New Zealand Nuance #9: Pharmacies

“But I did request it over a week ago,” you whine petulantly at the man behind the counter.

“All repeat prescriptions must be requested at least seven days before they are collected and it is your responsibility to ensure you have enough medication to last until then,” droned them man, almost reciting verbatim the sign made out of A4 paper that has been stuck to the plastic screen separating the customers from the pharmacy staff. Given the ineptitude of this particular pharmacy, I suspect that the presence of the dividing screen is less to do with Covid and more likely to prevent exasperated customers grabbing whoever is serving them by the ears and ramming their head into the counter.

And even if your prescription has some how miraculously made it from the doctor’s surgery to pharmacy and been processed, it invariably will take whole minutes to find. One of the pharmacy staff will slowly flick through the enormous stack of green prescriptions before pulling one out, looking at it for another minute or two and then ambling over to the wall of deep white draws to the left of the counter. Slowly and without any sense of urgency despite the ever growing queue that is starting to snake around the aisles, every draw is opened and the contents meticulously searched. And why is it that your medication is always the last draw they look in?

This is a typical pharmacy in the UK, or at least my experience of one. But it’s very different here.

As soon as you step through the door of a pharmacy in New Zealand, if there is a staff member on the shop floor who isn’t serving anyone, they will immediately come up to you and ask how they can help. It doesn’t matter which pharmacy you go to, I’ve found that the service is always the same: remarkably efficient.

When I put my repeat prescription (or ‘script’ as they call them here) into my local pharmacy, I was told they could have it ready in 10 minutes. I said that there was no hurry, and that I would be back tomorrow to pick it up.

“Are you sure?” the lady asked me kindly, eyebrows furrowed with concern. “Do you have enough medication for tonight?”

I blinked. Thrown by this display of genuine concern for my welfare, I had to think for a second.

“Yes I’ve got enough to last me a few days,” I assured her.

“Would you like to join our texting service?” she asked. “Then when your script is ready, we’ll flick you a wee text to remind you to pick it up.”

Once I’d picked my jaw off the floor, I handed over my mobile number and left with a bemused smile on my face, incredulous at how the impressive service standard in New Zealand shops even extends into their pharmacies.

We’ll flick you a wee text. I love the way they say things here sometimes.


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