The drug test place next door.

From 2005 to 2008 I maintained a blog about my experiences working in the drug test industry. Every Sunday I revive one of those experiences here. The following was originally posted February 16, 2006.

The drug test place next door.

This may come as a surprise, but two doors down from my office (in the same tiny office plaza in fact) is a competing drug test site. It’s actually a much larger office (the company’s corporate office in fact), and provides lots of services I don’t. In addition to urine testing, I believe they do blood draws, perform physicals, and other such nonsense.

This actually causes much less of a clash than one would think; their company has their clients, my company has ours, and it’s easy to tell which is which. In most cases, it isn’t a matter of a patient looking at two drug test places and then deciding where to go; they’re usually given a form with an address on it and told to show up.

The operative term here, of course, is “in most cases”. This morning it has been brought to my attention that there is at least one case in which our interests overlap.

As I’ve been ranting about lately, my office has recently taken on the responsibility of third party collections. What this means is, rather than being sent to a specific office donors are given a list of offices they can go to, and told to pick the most convenient one. This sometimes works in reverse as well; a donor could take one of our forms to a collection site that is registered as a third party collector with our lab, in theory. Of course the lab we use is a smallish one, and I don’t think many of our clients even offer the option.

Point is, there’s a difference between going to the drug test place, and going to a drug test place. This morning I found out that the office next door uses as its primary lab the very one I am registered with to do third party collections. In other words, there exists a very small number of people who really do have a choice of which of our two offices to visit.

Here’s the rub: we get paid for providing the service of accepting third party collections. At the same time, we pay a company who accepts one of our collections for us. If someone comes to me with my neighbor’s form, and it’s actually a collection I’m authorized to do, they pay us for the privelage. (I’m a little fuzzy on the details on exactly how this works, but that’s the gist of it.)

This morning during my 8:30 am pre-caffeinated stupor I was chewed out quite thoroughly for doing just such a collection. Several, in fact, over the course of the past few weeks. I was told by a woman who is not my employer (and is, in fact, employed by a competing office) that I need to send all such collections to her office.

“We will not pay when you steal one of our collections,” she demanded. I gave her a curt nod and she was out the door.

So, here’s my dilemma.

I could, very easily, identify which of these third party collections they want, and send them over. Indeed, I send people over their way all the time, when they come in with paperwork I can’t process, or have been sent to me mistakenly by one of their clients. I am generally all for anything that lightens my already tiny workload.

But at the same time, it’s not like I’m consciously stealing their business, or making a serious mistake. If their office were located, say, a mile away there would be no discussion at all. It would just be a matter of the donor bringing me a valid form, and me completing a valid collection.

If you walk into McDonald’s by accident and order a Whopper, are they obligated to send you to the Burger King across the street? Can they sell you a Big Mac and hope you can’t tell the difference?

This is to say nothing of the fact that the donor actually has a choice. It’s true that anyone who walks into my office with their form is making an honest mistake. But what if the person really, truly knows they can pick which office to walk into? Their office is almost always jam packed; mine is almost always empty. What if someone knows they have a choice, and have honestly come to me because it’ll make their day go by quicker?

It’s a delicate situation. I wonder if I can navigate it successfully without getting yelled at…

The situation between our two offices is actually much, much more complicated than I’ve outlined here, but that’s a topic for another day… maybe.

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