laurier) to the world’s worst pharmacy (Shoppers Drug Mart at Westgate). In the past I wouldn’t have complained because I hardly ever had to go to the pharmacy. But now? I average about one prescription a week, which generally means two visits and a phone call.

Here are some of the things I hate about my new pharmacy:

1. They hire staff with insufficient command of the English language. (I don’t expect English to be their first language, but a rudimentary command of English would be good too.)

2. They’re rude. They rush me away, refusing to answer my questions, saying “You go now. Okay? You go.”

3. They’re cold and unfriendly. They seem to resent customers.

4. They always leave me standing at the counter for several minutes before serving me. There can be six of them working back there, no other customers in sight, and they take turns glancing up at me and then ignoring me, waiting for someone else to serve me. My last pharmacy sometimes got busy and kept me waiting too, but it was always because they were busy with people. These guys do it because they’re busy with stuff.

5. They usually can’t find my prescription. They look through a big bin of prescriptions, declare it missing, check computers, ask one another, glare at me like it’s my fault, make me re-spell my name, and finally recheck the bin, where it was all along.

Yesterday I picked up my first Tamoxifen prescription, and was served by an incompetent new pharmacy assistant who couldn’t speak English and who had to ask her supervisor for direction on every single little thing.

The woman in front of me accidentally dropped her coffee and handed the pharmacy assistant her empty cup. She had to ask her supervisor where the garbage was. But she didn’t actually ask. She took the cup to her supervisor, held it up, and looked helpless. Her supervisor showed her the garbage pail.

Then it was my turn. I mentioned to her that there was a puddle of coffee on the floor, right in front of the wicket. She came out and looked and went to tell her supervisor.

“Split,” she said. “Split.”

Her supervisor didn’t understand. She fished the coffee cup out of the garbage, held it up, said “split” again, and pointed to where I was standing. The supervisor came out, looked, got some paper towels and cleaned it up.

Then I told the pharmacy assistant that I was here to pick up my prescription, and I spelled my name. She wrote it down, looked it up, and eventually found my prescription.

“You have before?” she asked. I shook my head no and she pointed at the pharmacist, indicating that I needed to speak to him.

I stood at the consult wicket and a few minutes later he came over and told me about my prescription and possible side effects.

“It’s like when a woman gets a period.” he said, “Things like bloating and cramps. Hot flashes. Bleeding. Moods. You know like your cycle, you get symptoms but then you get used to it?”

He paused. I waited.

“It’s hard for a guy to explain this,” he said, looking flustered and apologetic.

I felt sorry for him, and decided to let him off the hook. After all, I’ve got books with whole chapters about Tamoxifen. I’ve got the Internet. I don’t really need a flustered pharmacist to tell me the side effects.

Even though it wasn’t a very helpful conversation, it was the most human exchange I’ve ever had at that pharmacy so far, and left me feeling slightly better about the place.

19 comments to Five things I hate about my pharmacy

  • I was writing a rant about the “incompetent assistant that could not even speak English” but I decided not to.

    I wish you well…

  • Guillermo I was afraid that might bother some people. Personally I think it’s great that they hire people who can serve customers in other languages too – but shouldn’t they also be able to do their jobs in English? If I was in Italy, I would expect people in service jobs to be able to speak Italian. In Germany, I’d expect German. In primarily English speaking countries, like Canada, I expect English. (And French too, in a city like Ottawa.) Do you think that’s unreasonable?

  • (And, for the record, you misquoted me.)

  • I *loathe* the Westgate SDM pharmacy. I’ve gotten prescriptions there a few times, when I’ve had to drag a kid to the walk-in clinic next door and I don’t want to do an extra stop on the way home. I live pretty close by (just the other side of Hampton Park) yet I avoid it now at all costs.

    On the other hand, if you are looking for a fabulous pharmacy, I recommend the Pharma Plus at Hampton Pk plaza, just up the road. They’ve had the same rotating collection of pharmacists for years, and they do get to know you and remember you. Gillian, one of them who is there full-time, is fantastic- professional, friendly, discreet. She’s gone the extra mile for me a few times.

  • grace

    This year language (written and comprehension)were tested as part of the application process for pharmacy school here in Canada. Never thought it would be a thrill to say this but in 3.5 years my kid will be able to sell you drugs!

    One of the few places in Ottawa that my partner can order bulk packs of cane tips is at the medical supply portion of the Westgate store. Trust me, they keep some very rude staff in the back too. At best they seem to suffer greatly from ennui.

  • I have learned in the last few years how very important it is to have a good pharmacy. I am very loyal to the Glebe Pharmasave Apothecary. Their staff are all helpful, sympathetic and professional.

  • Jo

    My worst pharmacy experience was the Shopper’s Drug Mart on Bank beside Value Village. When I went there to get my IUD they tried to sell me an IUD in a box that had already been opened and was taped shut with scotch tape. There was the remnants of a prescription sticker from the last person who’d bought it (and returned it, I guess) still stuck to the package. I ended up going a few blocks south to another Shoppers where the pharmacy staff were delightful and went out of their way to help me out. Looks like Shoppers needs to do some quality control to ensure consistency in their service.

  • Gillian

    I’ve got to say that I use the Costco Pharm. I have been very satisfied with them, but haven’t asked them for anything unusual. There’s quite a difference in the fee, I think b/w $5 & $8 lower.

  • Yeah, SDM are pretty awful. I would go with the recommendation of livefrom161 and go with the PharmaSave. I used to go to the Glebe Apothocary as well and they are super cool. But whenever I have to fill a script, I always take it to a private drugstore like the Desjardins downtown or any of The Medicine Shoppe stores, which are a chain but are franchised, so the head pharmacist is usually in and they are all very friendly.

    As far as coming off of the painkillers, if you need any help/advice/tips, feel free to ask zoom! I’ve been there, many times, and there are so many little tricks that they should tell you about but don’t.

  • Mo

    Life is too short…find another pharmacy…lose the aggravation…live on in peace

  • […] nota completa está en su blog: 5 things I hate about my pharmacy. Pueden pasar por ahí a leerla y, si quieren , vuelvan a comentar. Si leen bien, la […]

  • Guzmán

    Incompetence is also the lack of ability of puting ourselves in the other person place or moment (understanding)

  • Arden

    My fave pharmacy is now a pharmasave as well. The owner is superb, and has been our pharmacist for about 20 years, perhaps more. One or two of the newer staff members there are pretty bad, largely REALLY slow (they do that whole not coming to the desk when they see a person there thing too), but on the whole it’s a great place. (It’s Astleys for those of you in the sandy hill/lowertown area looking for good pharmacists!)

    I second the suggestion to shop around for a new pharmacists, it’s amazing what a difference it can make. I remember there was a couple of years where we were going to the Loblaws pharmacy and it was truly awful!

  • Zhu

    I live close to Westgate and work a couple of blocks from Laurier and Bank — and I like you, I find the service terrible at Westgate.

    Last time I went, I just couldn’t take it. The women didn’t speak English, I spelled my name five times and she still didn’t get it. I gave up and left.

    English isn’t my first language either and I feel for her. But meanwhile, I don’t know how she got the job. Seriously. I didn’t speak much English when I first came here and I would never have worked in the customer service industry or anything that required me to interact with people (my writing skills were better though!).

  • futurelandfill

    I’m thinking everyone should do their best to avoid getting drugs at Shoppers. It’s not really much more than another Walmart clone, vis. wickipedia:

    Below is the tag that comes up when you google SDM.

    “Shoppers Drug Mart is Canada’s leading retailer of beauty products and carries a broad range of brands.”

    Seems to me they are more interested in selling goop for women to slather on their bodies and faces than dispensing pharmaceuticals and health aids to the ill and infirm. It only takes a short visit to any SDM store to conclude that their main focus is the huge profits from cosmetics and ancillary products aimed at women wanting to be thin, rich and irresistible. That cloud of perfume wafting across our nostrils as we walk through the door? How far back past the hosiery and hair potions (and potato chips, lest we ignore other profitable aisles) must we penetrate to reach the real druggist?

    They have driven into submission or bankruptcy most of the independent pharmacies that used to clutter every few blocks of our cities. Almost every convenient pharmacy is linked to a major corporation of one sort or another but there are still independents. Seek out those who remain and honour them with your business.


  • futurelandfill

    In the interests of fairness to SDM and legal protection of Zoom let me stipulate that it is my opinion that “Shoppers…is not really much more than another Walmart clone”.

    Many retailers, including SDM, have responded aggressively to the entrance of Walmart and other merchandisers, notably Home Depot, to the Canadian market over the past several years and, from their prospective, reasonably so. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it is the Canadian consumers who have elected to direct their purchasing power to these large chain enterprises, at the expense of locally owned and operated businesses, who have precipitated a reduction in personalized and locally knowledgeable service. Since I have no direct knowledge it is perhaps best not to discuss minimum wage levels and employee benefits that may contribute to worker malaise.

    Likewise, it is my opinion that “They have driven into submission or bankruptcy most of the independent pharmacies that used to clutter every few blocks of our cities.” I have no direct evidence for this statement but driving in the suburbs, where most of our city’s residents live, it seems to me that shopping malls and big-box retail outlets have become the norm, a circumstance favouring retailers with the financing to establish large outlets. SDM, Best Buy, Superstore, or Chapters/Indigo, and like-minded enterpeneurs may harbour no particular ill-intent to the small marketers of their common products, but the effect remains the same. A superfluity of choice and a paucity of attentive personal service rely on discounted prices and free parking as a marketing strategy. If all you want is cheap and easy, well get ye to Costco and South Keys.

    I’ll stand by the rest…

  • Donna

    I completely agree ! I can’t stand that pharmacy, but for about the best pharmacist in town – Gillian at the drugstore at Hampton Park. She knows my name, is friendly, efficient, energetic, wants to be helpful, and smart, smart, smart.
    It makes going there quite fun in fact !

  • Okay, you guys have convinced me – I’m switching to Gillian at the Hampton Park PharmaPlus. It’s only another 10 minutes’ walk further than SDM. Thank you for that.

    And thank you Future Landfill, for reminding me of the reasons I should be honouring the small independents with my business whenever possible. You’re absolutely right.

  • OMG – I had almost the exact same experiences at the Billings Bridge Zellers pharmacy! What they also did was yell at me from behind the counter things like, “Do you want your birth control prescription filled now, WC?” and other embarrassing things like this that compromised my confidentiality. Grrrr.