A Necessary Evil

Once again, it is that time.  That time where I wait in line at the Wal-Mart pharmacy, only to find out that the prescription is not ready.

I’m not going to blame the Wal-Mart employees themselves, on the contrary, they work in an extremely flawed system.  There are far too few employees, leading to long wait times and disgruntled consumers.

On top of all of this pharmacy business, we find the strange-but-true business practices of the Wal-Mart corporation as a whole.  Little nagging ideas such as being a responsible part of a local economy.

What makes Wal-Mart a necessary evil?

The Lowest Prices in Town!

You can’t fault a multi-national company for trying to be competitive, but you can fault the callous way they handle the local economic structure wherever they go, driving out all competition and severely impacting the lives of the citizens.

It’s easy to be the eighth largest company worldwide when you completely stamp out the little guy any time you move in.

By providing prescriptions at the lowest prices within a 50 mile radius, you may be initially providing a great service to the inhabitants, but over the long haul, you do irreparable damages.

You begin to have control over a population that is then completely dependent on your prices and subject to your business whims.  I can’t say how many times I’ve bought an item which is supposedly “refillable” only to find that the next week Wal-Mart decided to stop even acknowledging that said product had been sold on their shelves.  We’ve gone through far too many headless mop handles due to this irritating business practice.

So what we have here is a virtual monopoly on products and services which were previously provided by honest, hard working local citizens.

The Flawed Prescription System

I’ve been critical here before of the way the pharmacy works, and if you follow me on Twitter, you can see the long and winding road I’ve walked, each step at a time.

In the past year, there has been only one occasion where I was in fact satisfied with my experience at this pharmacy.

This is most obviously not only my issue, as you can see here.  This makes me wonder what exactly is wrong with the system used to ship, prepare, and distribute these medications.

The logical steps for filling a prescription would be:

  1. Patient calls in refill/Doctor send prescription to the pharmacy
  2. Computer checks inventory of local store.
    • If entire fill is available, Proceed to Step 5.
    • Else, immediately send order for next day’s delivery truck to bring one month’s supply for entire customer base of store. Proceed to Step 3.
  3. Inform the customer that their prescription cannot be filled, but reassure the customer that the prescription will arrive tomorrow. (Based on the assumption that Step 2>Option 2 absolutely will occur).
  4. When delivery truck arrives the next day, fill the prescription, Proceed to Step 5.
  5. Distribute the prescription to the customer.

Following these five easy steps, you could have a very smooth operation on your hands with 100% customer satisfaction. Somehow, the system breaks down somewhere in Step 2, ruining the chances of operating like a well-oiled machine.

Judging by the way the employees are kept in the dark over the status of any particular prescription, I would say that there are some cogs in this machine which are too worn and weathered to work properly.  And worn cogs only makes for more disgruntled customers.

Necessary Evil

Judging by the last year’s receipts, it appears that my wife and myself have spent well over two thousand dollars at Wal-Mart alone.  This includes groceries, clothing, prescriptions and various other things we use in our everyday life.of the corporations’ overall earnings for last year, $2,000 could be a significant portion of earnings for a local business.

While this is probably less about 2.12765957 × 10-8 of the corporations’ overall earnings for last year, $2,000 could be a significant portion of earnings for a local business.  The main issue with this thinking is that Wal-Mart is a one-stop shop for buying everything you need in your life.  And because of this, they can do whatever they damn well please with your time and money.

Let’s look at it in a Pros vs. Cons table:

Pros Cons
Low, Low Prices! Bending over for a large corporation who can do whatever they please with your time and money.
One store for all your needs. Your needs aren’t considered when stocking the shelves.
Local jobs Employees who don’t need to know anything about the way things actually work in the system.
Driving local Mom and Pop shops out of business.
Manufacturers pressured into less-than-ideal business arrangement in order to simply get their products on the shelves.

I’m sure there’s much I’m overlooking here, but you get the idea.

Would I love to give my money to a local business, rather than to a multi-national corporation?  Of course.  Is that feasible?  No.  Especially because most of the local businesses have been driven into the ground over the past few years of Wal-Mart occupation.

So, here we arrive at a necessary evil.  Things are cheap, and we don’t make much money.  By shopping at Wal-Mart we are fueling this evil, but I don’t see any way around it.

Have you had similar experiences at Wal-Mart?  Whether or not with the pharmacy, leave a comment here, and let everyone know your concerns.