18 May, 2012

Rip-off Ireland

A couple of days ago I went into the local chemist (which shall remain nameless, except to mention that it has "Flatley's Pharmacy" written on it and a big, flashing, neon cross sign attached to it) to pick up some over-the-counter medicine. It's just normal stuff (for women) that one could buy in any grocery store in the US, nothing special, but here in Ireland you can only get it at a chemist during opening hours, and you can't just go to the shelf and pick it up and buy it quietly because, for some reason, it's kept behind the counter where you have to ask for it in front of all and sundry. Nice. The place is staffed mostly by women, but there is one man working there who is, well, let's just say he's a bit creepy.

Caoilte and I drive by a few times to scout out whether he's working, and I don't see him, so we park up and go in. I wait in line behind a couple of people, and just as it's my turn to ask the nice girl behind the counter for the medicine, doesn't this guy just appear out of nowhere. He looks at me, stone-faced, and says "can I help you?"


I take a few seconds to assess the situation - should I ask him for this stuff, or just cut and run? It's 1730 and they're about to shut, so I suck it up. "Yes. I wonder if you have something for _insert condition here_" "Oh, yes," he tells me in a voice I swear you could hear next door, "we have this kind and this kind and this other kind and..."


"You know what," I say, "I don't care. Just pick something and bag it up."

He picks a box off the shelf and puts it into a bag, then rings it up: €17.99.

"Holy cow," I gasp. "It's expensive to get cured in Ireland!"

He stares at me, the expression on his face completely unchanged. I hand him a €20 note, get my change and leave with Caoilte in tow asking me what the stuff is for. Cue another awkward moment as I explain random female problem #579820 to an 11-year-old boy. Fun, fun.

As we are driving home I remove the box from the package and notice, on the back, the price sticker: €9.45. WTF?? Of course by now they are shut, so I have no choice but to wait until tomorrow to go back in and rectify the error. I leave the package unopened, spending the evening in some discomfort, but I'll be damned if I'm going to let this guy get away with overcharging me.

The following morning I drop Caoilte off at school and head over to the chemist, which doesn't open until 1000. How convenient. I camp the parking lot and wait. When they open I go in and creepy guy is in the back, so I beckon him over and he comes to the counter, where I produce the medicine and ask if he remembers charging me €17.99 for it the day before. Of course he does, so I turn the box over and point out the price sticker.


"Oh," he says, "the sticker must be wrong." He stares at me. I was afraid he'd say that. I point to other boxes of the same product on the shelf behind him. "Could you hand me one of those?" I ask. He complies, and I point out that the sticker on the back of that box also says €9.45. He tells me that sticker is also incorrect. He goes over to the computer, which is out of my line of sight, and does something, then comes back and tells me it's still €17.99.

Check mate.

I turn on my heel and leave the store, clutching the bag with the medicine inside, absolutely fuming. The price on the box(es) ought to be the price you are charged, and I'm pretty sure that, by law, it has to be, but I'm American and he's seen me coming. I shop there fairly frequently so it makes me wonder what else he's screwed me over on. By the time I get halfway home I'm pretty pissed off - pissed off enough to go back to the place and confront him again. I make a U-turn and head back to the chemist. I find him standing in the back as usual, and this time he seems quite surprised to see me. He approaches the counter where I'm standing but says nothing to me. I hand him the box of medicine.

"I'd like to return this, please."

He looks at me for a few seconds without speaking, then motions me over to a more private, screened area, where he takes the box and examines it like an Egyptian doctor conducting a virginity test.

"Wouldn't it have been better," I ask, "to have made €9.45 from this than to have lost a sale and my business forever?"

I get no response. He finishes examining the box, decides it hasn't been opened, goes over to the register and rings up my refund of €17.99, which I thoroughly check to ensure every penny is there.

I win, asshole.

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