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CVS Will Soon Have A Public Relations Nightmare On Their Hands


I just read this story over at The Consumerist, and I’m floored. Apparently a man picking up HIV medication at a Philadelphia CVS was called a “Fucking AIDS freak” by a CVS employee. I’ve had my own experience with bad mannered customer service, but this is really astonishing.

Although, I am from Philadelphia and can attest that my city is, generally, a city with a bad attitude, especially in the areas surrounding downtown. My advice to J, the person who wrote to The Consumerist, is to escalate the complaint. Companies rely on their customers. Customer service is paramount to all businesses, and if something like this got public, CVS would be badly damaged. So I say continue, don’t let it drop, write letters and emails to the CEO, and more importantly, to news organizations. The more light that is shed on this situation, the more likely it is to never happen again.

You can find the entire post after the jump:

Here’s J’s full email, for those of you who want a more detailed story:

In what has been one of the most horrifying experiences of my entire life, I have had a dreadful recent encounter at my local CVS. Ironically one of the other worst customer-service related mishaps I’ve ever had was at a CVS as well, though not the same one…

I was in my local CVS in Philadelphia getting my partner’s prescription filled. We are a gay male couple and my partner is HIV+. The medication, Atripla, is HIV related. We are both currently on a medicaid-related health insurance plan, a situation that is new to us and directly related to his current health issues.

I had in hand a coupon from the local paper that awarded me a $20 gift card if I transferred a prescription to CVS. I had actually used the coupon the day before for another prescription, as it says you can do use it multiple times (just not on the same day.)

On this particular day they were having a very hard time getting through to the other pharmacy to put the transfer through. The staff was also particularly snide and unpleasant; more so than usual, at any rate.

After the fiasco of getting the actual transfer put through, when the young man attempted to ring me up and process my coupon, something went wrong in the computer. Another employee came by to try and figure things out, and they determined that the coupon was not acceptable for those with Medicaid.

I got a little agitated because they weren’t being particularly polite about it, and I tried to explain that I wasn’t specifically on Medicaid proper, but on a related plan. I also pointed out that I had just used the same coupon the day before. They then called over another young man who was apparently a manager. His actual position in the store is still up for debate; he appeared to be a front-of-store manager who was doing some work in the pharmacy area.

He walked into the situation with an extremely aggressive attitude. He wouldn’t allow me to actually SAY anything or discuss the situation with him, and it was clear he was taking an “I know what I’m talking about, I know what you’re up to, and I’m going to nip this in the bud” kind of stance with the whole thing. I was getting impatient, embarassed and frustrated. The whole of the staff back there were just glaring at me, and I was extremely perturbed.

My inclination in these situations, which seem to happen more frequently these days, is to try and be rational and direct without being rude. I said to this young man “You know what? I don’t think you’re handling this very well or being very polite, and I’d like to speak to someone else about this.”

His response was “Whatever, somebody needs to come deal with this because I’m about to go off…”

“You’re about to ‘Go off?’, I asked him (probably exacerbating the situation, I admit.) “Do you really think that’s the best thing to say to a paying customer?”

And at this point, with his back turned to me, the young man muttered “Fucking AIDS freak.”

I have to be honest with you: I’m 30 years old, and in all of my adult life – with all of the bigotry and hatred I have encountered in various forms and situations – this was the absolute most shocking and flabbergasting thing that has ever happened to me.

It was one of those situations where I was so stunned and slack-jawed that I had no real faculties to handle the situation. It’s the kind of anger that silences you while your body tenses up and you try to control the shaking that’s coming from the inside out.

By this point a woman, the manager of the pharmacy, had approached me and asked – stone faced – if she could help. I told her that if her employees felt comfortable speaking to customers they way they just did, and in her presence, that I didn’t think she COULD help because obviously they felt doing so was okay. I asked her to void my prescription transfer and I left.

When I got home I immediately called a different CVS location and asked for a number to call to file a complaint. I called a local “headquarters” number and left a complaint on a voicemail for a district manager. I also called the general 800 number for CVS and left a complain with the customer service person. I was told the general manager of the store, Anthony, was on vacation until Monday.

On Monday, Anthony did call me back. Our conversation was brief and typical of what I expected. I was told that he would investigate the situation, and that if what I described did, in fact, happen, it would be dealt with. But that basically he couldn’t promise anything other than that if I ever came into the store again and something similar happened, I should ask to speak to him directly.

I can tell you now that nothing really came of the situation. The young man still works at that CVS, and I have done my best to simply not go there anymore. As it is located only 2 bocks from my apartment, and is the only 24-hour estalishment in the area, I do still go occasionally, hating myself every step of the way.

I don’t know what I expected CVS to do. I suppose – and I say this laughingly – an apologetic gift card might have been nice. But the real point is, is there any real resolution to a situation like this? Other than having the guy on video or audio tape, he’s obviously going to deny that it happened, and his co-worker chums – presuming they heard what he said (as that one part is probably the only “fireable” part of his lousy customer service) – didn’t seem the types inclined to get involved.

There’s no real great way to wrap up this report. I guess the great lesson is, people can still be complete douchebags, and sometimes there’s nothing you can do about it.