Picking a Pharmacy

When we left Seattle for a more rural setting so that our kids could grow up with space to run – wow! has it really been fifteen years? – there was only one pharmacy in the town near our home.  It was slow and crowded, but we rarely needed to go there so I didn’t worry too much about it.  Wanting to support a mom & pop pharmacy, we gave them our business.

That changed the day I had two sick children.  To expedite the process I asked my doctor to fax the prescription to our pharmacy so it would be ready when I arrived.  The receptionist sent the fax right away (I watched), so I knew that it went through.  Since it takes over an hour to drive from the doctor’s office to the drug store, I hoped that the medicine would be ready by the time we got there, and all I’d have to do was pick it up and get my poor, sick kids home.  Knowing how busy they tend to be, I phoned just to make sure.

Traffic was bad that day so the drive took extra time.  We all felt miserable, but I unbuckled my babies from their car seats, hauled them inside, and made our way back toward the pharmacy counter.  We stood in line for half an hour – actually, I sat my pregnant self down on the floor with my kids in my lap.  It really was that exhausting.

The prescription had been faxed to the store two hours before I finally got up to the window, but they still hadn’t looked at the overflowing basket by the fax machine (in spite of my phone call).  I had to wait another 45 minutes to get my kids’ medicine.  That was the last prescription I filled at that store.  I understand that it takes more than five minutes to do everything involved in filling prescriptions, but I can go anywhere else and it will only take them 15-20 minutes.  Why would I want to wait 45?


In looking for a new drug store, I decided that the place really didn’t need to be near my house.  Reasoning that I only have prescriptions to fill when I’ve been to see the doctor, what I needed was a pharmacy located conveniently near my doctor’s office.

That worked for years.  Now, however, I see my pharmacist more often than I see some of my friends.  It is not convenient to drive an hour just to obtain prescription refills.  Three new pharmacies have been built in town since we moved here, and if I didn’t like the cool bottles/labels at my current pharmacy so much, I’d switch in a heartbeat.

These labels are so much better!

  • Print is big enough to read without a magnifying glass
  • Flat instead of round makes it possible to see the entire label
  • Instructions on how to take the medicine are clear
  • The name of the medicine is easy to read
  • Generic and brand name are both clearly visible
  • Cute colored rings make it easy to see at-a-glance which family member a bottle is for
  • Warnings on the back are equally easy to see

This is a really good design.  And no, the pharmacy didn’t pay me anything to say this. 

I’m so exasperated by one of the employees that I’m considering making a switch.  I’ve always figured that I deal with the bottles every day, but the pharmacy employees only sporadically.  I can deal with momentary annoyances to make day-to-day life smoother.  Lately I’m not so sure.

The pharmacy that I use typically has three people working.  Two of them are terrific.  The pharmacist is very nice.  If she sees me in line, she grabs my bag of refills and rings them up.  I don’t have to identify myself; she knows me (which is nice, but also depressing that I’ve been there so often).  We chat about our current knitting projects.  She asks about my kids.  I try not to take up too much time because I know they’re busy, but she often wants to visit.  One of the techs is the same.  Neither of these people, to my knowledge, have ever screwed up my meds.

The third person is different.  She is the one who on more than one occasion has incorrectly told me that I have no insurance coverage (funny – a different person ringing up the same transaction has no trouble running it through my insurance).  She is the person who filled my Rx with double the dose that my doctor wrote the prescription for.  She is the same person who entered a script into the computer and missed the allergy flag.  I honestly don’t understand why she hasn’t been fired.

This ditz-head can’t tell the difference between 10mg and 5mg, has trouble verifying insurance coverage with something that should be an automatic transaction between two computers, doesn’t recognize me even though I filled sixty-three prescriptions last year (not just “sorry-I-can’t-remember-your-name” but “have-you-ever-filled-a-prescription-here-before?”), still enters things in the computer to auto-refill despite a notice in the computer that says I DON’T want auto-refill, and gave me a med that nearly killed me because she didn’t notice the cross-reactant allergy warning…  I don’t shrug these things off.  I don’t have any confidence that she knows what she’s doing, so when she’s working I double-check everything as if my life depends on it.

Because it does.

When you choose a pharmacy, what is your criteria?
Do you need to like the pharmacist?  Does location matter?


4 thoughts on “Picking a Pharmacy

  1. Long wait times are the most annoying things to me about pharmacies. I’ve been fortunate over the years regarding dosages, etc., and while using drugstore pharmacies, I didn’t get prescriptions often enough to expect the pharmacists and aides to get to know me. Today, the meds I take for rheuma are all mailed to me by the VA; the only problem has been that initially, I’ve had to wait a week to start a new one. If I need a med immediately, however, I can pick them up at the pharmacy at the VA med center. Because they deal with such a huge number of patients each day, this can take a few hours of waiting around. Fortunately, they have a lot of chairs …

    At some point in the future I’ll have regular medical insurance again and will need to get my meds through a drugstore pharmacy again. So I’ve noted your concerns, here, and I’ll be keeping them in mind when I go looking for a good one. Great post, WarmSocks.

  2. I hope you’ve told the pharmacy manager about her slip-ups! Especially missing the allergy flag and giving the wrong dosage. Either of those could easily kill a person, and frankly you shouldn’t be having to catch these errors. That’s their job.


  3. I love the bottles you showed! I’m so sorry you are having bad pharm experiences. Yuck!

    I stick with Walgreens because I learned that in the state where I live, Rite Aid and CVS charge the most. Costco and Sam’s club charge the least and you don’t need a membership to use the pharmacy. Just not in convenient locations. At all.

    I prefer the pharmacist at one specific Walgreens but only go there if it’s on my way. I stick with a Walgreens pharmacist I’m not really happy with out of pure convenience of location. My PCP’s office is constructing an on-site pharmacy right now. I look forward to checking it out!

  4. @Queen – the bottles are great! The purple ring shown in the photo can be changed. The pharmacy has six different colors, and the idea is that every family member chooses a different color. That makes it really easy to tell at-a-glance which bottle belongs to whom.

    @Kali – I said something once, but now I just check carefully.

    @Wren – on refills there’s no wait time because I can just phone to order those. Right after lunch everyone seems to be swamped, so it pays to check the clock. My local grocery store usually only takes 10-15 minutes to fill a prescription so if I change pharmacies for the sake of convenience, that’s where I’ll go (I like the pharmacist there, too). Any word on that job you interviewed for?

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