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Sunday, November 22, 2009

CVS Pharmacy - Real pain, no gain

I was amazed by what I experienced in a CVS Pharmacy store, near my Hotel in Bloomington, Minnesota. I had a terrible sinusitis, and went to a CVS pharmacy for asking some drugs to help.

First thing I found funny, is that the pharmacy is selling cigarettes and cigars.

I went directly to the back of the store, where the pharmacist are. Two women dressed with a white overall were talking, behind their computers, and ignored me for a bout a minute. Then suddenly, one of them came to me (well they noticed me cool). I explained my issue.

The woman serving me looked back to the other employee "can we sell sudafed with a passport". Second women said yes. Great!

Then, problems begins. "It's not gonna work". The it's not my fault it is a software and regulation issue. The woman was not able to enter my French passport information in its software and could not deliver the right drug to me. She asked for help the second person, who told her more or less, "do not ask me I do not know and I do not have time". She was alone with the software ...

CVS Pharmacy software was not able to deliver a drug to me because I do not have an address in the USA! INCREDIBLE! The women asked me if I can use the identity and address of somebody in the USA. Well, no, we are Saturday and I stay at the hotel near your pharmacy.

So she decided to give up, and not to find a solution. Amazing! She proposed me another drug she can find over the counter (OTC) and that can be sold without any passport required. She said:
- "it's not exactly the same, but some people find it good also".
- Then I asked: "what is the difference between the two box of sudafeds (the one over the counter and behind the counter)"?
- "It's not the same drugs" ...
- "Yes I know, but what drug is not there and what is the impact on what I feel today (fire in my head)".
- "It's not the same drugs" ...
- And to close the discussion: "hopefully you will get better tomorrow".

Do you believe that? "hopefully you will get better tomorrow". You understand what it means: I do not care about your pain, my computer is not letting me deliver the drug, please leave the store and I hope you will not suffer to much. I was not looking for empathy, but this sentence killed me.

I will not spend some time on describing how much time it took me to pay, the corporate credit card not working at CVS, but working at Pizza Hut (restaurant in front of the pharmacy)

CVS pharmacy is more a shop than a real pharmacy. They clearly benefit from a regulated environment where the notion of service does not exist and they hide their inefficiency behind the healthcare regulation. I was ready to pay 50 dollars for the right drug (and again, nothing dangerous here). But they were not able to sell it to me and and the full experience was a real pain.

If you are a traveler without a US passport, do not go to CVS pharmacy, they will not help. People there are not passionated by their job and by helping people, they just sell boxes, barcode machine in hands.
The french pharmacist near my home missed me a lot yesterday ...


  1. He He! I hope you got well later! I never bought prescription drugs while being in the USA but this is very common.
    You do not fit the procedure so it's easier to dismiss you than fixing the issue.

  2. So what is worst, a rude french waiter or a useless but polite pharmacist?

  3. @jeremy. I do not see your point. A pharmacist can be rude but efficient. And going to a pharmacy is not the same than going to a bar.

    But your question gave me a good idea.

    When I will be sick again in North America I will have a beer with a tip focused waiter ;)

    When I will need a coffee in France, I will go to the nearest pharmacy and buy a some sirop.