June 22, 2008

Le Pharmacien

I am featured here at last night's soirée, adoring a small dog who is sitting on my lap (the part below you can't see). Michel and Franck were our hosts; Michel is Xavier's god-father. We had a lovely time sitting around chatting away, with blue skies above and breezy air to commemorate summer's opening.

At some point, the conversation turned to work and Franck discussed the challenges of being a pharmacist in modern France. After les Brasseries, pharmacies are the second biggest business for banks. The pharmacy is an interesting business in France. Each pharmacist has a very specific set of clients. There is customer loyalty. Franck has clients walk into his pharmacy and if he is not there, they will turn around and walk out and visit a pharmacy where they know the pharmacist and can speak to him personally. It is not as if you just walk into your closest Duane Reade or CVS and assume that every employee there will do the same job as the next one.

According to Franck, there are far too many pharmacies in Paris. The classic green cross signifying 'pharmacy' is on every corner. And the situation becomes complicated by the fact that pharmacists spend their careers building up their pharmacy (there is a real ownership in this sense) and then when they want to eventually sell their business to another pharmacist, their clients resist. It is very difficult to pass on the business because clients don't want to see a new face after years of trusting one specific individual.

I asked Franck if it was simply a question of proximity - don't most people just go to the closest pharmacy and get what they need? He insisted that there is a very personal element to an individual's choice of pharmacy. It is in this sense and in many others that a city like Paris (and its surrounding suburbs) manages to preserve the feeling of a small town.

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