A second chance at a first impression

I spend more than any one man’s fair share of time in Doctor’s offices, Labs, and Pharmacies. It’s a part of my life that I’ve had to embrace. In my endless travels of maze-like offices, antiseptic hallways, hack-and cough centers that double as waiting rooms and backed up pharmacy counters I deal with a lot of people.

I have spent years working in restaurants, retail and customer service and have answered a lot of phones with some angry people just waiting to tear into me. I learned early and often that there is only one way to conduct yourself in order to get any results, and that is to be nice. That’s it. It serves 2 purposes. It is the right thing to do (if you give half a shit about society in general), and when someone is expecting a fight it throws them off when you go the other way. I know for a fact that a receptionist, lab technician, Pharmacy Tech, or cashier are fully expecting customer’s to escalate all of the time. People seem to think that it is acceptable to raise their voice, argue and even belittle those whose job it is to serve them, bad attitude and all.  As a person, as well as an employee, they just don’t need it.

Since I’ve moved up here I have escalated my campaign of self-improvement. My high blood-pressure, coupled with a lifestyle I couldn’t keep up with was making me sick,  anxious, quick to temper, and impatient. It was a struggle to be patient and understanding as I struggled with insurance coverages. prescriptions, PCP’s, referrals and all of the small details associated with losing your family and moving in with your mother with only the shit that would fit in a 2013 Honda Civic. As my health, and consequently, my attitude improved over time it became easier to be the man I wanted to be. In short, it is nicer up here from the air to the people. Customer service, on the other hand, is a problem. There are plenty of workers but the skills aren’t there. Still, I resolved to be nice. And if I couldn’t be nice…apologize.

Nice was easy for me. Understanding was manageable. I wasn’t exempt from being aggravated.

Last week I was in the middle of a three-way, not the good kind, between myself, my Dr’s office and my Insurance company. I was in need of a dosage increase on one of my meds. Getting ahead of it, I called my pharmacy to make sure it was approved because I would burn through the current 30-day supply quickly and then be without. It wasn’t approved, I was told to come in on Monday (it was Friday at the time) and it will be all set. Stupidly, I didn’t call first and drove the 25 miles to the pharmacy. I had planned it perfectly, I could pick up 4 (of my oh so many) prescriptions at once. I wouldn’t be that lucky.

After driving through snowy, frost-heaved roads, a packed and crazy parking lot, and a long line at the pharmacy I was called. I obediently toed the line, recited my full name, DOB, marital status, confirmed that I was indeed circumcised (maybe I just volunteered that information) and properly insured. 3 were ready, the one that I was almost out of was still not approved.

I was incensed. I asked the young girl at the counter if she could check for me to see if it may be a mistake. She assured me that it wasn’t. Now, in hindsight, this is where the situation went in the wrong direction. The place was busy, there was a line behind me and she was the only one on the counter. She was stressed and couldn’t handle it. But I pressed her and she blurted out “that’s what my screen says, what else can I tell you?”

images (42)
I tried to explain to her that I was in need of that particular one and didn’t want to make another trip. She said again that it’s not ready. Would I like to take the other 3 prescriptions now? And then she made the critical mistake of rolling her eyes and looking behind me to the next person in line. I became annoyed and said,

“Excuse me, but you’re not listening to me. What are you going to do to help me get this resolved?”. She then informed me that the note in the system said: “See pharmacist for instructions”. I told her, as non-snarkily as I could, that such information would have been helpful in the beginning. I shuffled down the counter to meet the Pharmacist, the man behind the curtain. With a 5 minute call, the pharmacist had made the insurance company understand and approve. I was on my way.

I felt bad on the way to the car. While I could give a bunch of reasons why she was wrong and perhaps rude, I was supposed to be bigger and better than that. I could hear my 18-year-old son in my head saying “Well, so much for the kinder, gentler you, Dad”. He had remarked months ago that he liked the “new me”. He wouldn’t have been pleased with his Dad there. But, But, But..I was frustrated blah blah…too much driving blah blah…I need I need blah blah. It doesn’t matter, it’s all bullshit I could have done better.

The whole ordeal had slipped my mind until I went back today to pick up 2 more prescriptions (heaven forbid they could all be filled at one time). As I walked to the counter and toed the line again I saw the same young lady standing before me. If she recognized me she didn’t show it. We smoothly completed the transaction and I was about to leave when a little voice in my head said Superman do the right thing here. I turned back to the counter, apologized gently to the woman approaching the counter.

“Excuse me, but last time I was here I was less than nice to you. I feel bad, I was fighting with the insurance company and I took it out on you” I said.

“Oh, I don’t take that stuff seriously” she replied.

“Well,” I replied, “it doesn’t make it ok. I want to apologize to you.”

Her face visibly brightened, “Thank you so much for that, it really means a lot.”

I smiled at her and excused myself. As I walked to my car it occurred to me that I hadn’t been that rude to her. She had some part in it also. But then along came that little voice again.

It doesn’t matter jackass, It was the right thing to do.

13 thoughts on “A second chance at a first impression”

  1. You really weren’t that rude to her, and there is a difference between letting your frustration show and being a complete asshole. Having worked in the healthcare revenue cycle arena for over 30 years I know the difference. Be that as it may,I applaud you for your transformation. The world would be a better place if people could take a deep breath before deciding whether to rip somebody a new one.

    Like

  2. You lit up her day, demonstrated something that will cause a little voice in her head (maybe) when she hits another snag moment. I very much appreciate when people are courteous, and make a point of thanking them, smiling at them, and letting them know that kind words have an energetic power that is felt by all around it.

    Like

  3. The part that I find interesting is that most of the time when you do put your foot down, you often get the results you were after. The same case here, I guess. If you had just moved on, you wouldn’t have got the prescription you needed. It wasn’t until you started getting serious that she started to genuinely seek a solution to your problem. Not only that, I’ve found that the service I receive when I go back to a place where I have stuck to my gun is greatly improved upon my second visit (I have an anecdote about my local post office asking me to call their service to call their service desk to find out where my package is… That didn’t sit very well with me and I let them know… The next time I went back, the manager personally came out to greet me and gave my package in front of a queue filled with people…)

    I will also sometimes take the “famous person” approach in situations like this. If you were Barack Obama walking in for a script, she would have bent over backwards to get you what you wanted, but you were just another regular customer so all of a sudden “it’s not possible” and “I don’t know what more you want me to say.”

    Interesting read.

    Like

    1. thanks Gregg. There’s a lot of truth in what you say. The problem is that she had to recognize that we’re talking about medication. I’m on 3 pills that I need daily, they are CRITICAL to my survival. Working in a pharmacy that should be paramount in your mindset.
      But as you can see I’m not bitter or mean, I just want what I want. I won’t apologize for that.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It did not come across to me that you were rude to her at all. I think she was the one who owed you the apology, especially after the unnecessary eye roll when she looked past you to the next customer. Oh, I so understand though what you are saying. I had a bad experience myself this week while dealing with a difficult medical staff and learned a valuable lesson about being nice.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s