Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Dear Valued Customer

As soon as they call you that, you know the scam is on, these same PR types responsible for the endless ‘hold’ on the phone, breaking in from time to time to assure you that your call is important.  In this case, I am the valued customer of Wal-Mart and their e-mail follows:


Dear Valued Customer,

Thank you for contacting us at Walmart.com regarding women’s
prescriptions for birth control. Your comments and concerns are very
important to us as we strive to meet your needs. 

Wal-Mart does not carry emergency contraceptives. Our pharmacists may
decline to fill a prescription based on personal convictions. However,
they must find another pharmacist, either at Wal-Mart or another
pharmacy, who can assist you by filling your prescription.

Again, we thank you for your comments regarding this issue.

Sincerely,

Customer Service at Walmart.com


Of course there often isn’t another pharmacy without driving forty miles and ‘emergency contraceptives’ is the Wal-Mart code-word for the morning-after pill.  But just as the mentally impaired aren't allowed to pilot commercial flights, Christian Scientists mostly avoid becoming  doctors and conscientious objectors are not often put on the front lines, it seems somehow out of whack to hobble pharmacy by individual religious conviction.


Particularly as an institutional parameter presented as doctrine in the largest retailer on the planet, which is often also the only pharmaceutical provider to an area. 


I have no objection to someone who feels morally opposed to contraception, I just don’t think it’s appropriate for them to take up the profession of pharmacy when there are other choices.  Sort of like an animal rights advocate working in a slaughterhouse or butcher shop.  If you think contact lenses are against God’s plan, why become an optometrist?


Or, as Harry famously said, “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”  But does it make sense to advertise that kitchen, invite your ‘valued customers’ into that kitchen and then tell them that the chef may ‘decline to feed you a steak based on his or her moral conviction?”


That’s absurd.  My moral convictions and your moral convictions are personally held and perhaps sacred, but they are just plain wrongly imposed by me on you.  More wrongly yet when a commercial operation such as Wal-Mart magnifies the moral attitude of an employee to company-wide status.  At that point it’s an insult for them to address me as a ‘valued customer’ while turning me away from a legal product prescribed by my doctor on the whim of their sales person.


With all that Wal-Mart heat and so little Wal-Mart light, one can imagine pharmacists of that particular moral conviction flocking to Wal-Mart personnel offices across the country.  Where else you gonna find job security and self-defined moral superiority behind a single counter.


It may even pay more than minimum wage.


Nah.  Not at Wal-Mart.