Northwest NEWS

November 11, 2002


Is there a limit on cold/flu medicines or not?

On a recent trip to an area grocery store, I met up with Surly Checker #102 on Lane 3. As she was checking the order, she pointed to several cold/flu medications. She informed me that she couldn't sell them to me. Thinking perhaps it was a "two for one issue," I told her to go ahead and charge me the full price. She repeated, "I can't sell these to you." She seemed frustrated when I asked "Why can't you sell them to me?" She got on the intercom to summon another employee, saying to him upon his arrival, "Tell her why she can't buy these." He then informed me that it was a law in this state that a customer could only purchase two cold/flu products at one time because the same ingredients are used to make methamphetamines.
   I am almost 50 years old, live in Woodinville and look like a very upstanding, well-dressed, polite person. The other items in my order were things like juice, dog chews, cat litter and pudding - hardly subversive items.
   Mind you, I was standing there with a pounding sinus headache (Seattle must be the world capital for allergy sinus headaches at the change of the seasons) and my daughter was standing there coughing - she had a severe cold, hence my desire to purchase the cold/flu medications.
   Because Surly Checker had already rung up one of the medications, she put the others on the shelf. I guess the cough syrup isn't considered part of the materials necessary to create illegal substances because that didn't seem to be a problem.
   I was told that if I left the store and came back, they could sell me the sinus/flu products, but that I just couldn't go to the end of the line and wait to purchase them separately. Under this scenario I would have to make three trips through Lane 3.
   I strongly recommend the following actions be taken:
   - a sign be clearly posted in the Cold and Flu section warning customers of the limit on purchases of cold and flu medications. After all, if more than one person is ill with different symptoms, a personal decision can be made about whose illness warrants an immediate purchase and whose illness can wait for another visit or for a trip to another store;
   - basic customer service skills training be an ongoing mission for each and every one of the front line employees to more effectively communicate with their customers.
   Perhaps they should be reminded that customers have a choice on where to shop and much of the decision is based on how the customer perceives they are being treated. A smile, a pleasant hello and a professional demeanor mean a great deal.
   As for me, I'll go back to shopping at another store where they seem to have mastered basic customer service skills. I will tell you that I did in fact go to another establishment and purchased my cold and sinus remedies. There was not a problem and the only question that was asked was how many people in my house were sick. When I asked them if they were aware of the law concerning only two cold/flu purchases at each visit, they claimed to have no knowledge. I was surprised since this was a drug store.
   Muriel Ryan, Woodinville