BACKGROUND: Most sales of complementary medicines within pharmacies are conducted by pharmacy support staff. The absence of rigorous evidence for the effectiveness of many complementary medicines raises a number of ethical questions regarding the sale of complementary medicines in pharmacies. AIM: Explore (1) what consumers expect from pharmacists/pharmacies with regard to the sale of complementary medicines, and (2) how pharmacy support staff perceive their responsibilities when selling complementary medicines. METHODS: One-on-one semi-structured interviews were conducted with a convenience sample of pharmacy support staff and consumers in pharmacies in Brisbane. Consumers were asked to describe their expectations when purchasing complementary medicines. Pharmacy support staff were asked to describe their responsibilities when selling complementary medicines. Interviews were conducted and analysed using the techniques developed within Grounded Theory. KEY FINDINGS: Thirty-three consumers were recruited from three pharmacies. Consumers described complementary medicine use as a personal health choice. Consumer expectations on the pharmacist included: select the right product for the right person, expert product knowledge and maintaining a wide range of good quality stock. Twenty pharmacy support staff were recruited from four pharmacies. Pharmacy support staff employed processes to ensure consumers receive the right product for the right person. Pharmacy support staff expressed a commitment to aiding consumers, but few evaluated the reliability of effectiveness claims regarding complementary medicines. CONCLUSIONS: Pharmacists need to respect the personal health choices of consumers while also putting procedures in place to ensure safe and appropriate use of complementary medicines. This includes providing appropriate support to pharmacy support staff.