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An eye-watering mystery consignment

By Theo Tynne

An amusing anecdote from a supermarket pharmacy, by Theo Tynne

See other Christmas miscellany articles 


A telephone call to our supermarket pharmacy early one Saturday was passed to me. The caller said he was trying to trace a missing parcel of Viscotears, consigned to our pharmacy for a customer. This puzzled me somewhat, especially when he said he was calling from Interflora.

I was at a loss to understand how that company, concerned with flowers and the like, could be involved in dealing in Viscotears, a pharmacy-only eye drop, which any customer of ours could buy, or have them dispensed from us directly, with no trouble. A quick check of our stock, sufficient to ensure not a dry eye in the whole area, enabled me to assert this with confidence.

The caller, however, would have none of it. All my attempts to question how Interflora came to be dealing in Viscotears were brushed aside as he demanded to know if the parcel had been delivered directly to the pharmacy, or where else in the store it may have ended up. None of my colleagues knew anything about this mysterious consignment, so I passed the caller on to customer services.

A little later that morning, when our pre-registration trainee started his shift, I asked him about the parcel, since he had been working in the pharmacy during the week. He could shed no light on the matter either.

But then, some minutes later, inspiration seemed to strike him like a bolt from the blue (it does happen with preregistration trainees, even if only occasionally): “I just wonder,” he mused, “whether it was possibly a birthday present for me from my girlfriend?” He thought for a moment or two. “No,” he decided. “She’s already given me plenty.” He turned back to his work.

But I was not going to let this obviously pampered young man off the hook so easily. I sent him to the customer services desk to discover the outcome of our Interflora man’s subsequent call to them. I also told him to check the warehouse in case the parcel had gone directly there. The results were negative.

In any case, with the Saturday morning dispensing rush in full swing, I had other matters with which to concern myself, while being thankful that no customers came in to collect a bulk delivery of Viscotears be it from Interflora, from our usual wholesalers or from anywhere else.

Mystery solved

Back again at the pharmacy the following Tuesday, I noticed a small wrapped parcel in a corner of the dispensary bench. “Aha,” I thought, “this must be the missing delivery.”

I unfolded the consignment note lying on top. It was addressed, as he had suspected, to our preregistration trainee. I read the description of the contents, hoping for clarification. That was when it came: a second blinding flash, that revelation, but striking me this time. “Biscuiteers Love Biscuit Collection from Interflora” the note declared.

There it was then and so obvious — phonetically virtually indistinguishable, but totally different products. That explained it all.

Without meaning to, of course, I found myself reading the sender’s message on the consignment note, with her wishing so much that she could be with him on the big day, and addressing him by a pet name, which we had never heard before (but which could come in useful whenever we might need to correct him, as and when he steps out of line).

I saw him the next day when our shifts overlapped. Using his pet name, I persuaded him to open his box of Viscotears (sorry, Biscuiteers) to show me, after promising not to touch.

Each biscuit, beautifully wrapped was individually mounted on each one of three ornate cards so that as these cards were lifted out one by one the message read: “I (surrounded by hearts) love you”. So there, I thought. Most definitely not Viscotears.

Mind you, when I subsequently discovered, by coincidence, the cost of one of these boxes, including packing and delivery, it certainly made my eyes water. So not so different a product after all.


Theo Tynne is a pen name

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 11052515

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