Shopping Locally

Three of my grandchildren have been to the doctor in the last forty-eight hours. Matthew (2) has pneumonia; Elizabeth (3) and Lana (1) have ear infections, both ears, both girls.

Matthew and Elizabeth went to the ER Tuesday evening; two prescriptions for Matt, three for Beth. It was late, they received meds at the hospital so Chris brought them home. He planned to fill the prescriptions in the morning at the pharmacy about a mile from his house.

Now, we live in small-town America, we only have two pharmacies in the county, well sort of, they’re both owned by the same family. It’s a monopoly. I’m all for shop locally but this is a problem.

Chris couldn’t find Matthew’s insurance card and even though he had had prescriptions filled there previously, the pharmacist wouldn’t fill the antibiotic and ibuprofen. Really? There isn’t even a co-pay. He has pneumonia. Chris didn’t have time to fight, he had an appointment and then he had to go straight to work. It was 11am.

On my way home from work, I met Chris at his job and took the prescriptions to the pharmacy (there’s really only one choice, remember?) to find out how much it would cost to fill the antibiotics for Beth and Matthew—who had follow-up visits with their pediatrician, along with Lana. Their stepmother had the doctor’s office to copy the insurance card they had on file. And I tackled the drug store.

“I can’t tell you if we can accept the copy of the card until I see it.”

“You realize these children have had prescriptions filled here before.”

“We have to have the card.”

“Ok, so how much will the antibiotics be if I choose to pay for them?”

“Oh, we can’t tell you how much it will be without the cards.”

I bit back a very ugly comment and said, “I don’t think you understand, my two-year-old grandson has pneumonia—do you get that? My uncle died of pneumonia for lack of antibiotics. How much will I have to pay for the antibiotic?” I know a little about pneumonia, Ian had it four times before he was three. I know a little, it’s scary stuff.

“I can’t tell you without the card.”

“Are you telling me you won’t sell me the antibiotic? You tell me how much, and I’ll give you my debit card–good old-fashioned capitalism. My grandson needs this medicine.”

She stared at me blankly for a good minute before turning to the pharmacist to ask if it was possible to quote me a price. Really?

Meanwhile, an older gentleman, in overalls, told the other pharmacist that he had lost his card. The pharmacist not only filled the prescriptions, but gave him a free candy bar to compensate him for waiting.

Now I was angry. Matthew’s pediatrician called two more prescriptions in to the other pharmacy in the county (same owner, same name, same everything). His step-mom went through the drive through and picked up the meds no questions asked.

More than twenty minutes later, I found out that two prescriptions of amoxicillin would cost me about $60.

Amber, said stepmother, was on her way with the copy of the card, so we’d try it that way first. “Fill the antibiotic, if you can’t figure out the insurance—for an existing customer—I’ll just pay for it.”

I thought she understood, but when Amber arrived, the meds weren’t ready—she had three sick kids (and two healthy kids) with her, and she had other children to get off the school bus. She left the card-copy, and Lana’s ‘script. This time, it was about Elizabeth’s card—which Chris had had that morning. They couldn’t fill Elizabeth’s without her card.

Amber left. She called and asked me to return to the pharmacy. It was now 4pm.

I picked up Elizabeth’s card, and went back to the pharmacy. They couldn’t find Elizabeth’s meds, and they don’t carry prescription Benadryl (!?!—yes, this is bad enough to make me do awful things with punctuation) and had to order it. I waited an hour whilst the people behind the counter tripped over themselves trying to make Moe, Larry, and Curly look brilliant. They were mostly successful.

And they couldn’t fill Lana’s antibiotic at all. Amber, her mom, had left the wrong card. Apparently, the insurance has two cards. Why the person behind the counter didn’t tell Amber it was the wrong card while she was still in the store is anyone’s guess. But that was the last straw for me…

“Really?” I said, “Really? You understand that we have now been at this for seven hours. There are three sick toddlers waiting for their medication—one of them with a life threatening illness. Do you understand that?” I might have sounded edgy. Maybe.

The clerk turned to the pharmacist. And she bravely, but reluctantly, decided to step to the plate.

Too little too late. “I’d like the owner’s number.”

“He’s sick.”

“How long does it take you to fill his prescriptions? My grandson has been waiting seven hours for you to fill his! People die from pneumonia, you know that right?”

By now I was their worst nightmare, all three pharmacists stopped what they were doing to “help” me. Customers were busying themselves with magazines and hair dyes.

“Just bring the other card back tomorrow and we’ll refund your money for Lana’s medicine. And we’ll have the Benadryl by then. We appreciate your business.”

“I’m sure the CVS in town will too!” I snapped up a “customer satisfaction” survey on my way out. I may just link them to the blog…


On my return trip Thursday, the clerk tried to tell me that there was no such thing as prescription Benadryl, and they didn’t do refunds. Today, the pharmacist stepped up quickly; she may have been warned. Only a twenty-five minute wait today.

The wonderful people at the Farmer’s Market saved my buy local ideals. I had organic steaks, and fresh baked bread with raspberries that were picked this morning. There was a wonderful tart waiting for me for desert. I perused every booth in less than an hour. I wish the Farmer’s Market could fill prescriptions, god knows they went a long way to heal me last night!


5 thoughts on “Shopping Locally

  1. “I waited an hour whilst the people behind the counter tripped over themselves trying to make Moe, Larry, and Curly look brilliant. They were mostly successful.”

    My favorite line….:) Thanks, I really hope your grandkids are better today. Improper customer service due to no compitition, go figure, kind of like waiting in the DMV.

  2. Aarg… I feel your anger; I’m outraged just reading this! If that were me there would have been a scorched silhouette of the counter woman from the laser beams projecting from my eyes! It’s different in Canada and the UK, (and also different for me being the daughter of 2 doctors, and living in a major city), but the US health care situation scares me, scares most Canadians. How are the kiddlets now?

  3. You have GOT to be kidding me!!! I’ll buy my berries from local places but there’s some things you have to go to the big guys for. I buy more prescriptions that my parents and grandparents combined and there’s no way I would trust a local pharmacy to have what I need when I need it. Your story is exactly why. I’m so sorry for you and your grandkids! I hope they’re feeling better by now…

  4. I frequent a “mom and pop” pharmacy where the pharmacist knows me, I prefer that to the big chain stores. Still, when you run up against the system/red tape, it can be difficult and expensive. I think I would have lost it; not filling a prescription for a toddler with pneumonia? Unbelievable. Sounds like you conducted yourself really well. Hope they’re all better today.

  5. um………..martins has FREE antibiotics and the pharmacy has FREE children’s vitamins……. sorry you had such an Issue but ………..yea FREE antibiotics for me this time was a life saver, even the co-pay didn’t need to come out of my pocket, Chris should look into the free vitamin thing at the pharmacy.

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