Monday, September 28, 2009


It’s that time of the year. Time for my annual flu shot. So I thought I’d do what I always do... I’d get it under my belt early. And, that meant heading to the closest place advertising flu shots for $24.99. This year it was Walgreen’s. (Last year Wal-Mart, the year before that Rite Aid, the year before that the Mall)

I’m an expert at this process. You stand in line, in the middle of the store, get one tiny piece of paper to sign… that asks if you’re allergic to eggs or the flu shot? Then… you roll up your sleeve, get the shot, pay for it and are on your way in 10 minutes or less. Not big on paperwork and waiting rooms, I like getting it done this way. It’s cheap, quick and effective.

But today, it turned into a real hassle.

First… I had to go to customer service, which was actually the prescription drop off line, so it was busy… then, when my turn came, I was handed a clipboard and pen with MORE than one sheet of paper. The lady explained I needed to fill out all the paperwork before the shot. It asked the standard questions, plus more. Was I pregnant? Did I have a disorder, Guillain-Barre? Also included in those papers was a place to fill in the name, phone number, fax number and address of my primary care physician. This immediately raised a red flag. I never, ever had to do this before, in all the years of getting a flu shot. It’s none of their business. On top of which… I don’t have a doctor since mine quit his private practice, three months ago. He refereed me to a new doctor, but that information is at home since I haven’t had an occasion to go there yet.

When I bulked at the paperwork… the lady was exasperated with my explanation and insisted I not leave any spaces blank. It was important that a copy of my flu vaccination information be sent to my doctor. She directed me to a waiting area to fill out the papers. I sat down and tried... but decided I needed help and asked for a phone book. Another woman behind the prescription PICK UP counter gave me one.

I thought by reading all the names of the physicians, it would help jar my memory and help me find the name of the refereed doctor, I was given… but instead it confused me more. So then, I had to resort to guessing the address of the refereed doctor. I remembered it was on Market Street, so I wrote down the name of a group of internists there, that I found in the phone book… getting more and more peeved that I had to do this at all.

What happened to quick and effective? This was wasting time. If I had wanted to involve a doctor, I would have gone to one to begin with, and been overcharged for the shot and office visit. This was ridiculous. But like a good girl, I complied as best as I could.

When my paperwork was ready, they had me wait back in the customer service line. Thinking I was all done with this nonsense, the lady now asks to see my insurance card.

My insurance won’t cover this and I’ve never had to do this before either", I exclaim.

“It’s standard procedure”, she tells me.

”You are in our system, aren’t you?”

I tell her, I’ve never gotten a prescription filled there.

“Is that a requirement, too,” I ask?

She acts surprised I’m not a member of the Walgreen’s family. I swear, at this point, I wanted to scream and just forget the whole thing. She then takes my insurance card, which I reluctantly give her, considering it an invasion of privacy… and she begins entering the information in the computer, eventually handing me back a piece of paper and a couple of red heart stickers. Next she asks for my credit card to pay for it, since my insurance doesn't cover it. NO KIDDING. Then she redirects me back to the waiting area.

“We’ll call you when it’s your turn”, she explains.

Tick tock.

A man comes out and gives a shot, to the only other person waiting, besides my husband and I… then he packs up his bag to leave.

I ask him, "What about me?" He tells me someone else will take care of me.

Angry at the long, drawn out affair this had become… I wonder why I came here, at all. Forty-five minutes, after I arrived... a very nice woman finally comes out from the pharmacy to give me my shot. If not for her pleasantness, I would have been irate. Mission Accomplished, at long last.

Next year... I won’t get my flu shot at Walgreen’s. It's too complicated.

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