Check out this exclusive interview with the guy behind 'Excuse Me, This Is a PHARMACY, Not a Fast Food Restaurant!'
If you have ever laughed at a pharmacy meme on Facebook, chances are that it came from the amazing page, "Excuse Me, This is a PHARMACY, Not a Fast Food Restaurant!"
For years, this has been one of my favorite places to visit on Facebook. We laugh, we cry, we commiserate, we debate, we watch funny videos made by Maurice (interview with the hilarious Maurice coming soon!), and we give each other advice. If you are not on this page, hurry over. This pharmacy addiction is not hazardous to your health.
I was always curious about the person who runs this Facebook page, and I reached out for an interview. Sure enough, a 45-year-old man (that is the most he was willing to share about his identity) was happy to talk about his page.
Question: How and when did you first get the idea to start this page?
Answer: I actually didn’t start the page. It was started years back by a brilliant woman who is a pharmacy technician. But I did follow the page. In 2012, during a time when her life was getting busy, she posted that she wanted to hand over the page to an additional moderator and asked if anyone was interested. I jumped at the chance to do this. She still maintains her administrative permissions and does post from time to time.
At the time I became an admin, I think there were about 1,800 members total. When I first started moderating, I floundered for a bit, and [you] could make the argument that I still do. There was a lot of making it up as I went along and seeing what kind of things people liked and what didn’t get as much of a response. One takeaway for growing the page I’ve learned is that memes are key. When a pic or post gets a lot of likes and shares, the page subsequently gets a lot of joins. The growth and life of the page totally depend on people participating and sharing it.
Q: Does anyone know who you are, your parents, spouse, friends, coworkers, or are you truly anonymous?
A: I’m not proactively anonymous, and I don’t purposely try to hide my identity or anything. My job presently actually isn’t in a pharmacy, but I support those who do [work in pharmacies]. My job is more in the periphery of it all. My friends and family totally know of the page, and some even follow it.
Q: Do you ever just want to tell the world that you are "Excuse Me"?
A: No. All I do is facilitate it, and hopefully, I do that well, though I have made some mistakes. But as cliché and cheesy as this sounds, the page really is the people who participate, learn, and benefit from it. All I do is glorified copy and pasting.
Q: Are you surprised that your page has taken off so much? You have almost 91,000 followers. How does it make you feel to be so widely known?
A: Yes. I am surprised. It has truly become a community and a place to meet, laugh, cry, share, and vent. And I think the number of folks here reflects that.
I realized the page was making a difference about 3 years ago when a pharmacy school was advertising that pharmacy was a great and lucrative career, because the hours were short (pharmacies close at 9!), and the job was easy (slapping labels all day). A school actually intimated this. I reposted their advertisement, and things just sort of exploded. The school heard loud and clear how insulting, misguided, and unempathetic their assessment of the reality of pharmacy work was. People made a lot of noise, and the school ended up issuing an apology. The page had a lot to do with that.
Corporations also are paying attention to this page, and others like it. I think we can and should use the page to lobby for policy change among the corporate entities that run the majority of the pharmacies. Even though people express their anger and sometimes poke fun at large corporations, I hope the women and men who run the companies so many on the page work for are taking the underlying messages that people post to heart. People are drawn to pharmacy for the right reasons. I want corporate to treat their employees the right way. I want to tell corporate that these are amazing people you have working their tails off for you. Give them bathroom breaks for goodness sake.
Like you said, there are almost 91,000 people here, and I expect that to hit 100K by springtime. There is a lot of weight with that many voices.
Q: I love the anonymous names you come up with to poll the group. How do you come up with the names, and what is your favorite one?
A: I got tired of writing “From Anonymous” all the time, so I decided to change it up. A lot of times I use pseudonyms based on whatever TV show I happen to be watching at the time. I’ve used names from "Breaking Bad," and I love using names from
"Game of Thrones." "Targaryen wants to know what to do with tablets dropped on the floor ...” Sometimes I’m more subtle. For example, I might use the name Syd Barrett), just to see if anyone notices and says anything.
Q: You are helpful to so many. Not only do you present questions to a huge audience to help those who seek help, but you regularly post entertaining and hilarious content. What changes have you noticed over the years in terms of pharmacy?
A: Thanks! The content is 100% user-generated. What is great is that so many people can relate to and appreciate some of the stories that come out of pharmacies. It makes folks feel like they are not so alone, that other people "get" what they go through every day at work. I like posting questions that would help lots of people. Sometimes people find the page and write in asking for medical advice. I don’t post those because I don’t want people getting bad medical advice, and that’s also not what the page is for.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that certain things haven’t changed, like the long hours, lack of breaks, and general disrespect we might find from other medical professionals at times. I’m still holding out hope that those things will, can, and are changing for the better.
Q: What kind of great feedback do you get about the page?
A: Almost every day, I’ll get a message from someone telling me they love the page, I love those messages. I once got a message telling me that the page "used to be funny" but was no longer funny. I went back and looked at the page and decided this person was right. I intentionally lightened the place up. I think sharing humor is critical to the community.
Q: On the other hand, there are always critics. Do you receive criticism or negativity?
A: You bet I hear from the critics. And many times, it’s accurate feedback. There have been times when personal information or HIPAA-protected information ends up on the wall of the page, so I always appreciate when someone alerts me to something that shouldn’t be there. However, I’m not always able to get on the page. Some days I can’t get on it at all.
Folks can post directly to the wall of the page, or they can send pics directly in via a direct message. If you want to be anonymous don’t post on the wall. Instead, send a message directly to me and request to be anonymous.
Sometimes, when it gets busy, I don’t get to all the messages. If I don’t get to yours, definitely resend it to me.
Q: If you could create the ideal pharmacy, what would it be like?
A: If I could create the ideal pharmacy it would be a place that has enough staff, has opportunities for lunch and bathroom breaks, has direct lines to all of the insurance companies, no drive-through windows, and appreciative customers (most customers are anyways). Oh, and you are definitely allowed to have personal drinks with you in my ideal pharmacy. This is a great question; I think I’m going to post this on the page to see what others say.
Q: One more fun question. Because of the name of your Facebook page, what is your favorite fast food meal?
A: My favorite would have to be BBQ sandwiches from a food truck. Or pizza.
Q: I am sure I speak for all pharmacy staff in all kinds of practicing environments when I say thank you for always entertaining us and being there for us. Any last thoughts for your fans?
A: Thank you. It is an amazing honor to be the meeting place for so many thousands of professionals. You guys are very appreciated. Also, there was a time when a post would get out there and would get a couple thousand likes, but Facebook has changed its algorithm, and not as many people see each post, so I want to encourage folks to intentionally stop by the page and follow it directly. That way you won't miss any content. Facebook doesn't consistently show the posts to everyone who follows the page, so make it a point to swing on by. Thanks!
Check out the page, and, as always, feel free to email me at email@example.com with any thoughts about what is happening in your community pharmacies.