I Am Not A Pharmacist, But I’m Willing To Try.

The mortar and pestle, an internationally reco...

I don't work here (Image via Wikipedia)

The calls come in now and again. Sometimes the callers leave messages, other times I answer the phone without realizing what I’m getting myself into. Either way, they bring up issues I can’t possibly address.

I am not their pharmacist.

I am just the guy whose phone number is one digit different than the one that they use to reach the drug store.

The sheer chance of getting that phone number, combined with the odd work hours I keep, put me in a position to answer a lot of these calls to my house. I’ll answer the phone and an elderly woman’s voice will say something like “this is Ms. Edna, I need you to get me some more of my nerve pills.”

Tangent Alert!

I use the example of an elderly woman because they’re by far the majority of my pharmacy callers. I’m not saying that to be disrespectful in any way to these women. My parents raised me better than that. I think the fact that these are the callers I get validates the point that women significantly outlive men.

Gentlemen, maybe we should consider seeing a doctor now and again. Let’s draw straws to see which one of us is going to go first.

Moving along…

Which number ?

Push the wrong one, get the wrong guy (Image by Kat... via Flickr)

I tell these callers that I am not a druggist. Some will repeat the number they thought they’d dialed, then I will explain how I came to be the one to answer. We’ll tell each other to have a nice day and end the call.

Some of the other callers struggle with the idea that I’m not wearing a white lab coat, standing by to refill their blood pressure medication. I try to tell them I am not the druggist, but the message doesn’t get through.

The first time this happened, I ended up frustrated that I couldn’t convince her I was not at the drug store. My caller hung up after expressing disappointment with my level of customer service. I did not feel good about that, so I instituted a change in my procedure.

Under my new procedure, callers who dial me seeking pharmaceuticals get an enhanced level of service. If I can’t convince the caller I’m not a druggist, I get their name and tell them I will have one of my people call them right back. Then, I call the drug store and ask them to call the person.

The caller gets her medication, ends the call in a much better frame of mind, and I can tell myself I did something nice.

I Can’t Quit On Them

I’ve been taking the occasional pharmacy call for about twenty years now. Sometimes I think of changing my phone number.

I haven’t changed it yet. I know that if I do abandon that number the phone company will eventually re-issue the number to someone else. No one else has a procedure in place.

I’m not going to hand my patients over to just anyone.

53 Comments on “I Am Not A Pharmacist, But I’m Willing To Try.”

  1. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    You are a fine human and a finer humanitarian. But you do realize that they keep calling you to talk to “that nice young man at the drugstore who is so helpful.”

  2. You’re very kind and patient to do that, oma!
    My brother’s number was one digit different from the voting line number for South Africa’s first Pop Idol series. After getting tired of telling people they’d got through to the wrong number, he just thanked them for their votes 🙂

  3. I feel your pain, Oma…my cell phone number is one digit away from a family restaurant which happens to be one of my favourites…luckily, they don’t get very many phone calls. The most common one is: “Are you open on Sundays?” The answer is “No.”

    You’re very nice to get the drug store to call “your patients” back…


  4. Wendi says:

    Oma, one of the numbers here at work gets a lot of calls for a barber shop. Maybe instead of trying to convince them they dialed the wrong number, I should just start booking their appointments. Oh, but then they’d be pretty irate when they show up at Andre’s with no record of a cut scheduled. Maybe I’ll have them call you instead?

    PS – I have a funny pharmacist story. And I swear it’s 100% true. I had a prescription for Vioxx, back in the day before the FDA pulled it off the market. I took it to the pharmacy and the druggist gave me Viagra instead. Um hello, I was a 25 year old WOMAN. Needless to say, I stopped using that particular pharmacy.

  5. We found him Captain!! says:

    I phoned my local drugstore one time to have a prescription refilled and delivered to my home. Three hours later my order was delivered and after tipping the boy $2. I opened the bag and found a giant size box of EX-LAX and a free shoe horn with the store’s logo on it.

    Was that you taking my order that day? I want my money back…… Call me.
    Gumma No Kell.

  6. You are the nicest person ever.

  7. Z.N. Singer says:

    I’m impressed. Me, I think of myself as a nice guy, but in your situation? I’d say, ‘I’m not the druggist, try again, have a good day,’ and then just plain hang up. I’m not very patient with that kind of people.

    • omawarisan says:

      I’m tempted sometimes, but I’m such a short trip from being the caller I don’t think it would be a good thing karma-wise.

      Also, I’d like to point out that I am not a short trip from being an elderly woman.

  8. Debbie says:

    You’re to be commended for being such a nice guy! And I’m sure your patience with your patients will earn you rewards — if not here, then in your afterlife. Good solution to a nagging problem!

  9. The Hipster says:

    I think you make this stuff up. 😉

    P.S. I like the Tangent Alert! I plan on stealing it.

  10. Betty says:

    You are a good man for doing that, oma. When June lived up here, her telephone number was one digit off from a local high school. She’d often get calls on snowy days asking if school was open. As a result, I’m pretty sure there were a couple of students who either showed up when it was closed or no-showed when open.

  11. madtante says:

    That’s funny! I got somebody one time (a man, could’ve been you!) who very nicely told me, “Oh, you’re trying to reach __” and proceeded to give the CORRECT number.

    I’m so dense, I asked. “Hang on. How did you know?” He said he had been getting calls for the business for years. I thought it was SO Midwestern (polite) for him to know and give the correction!–Kindly!

  12. Brooke says:

    Instead of being irritated you were concerned that someone was displeased with your customer service… and that’s why we keep comin’ back, O!

  13. tangyorangesour says:

    I always look forward as to what you have to share amidst us.

    Thank you!

  14. pattypunker says:

    would you mind refilling my xanax? it’s the only way i’m going to live to be an old woman.

    • omawarisan says:

      Sure, come on by, it will be at the drive through by 5. Will you be needing a box of Franzia to wash that down with?

      PS – The drive through is kind of misnamed, please just pull up NEXT to it this time?

  15. Why don’t you tell the pharmacy about the service you’ve been providing–they may give you a year’s supply of Listerine. Or something.

  16. linlah says:

    I’d nominated you the Nobel Prize for your Humanitarian work but I don’t think you’d win what with all the humanitarian work Justin Beiber does.

  17. educlaytion says:

    You’re a better person than me. I have a thing in my brain, an irresistible lever that gets pulled each time I receive a wrong number. I can’t help but immediately start having a little fun with them. Nothing mean, just fun. To me probably.

  18. Kim Pugliano says:

    Awesome! I love the way you handle it! You rule Oma!

  19. spencercourt says:

    Before we dropped our land line, it was one digit off from a Walden Books in the mall around the corner. We’d get back from work and find messages asking about whether their order was in, or did they have such and such book, etc. They’d leave return numbers but I didn’t bother to call back. My message clearly indicated that they were calling “Steve and Susie” and not Walden Books, so I wasn’t going to waste time calling folks who don’t bother to listen to the recorder.

    • omawarisan says:

      I’m that way in general. I don’t get how people can make buisness calls and not realize the voice on the answering machine isnt the one they talked to earlier in the day.

  20. Patricia says:

    There was a family that lived one street over from me, the wife, husband, and son all were named Pat and had the same last name as me. The wife worked for the highway dept and I would get calls from people wanting their drivers license back. The husband was an attorney and I would get calls from people in jail wanting out. And I felt like I was the son’s social secretary.

    No more calls now. Wife died, husband went back to Ireland, and son got married.

  21. thejaggedman says:

    Our home number was one digit off from the local Triple -X Drive-In and Massage Parlor so my mother came up with her own procedure as well. She would tell them ” I will be right back” or something along those line and wait two or three seconds…..then blow a referees whistle in their ear. I don’t think mom cared if thought ill of the customer service. Great post!

  22. We found him Captain!! says:

    I would like my prescription renewed….. This call is to “Ghostbusters”……. Can you forward this call?
    By the way, does the drugstore you are helping carry Coalminer’s Back pain rub? Please call them up and ask…. I’ll call you in 48 hours for the answer.
    I don’t have the correct number for this pharmacy and you have been so very helpful for the last two years. Also ask what kind of cough drops they carry.

    Remember! You have 48 hours….so get with it!

  23. Laura says:

    A large corporation once had a misprint in their company directory — they listed my home phone number as the number for their credit union. I’d often come home to messages on my answering machine (people only called during business hours, while I was at work) with all kinds of detailed information about people’s account numbers, etc.

    Years later, my office number was similar to the number that people could call to schedule low-cost appointments students at a dental school. A lot of people refused to believe that I had nothing to do with the dental school and would argue with me, insisting that I was the dental school receptionist and that I was refusing to schedule appointments for them because I was lazy, or malicious, or something.

  24. Katybeth says:

    I saw a 4 legged rat in the alley; I can handle a lot but not rats. Immediately went inside and called a friend for top-notch exterminator referral- wrote the number on the back of our school director which was often a convenient place to scrawl phone numbers. The first time I called immediately. The second time, I called my voice was filled with angst because I had seen “another one.” I went into a lot of detail about how I needed a return call right away. No return call. I called again…my pitch several octaves higher. That night, my kids HS teacher returned my call, the one that recycles everything and believes all creatures were put on earth for a reason…seems I had confused his number also written on the back of the directory, with the exterminator. Oh. Sorry.
    The idea of you politely handling the pharmaceutical needs of your wrong number callers–makes me giggle…its just so silly and rather sweet.

  25. […] Blurt: I Am Not a Pharmacist, But I’m Willing to Try.  Omawarisan recounts how he deals with having a similar phone number to a […]

  26. Winn says:

    I’m one of the wrong dialers… I get numbers mixed up all the time. :/

  27. barb7802 says:

    I can feel for you. Patience is a virtue as well you know! Bless You.
    At our office the number was 1 digit off from the pro-med facility close by. People calling would just start talking, telling me the craziest things…”I am scheduling my mamogram, not that I want to. You people keep harassing me so just make one and I’ll probably show up!” Some things I cannot repeat here.
    The other gal and I kept a list of requests for 2 yrs. (Wierd I know) Thankfully we moved our office and dropped the “request line”.
    Don’t worry we always gave them the correct number.

    • omawarisan says:

      Welcome Barb!

      The “just start talking” thing is what suprises me. I’m sure you didn’t answer the phone by saying ‘pro-med”, why didn’t they pick up on that?

  28. […] I once had a home telephone number that was one digit different from the local pharmacy (yes, I wrote about that). So many Nanas called me for prescription refills that I started taking their names and numbers, […]

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