Reddit users help solve pharmacy slut-shaming problem

Got a Pharmacy Slut-Shaming Problem? Reddit Can Help.

Got a Pharmacy Slut-Shaming Problem? Reddit Can Help.

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Dec. 14 2015 11:27 AM

Got a Pharmacy Slut-Shaming Problem? Reddit Can Help.


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There’s a fascinating thread of drugstore public-shaming tales on the TwoXChromosomes subreddit right now, and it’s a perfect example of the forum’s capacity for crowdsourced problem-solving. Reddit user Vdd993 kicked it all off with a story about a pharmacist with shaky ethics at her local CVS:

Christina Cauterucci Christina Cauterucci

Christina Cauterucci is a Slate staff writer.

I have gotten many prescription of other drugs at this cvs, but now the only prescription I pick up every month is my birth control pills. Whenever I do the same woman behind the counter asks for my name, then walks 5 feet away to pick it up off the shelf and yells from there "it's the birth control right?!"… Never have they done this with any prescription I've picked up in the past. And I've been to my cvs pharmacy a lot this past year and a half. Never have they asked thing like "the pain killers right?" Or "the antibiotics right?" I think she's trying to shame me or make me feel self embarrassed that I'm picking up birth control.

Several users have responded with their own accounts of unscrupulous drugstore employees. “A couple of years ago, I was buying a pregnancy test and the woman behind the counter started lecturing me on how I was ‘too young’ (I was 24... I just look young), asking if I was in a stable relationship, if my parents knew, and a bunch of other condescending bullshit,” wrote teaprincess. Another user wrote of what happened when her husband went to Rite-Aid to buy a pregnancy test for her: “We were terrified and not ready and had already established that if I was pregnant I would be having an abortion. The cashier told him, ‘congratulations!’ And my husband gave him an odd look before leaving. The test was positive and I had an abortion.”

This kind of editorializing about a customer’s purchases is never appropriate, and it’s enough to make a loyal customer vow never to return. As some in the thread have pointed out, a slut-shaming experience at a drugstore could make some clients—especially teens and other marginalized populations—less likely to buy pregnancy tests or birth control again.

But in the case of Vdd993’s pharmacist, who announced her private medical information loud enough so that bystanders could hear, it’s also against the law. Lawyers and pharmacy workers chimed in on the Reddit thread to tell Vdd993 that the pharmacist’s behavior constituted a HIPAA violation, advising her to report the employee to CVS and the state pharmacy board. “There is nothing more contemptible in the eyes of corporate management than a line-worker that exposes them to liability as a result of airing their personal politics,” wrote lawstudent2, who says he’s counseled companies who’ve been accused of HIPAA breaches. “I gauran-fucking-tee you that [CVS] will have a whole hell of a lot to say about this, and they have little patience for repeat offenders. … A few complaints about lecturing women about birth control and this woman will have to find a job elsewhere.” The pharmacy board could register complaints on the pharmacist’s license and levy fines against both the pharmacist and CVS.

Two users say they saw tangible results after reporting this type of incident to the drugstore’s corporate leadership. After teaprincess’ cashier lectured her about being too young to need a pregnancy test, she contacted the corporate office. “They raised it with the store manager and apparently gave all the employees sensitivity training,” she wrote. Satyagraha__1, whose Walgreens pharmacist committed a birth-control privacy breach similar to Vdd993’s, got a gift card and letter of apology after reporting it to the pharmacy. “The store waiting area was rearranged such that there is more privacy at the register,” she wrote. “It has not happened again.”

Birth control pills aren’t the only problem. At many drugstores, condoms are kept in locked cases, behind the counter, or right under the pharmacist’s nose. Some users on the thread called this out as another example of drugstore slut-shaming. But it’s actually more of a theft-prevention mechanism: Condoms are some of the most-pilfered items at drugstores because teens are too embarrassed to buy them at the counter, “thinking the cashier gives a shit about their condom use,” wrote Misterandrist. Turns out, in too many cases, they do.