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Virus protection: How about a little privacy at the pharmacy counter?

Virus protection: How about a little privacy at the pharmacy counter?

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How about a little privacy at the pharmacy counter?  Courtesy photo

Editor's note: Our intrepid columnist may have just discovered the cheapest tool in the fight for public health:

Last month, I was talking to the pharmacist about getting a flu shot at my neighborhood CVS when I heard the guy behind me wheezing and coughing. He was standing so close I could feel his smelly “sick person” breath on the back of my neck.

Hey, would you mind stepping back, this is kind of a private thing here, I politely (not really) asked him.

“Sorry, I didn’t know you were conducting international business with your broker,” he sniffed. Seriously, he was sniffling.

Like I’m the villain here? I gave the guy a stink eye and said, “Don’t be a jackass. Move back.” He got the message and shuffled away from the counter. Still too close, but better.

I said to the pharmacist, “That’s really rude for people to stand so close to the counter when you’re waiting on a customer. You need to put a piece of tape on the floor with a sign saying, “Stand behind this line." They have a sign like that at the post office.

And airline counters. And the DMV. Even Burger King makes you wait your turn. And unlike CVS, I’m not giving my medical history to a teenager wearing a hairnet at Burger King. How about a little privacy, CVS?

The pharmacist agreed with me. “We see that all the time. You’re right, it is rude for people to stand so close to the customer I’m talking to. What are we supposed to do?”

I just told you. Put a piece of tape on the floor.

I contacted CVS customer relations and said, “You’ve got a problem at one of your stores. It’s the same at other CVS stores I’ve visited. There’s no privacy at the pharmacy counter. People can eavesdrop on very personal conversations with the pharmacist.”

Customer relations replied with a form email. “Thank you for taking the time to contact CVS Pharmacy. I have reviewed your email and find that I need additional information to fully assist you. Please provide the store this occurred in. Once I receive your reply I will be able to complete the work and send you my response. Sincerely, Andrew.”

I told them, the one on the corner of Bellaire Boulevard and Stella Link. But others, too.

That prompted another form email. “We take the responsibility of serving your needs seriously. Please accept my apology for your recent experience at the pharmacy. We are committed to better serving the needs of our customers, and your feedback is an important part of that process. We value your business and look forward to serving you again soon. Sincerely, Andrew.”

I can feel your sincerity, “Andrew.” Don’t apologize, do something.

Three weeks later, nothing. No piece of tape. No sign. “Andrew” has stopped writing me.

Trivia: CVS stands for “Consumer Value Store,” the chain’s original name.

Another prescription
While we’re here, it’s not a good idea to put a magazine rack directly under the pharmacy counter. That only invites people to come to the counter and look through the magazines while customers are giving their phone numbers and intimate details about their health to the pharmacist.

Sure, we all want to read how Marie Osmond lost 50 pounds (seemingly an annual event), but someone has a crusty rash that won’t go away and might not want you listening in.

Another thing, CVS, the pharmacy counter is for sick people picking up medicine. You shouldn’t allow customers buying beer, paper plates, “As Seen on TV” frying pans, Baby Ruth candy bars, and Axe body spray to pay at the pharmacy counter. People are waiting for their medicine. They shouldn’t have to wait while someone whispers to the pharmacist, “My friend wants to know where you keep your condoms.”

Is it a good idea to have two cash registers side-by-side at the pickup counter, where customers can’t help but listen to other people describe personal medical issues? At least put a divider between the two registers. Do you really need me to tell you this?

In my best Seinfeld voice, what’s the deal with 3-foot receipts every time I buy a pack of gum?

I mentioned on Twitter that my local CVS doesn’t allow privacy for customers picking up prescriptions. As pharmacies play a bigger and more important role in U.S. healthcare, privacy is needed more than ever. CVS has “Minute Clinics” in many of its stores. Like I said, I just got a flu shot there. They have a whole menu of vaccinations and injections, from pneumonia to tetanus to meningitis to birth control. They do ear wax removal and camp physicals. It’s practically a hospital.

People started sending me photos of their pharmacies, with clear signs instructing customers to stand back to ensure privacy of customers. H-E-B president Scott McClelland invited me to use one of his supermarkets’ pharmacies, which guarantee privacy for customers. I would switch in a Minute Clinic, if only to be closer to the Creamy Creations ice cream aisle (I’m hooked on Chocolate Swirl Malt Crunch) but my health insurance has a deal with CVS. I either use CVS for my meds, or drive 300 miles to a “pharmacia” on Av. Vincente Guerrero in Nuevo Laredo. Done it, a few times, paid a lot less for Pergonal. Lines of Americans out the door.

CVS should know better. I’m not picking on Sam Drucker’s general store in Hooterville here. CVS is the 7th largest corporation in America. It has nearly 10,000 stores coast to coast. Last week, CVS announced it was buying the Aetna Insurance company for $69 billion.

CVS can afford a piece of tape.

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