Thursday, June 24, 2021

Trying to do business

Sometimes, New Zealand businesses make it difficult to "buy local". Even though some NZ businesses are still struggling due to Covid, there are companies are making mistakes or putting up other barriers that making it hard to choose a New Zealand business. Including chemists.

Earlier this month, I changed pharmacies to one much closer to my house than the one I was using, which was close to my doctor. That matters because I've been getting all the prescriptions one month at a time because I knew I'd (eventually) see a cardiologist who may change prescriptions, and I didn't want to have the deleted drugs destroyed.

I took my prescriptions to the pharmacy at Te Awa at The Base, the shopping mall closest to my house. It was the same NZ owned chain as the one I had been going to, but, being in a mall, it had much better hours. A huge time-saver—I thought.

On Tuesday, I rang to organise the next month's supply, and the phone diverted to their location at another mall, Chartwell, which is on the other side of the city from me. It went there because the one at Te Awa closed last week, something they must've known was coming when I took my prescription there. They said nothing, of course. Chartwell is much farther away than the chemist by my doctor, but the whole point of changing chemists was so that I could have one close to my house. I go to Chartwell maybe a couple times a year, normally, so it's certainly not the sort of place I'd be at every month.

Once a customer gives a prescription to a particular chemist, it can't be moved to a different pharmacy, so I’d need get a new prescription from my doctor. To get around the inconvenience, the pharmacy arranged to give me the next two months all at once (which is fine because I now know that I'm seeing the cardiologist at the end of August).

Since I had to go over to Chartwell, I organised to have lunch with some family who work in the area. I realised that this was the first time I'd been at Chartwell itself this year (though I’ve been in the area for lunch). I picked up my prescriptions and they made me sign a form indicating I was collecting all my pills at once because of “Distance”. While I was there, I also looked in a bookshop at the mall, but didn’t buy any (I want to downsize my library before I buy any more books). There really wasn’t anything else I wanted to look at there. The lunch and the company, were great, of course, and that kind of made up for the inconvenience in picking up my prescriptions.

As for the future, my choices are somewhat limited. I could go back to the chemist by the doctor, since I need to go there every 3-6 months, anyway (I’m leaning toward this option). Or, find a small independent NZ-owned chemist closer to my house and hope they survive. Finally, I could pick the nearby locations of Australian owned chains Chemist Warehouse and Countdown. I really don't like going to Chemist Warehouse (it creeps me out for some reason—I have no idea why, but I think it could be because it’s dark and the aisles are narrow, so it feels closed-in). Countdown, on the other hand, is one of my local supermarkets, so I could plan a shopping trip there and get my prescriptions/repeat, too.

I’m leaning toward going back to the chemist I used to go to because it’s NZ-owned, and I can also keep (and use) my "rewards points" (which are small, but not insignificant). However, it feels a bit like I was being driven toward Australian companies, something that, if it happens enough, will make things even worse for NZ companies—put another way, they're hastening their own demise.

In sum, then, I made this particular change because I wanted to make my life easier, while also avoiding the unnecessary destruction of medicines, and also to keep doing business with a New Zealand company. But, apparently, no good deed ever goes unpunished (Ferengi "Rules of Acquisition" Number 285, among many, many other places…).

Still, it’s not like I have to get that chemist by my doctor on horseback. I’ll survive.


Roger Owen Green said...

I appreciate that the CVS is 3 blocks away.
However, for reasons that are too complicated for me to understand, one drug would cost me far more there, so I have to get it at the Price Chopper/Market 2 pharmacy We're talking about the difference between $200 for 4 pills and $20 for 30. I can't pretend this makes sense, but it's worth the 30-minute bus ride there, and the return trip.

Arthur Schenck said...

That right there is a good example of the Number One reason why I could never move back to the USA, even if I wanted to: Healthcare there is shit.

I pay no more than $5 for any drug prescribed to me, since doctors only prescribe ones that are fully-funded (if an unfunded drug wa the only one that would work, the government will sometimes pay for it or subsidise it, or I can buy it at market rates, but it's unlikely an ordinary person would need to worry about that). That $5 fee is the legal maximum pharmacies can charge: They get funding to dispense prescriptions), and the dispensing fee isn't mandatory. In fact, the two Australian chains I mentioned in the post don't charge anything for prescriptions. The charges (if any) are a one-time dispensing fee, and it doesn't matter how many pills you get, or if you get three months all at once or one month at a time: It's $5 per drug when the prescription is first filled, and any monthly repeats are free (I believe the maximum doctors can prescribe at once is 3 months). There's also a maximum one can pay in a year (Feb to Feb), and if someone exceeds the maximum, all later prescriptions are free.

Add on to that the fact I couldn't get good and truly affordable health insurance in the US because of my existing conditions—not to mention the fact that it's even necessary to do that at all—and it means I couldn't afford to live—literally!—in the USA anymore.