Monday, March 1, 2010

I Hate Being Forced to Sell Crap

There are still a lot of snake-oil remedies out there in the big-box chain pharmacies. In my job I don't usually have to deal with people asking if the Chaser hangover remedy really works, or if they should use some weird de-toxifying thing that is prominently displayed on our shelves. I can vouch for most of the OTC items we carry. Sure, there are some that I don't think are very good, like the sub-therapeutic-dose multi-symptom cold products, but for the most part I wouldn't tell someone "it's useless, don't throw your money away."

I don't have any real training in marketing or business, but I do know there is a sucker born every minute. The same people who loudly protest a $25 copay will gladly fork over that much and more for a 'natural, homeopathic' remedy. I take a dim view of that stuff. Sorry, but the placebo effect is very strong, and these are some really expensive placebos.

Unfortunately, some of these products are starting to creep into our inventory. Some non-pharmacy, remotely-situated retailing geniuses apparently think they will be a moneymaker (and they probably will.) We don't have a 'front-store' and a 'back-store' --- it's all one store, which means not only will I have to ring the stuff up, I will get asked what I think of it.

I'm going to be honest. But even if I nicely suggest another product with some true pharmaceutical evidence behind it, the customer is left wondering why we carry the first item at all. I hate being put in this position. I 'm not going to pretend I am happy to sell this stuff. But if I say what I am really thinking ("somebody who I've never even met has decided we need to carry this junk") I come across as .... well, a disgruntled employee?
I need a way around this...... know what I mean?


The Redheaded Pharmacist said...

I hate most of the OTC "diet aides" that are sold (Hydroxycut anyone?) but what can you do? I don't control what my employer stocks for the front end. I will be brutally honest if someone brings a prooduct up to my counter and asks my advice. I will also offer less expensive alternatives to certain OTC products that are clearly over priced (Align comes to mind quickly).

I will say that there is one thing my current employer does that irritated the crap out of me. Now when you ring up a patient and their receipt prints out at the register there is a high probability that a credit card advertisement prints out at the end of the receipt. First, it makes the receipt 3 times longer than it should be even if someone purchased only one item. Second, they want us to promote the card (it is a card that gives bonus points for shopping at our store) so we are supposed to ask the customer if they are interested when we see the application print out. There is no way I am asking someone about a credit card. Sorry, it will never happen. I am a pharmacist and I didn't go to school for 8 years to promote some damn credit card! I just don't think it is good business or appropriate to push a credit card advertisement on our pharmacy customers and quite frankly it is also in poor taste in my humble opinion!


Fries With That said...

I totally can understand this sentiment - my favorite two questions are "what can I use to detox myself?" (they'll eventually track down the "14 day ultra detox kit") and "Is good for ?"

Grumpy, M.D. said...

"Studies done on goats in Lower Swzbodia have shown it's effective for both improving cough and the sheen of goat hair".

Anonymous said...

"Although company did not spend the money to do any studies to prove that XYZ works they did spend a lot of money on its marketing campaign, as such I can not recommended because I can see no reason why it should work. However, big box chain company realizes that some people will come after all the advertising and demanded to get it and only it, so we stock it because they will not trust/seek their pharmacist advise."

Anonymous said...

Back when niacin was first promoted for an antihyperlipidemic (before statins) I was interning at a shop where nicotinamide was sold behind the counter. Now, sometimes I fill in at shops that have the no-flush niacin, another product not useful for lowering blood fats. I think it is bad for the profession if we don't unbiased critical information for our patients.

I'm not afraid to tell people when I'm counseling about first use of opiates that the drug works in the brain to help take one's mind off the perception of pain, and changes the way they understand what else is going on around them as well.

Qex said...

Simple and sweet - "I don't know anything about X product, as the department managers set up the displays; I don't. If you are looking for help with X symptoms, I would suggest Y or Z product would be useful."

Allows you to side step the issue entirely, while steering them towards a better alternative.

Anonymous said...

to qex - lying is not the answer when we are supposed to be trusted professionals.

I am always honest when people ask me my opinion on products. Although my boss thinks it is a bad quality, particularly when the drug companies have paid the pharmacy to try and flog crap like Alli (orlistat 80mg).

One of my more recent favourites is buttercups cough syrup. It's big TV claim is that it is "strong enough to deal with any type of cough" As we all know, different types of cough have different causes and treatments, so why is this one able to deal with any type of cough? because it has no active ingredients and is basically just a soother.