The Pharmacy Drive-Thru Window is the Bane of My Existence!

   Hate is such a powerfully negative word.  It should be used only in association with those things in life you truly loath and despise.  And I am about to use the word hate to describe something that really does deserve the term in my mind.   I absolutely hate the pharmacy drive-thru window with a passion!  

    I’ve talked about how much I dislike the pharmacy drive-thru window before.   It rightfully made my Top Ten Frustrations List and if it weren’t for drug seekers and insurance companies it would have landed squarely at the top spot on that list.  That bell that chimes alone is enough to annoy the daylights out of me as I am trying to work.  The drive-thru simply never needed to be included into retail pharmacies in the first place.  It was a bad idea from the start.

   Is there anything that has single-handedly destroyed the professional perception of a pharmacist and caused more problems than the wonderful drive-thru window?  Nothing has perpetuated the idea that we are merely dispensing pills, a simple commodity that requires no thought, more than the drive-thru.  The drive-thru window at a pharmacy is simply one of the worst ideas in the history of the world.   But unlike most ideas that last as long as say New Coke (remember that anyone?) this idea survived and the pharmacy drive-thru window has become as ubiquitous as the ATM machine is at your local bank branch.

    The general public associates retail pharmacy with the fast food industry now more than ever and why not?  We seemingly went out of our way years ago to model our business after theirs so what are the patients supposed to think?   I’ve got a great idea.  Why don’t we foster this perception further?   We could get those big empty fryers they use and the fryer baskets.   Any prescription that is done could be placed in the fryer area and you could even have that beeping noise like they have at McDonalds when the fries are done to tell patients their prescriptions are ready.  Heck, why not have big jars of cooking grease sitting around with the tops off so the pharmacy smells like a fast food restaurant too!  I know I’m being over the top but I’m trying to prove a point here.  This is how we are thought of by the general public and that perception creates unrealistic expectations on how quickly we can perform our jobs.

    And for the life of me I can’t think up any feasible argument supporting the use of the pharmacy drive-thru window.  I know it was thought up by some brilliant corporate executive in an attempt at adding convenience.  I know their are customers with mobility problems or screaming kids in the back seat that force them to attempt to get an errand done like picking up a prescription without leaving their car.  Those rare customers aren’t the reason why the drive-thru is so universally hated among retail pharmacy staffs everywhere.  But it seems to me that it can be just as inconvenient for the customers and patients as well as the pharmacy staff.   Think about all the things that you aren’t able to do at that window you could do if the patient walks into your pharmacy.  

   Ever tried to sell Plan B or Sudafed or any restricted sales item through a drive-thru window?  Yeah that is real fun!  How about all those customers that are picking up those big bulky items such as syringe boxes or Moviprep?  Good luck fitting those products in that little drawer to slide out to them.  I once had an old lady yell at me for 5 minutes because I wouldn’t sell her a walking cane through the drive-thru window even though the laws of physics made that transaction impossible!   And forget HIPAA or counseling requirements.   There is no way to follow those laws and requirements broadcasting prescription information over an intercom to someone waiting in their vehicle.  I think a sign should be posted at each drive-thru window stating that the patients voluntarily wave their rights to privacy by using that window to pick up their prescriptions!  Why, because there is no real effective way to maintain their privacy by having them pull up to the side of the pharmacy in their car for service. 

    Oh and because I have the pleasure of working at a pharmacy that is located in a grocery store I also get the customers that think we are a shopping service for them.   Nothing says I’ve wasted my time going to pharmacy school for years and years more than a customer driving up who doesn’t need any prescription filled but simply wants to buy beer, cigarettes, or other grocery items and wants the pharmacy staff to take time out of their busy day to go hunt those items down for them.  A rushed customer came up to my window once right before closing with an “emergency” of sorts.  His request?  He wanted us to go out front and get him some toilet paper to sell him because he was in a hurry and not because he had any physical problems preventing him from getting out of his vehicle to shop himself.  I don’t think so.

   I know I’m not blazing trails or being unique in talking about this subject.  Any retail pharmacist I would venture to guess has dealt with a drive-thru window at some point in their respective careers.   It is one of those realities that seems unavoidable now as a retail pharmacist like insurance problems or difficult patients.  If by some miracle you haven’t had the pleasure of working a drive-thru window I have but two simple questions for you:

1. Where do you practice retail pharmacy?

2. Do you have any openings?

   We as a profession of pharmacy have conceded to using the drive-thru window just like we have given up lunch breaks or anything else that has caused our working conditions to deteriorate over the years.  They are simply a part of the reality that is retail pharmacy and they are part of what makes doing this kind of job challenging at times.  It is a shame that we have to deal with such poorly conceived ideas at work.   It is a shame that someone actually thought this was a good idea.   But I’m sorry, I have to go.  There goes that bell again!  Duty calls!  

The Redheaded Pharmacist

5 Comments to “The Pharmacy Drive-Thru Window is the Bane of My Existence!”

  1. By TXPharmguy, March 21, 2010 @ 1:20 pm

    Red, one year for grins we all dressed up like short order cooks in the pharmacy for Halloween……paper hats, dirty aprons, long spatula, a bell to ring you name it. We’d also called out “order up for Smith” and then rang the bell (PreHIPPA). Unfortunately, that’s how I feel on a daily basis, but atleast we could all laugh at our own expense one day.


  2. By Frantic Pharmacist, March 21, 2010 @ 10:28 pm

    Drive-thru pharmacy is a horrible idea on so many levels. I would like to see a huge sign at every drive-thru:
    Do you think that would fly? Me neither. Sigh.


  3. By amanda, July 20, 2011 @ 11:41 pm

    so is it not acceptable to order items such as condoms or pregnancy tests through the drive through window?


  4. By Anna, March 2, 2016 @ 1:05 am

    Of course I’ll stop filling this cancer patients medication to fetch you your condoms and pregnancy tests. Because you can’t walk but you can do other things Smile


  5. By AJ, May 23, 2016 @ 2:49 pm

    When I was looking for my very first pharmacy tech job, I only applied at pharmacies that did not have a drive-thru. I had worked as a Customer Service Manager for Walmart previously and our pharmacy people’s biggest complaint was the drive-thru. …so yeah, I had no desire to experience it first-hand. Luckily, I applied at a Kroger that, unfortunately for them, was built in a location that couldn’t be expanded to accommodate a drive-thru. It was a really great work experience. I doubt if I worked a retail pharmacy tech job again that I would Struggle find another no drive-thru pharmacy. Struggle


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