NYC Chain Drug Stores - NYC

Aaron Ex-New Yorker says:

Plenty of Easter candy stacked in the aisles in February but never the cold medicine you want, surly help and crap scattered everywhere.

Originally published in the New York Daily News on July 11, 2004 - Written by Lenore Skenazy

These stores could drive you to drugs

Last week, I saw the strangest thing: a store that wasn't a Duane Reade!

I think it sold coffee or something, which meant I had to shlep a whole half-block to get to the next Duane Reade. Like I'm Lance Armstrong.

That's why it was so heartening to read in Crain's New York Business that Walgreen is planning to open a slew of new stores right here in Maalox City. New York, New York, it's a pharmacy town ...

Naturally, Walgreen - America's No. 1 drug chain - is smart enough to realize it will face about a billion Rite Aids, CVSs and Duane Reades already up and grumbling, which is why it has a secret weapon up its sleeve, called "service."

I had to look this term up. Apparently, there are drugstores in America where you don't feel as if you've walked in on a simmering family argument. Stores where, unlike the Duane Reade I visited Wednesday, no guards are muttering, "F***ing slavery!" Stores where the managers actually open more than one of the six registers at a time.

Rumor even has it that when the employees in some of these stores ask, "Can I help you?" they mean it, unlike the Manhattan pharmacy I visited last week, where the saleswoman asked just that. When, twinkly-eyed, I replied, "Yes! Please tell me why you are wearing a giant button that says, 'I'm a proud daddy!'" she spun her back to me with such diva-like fury, I felt like David Gest.

But wait, that was at a Walgreen - one of three stores it already has here! Which only proves that New York's chain drugstores, no matter which, are just not happy places.

"Wouldn't you be grumpy if you worked in there?" asked a lady exiting the Duane Reade at 34th and Seventh.

"They are exceptionally discourteous," sniffed Michael Asendio, a designer coming out of the same store.

"If you go in smiling and they're in a bad mood," counseled Sharon McGowan, a customer from the Bronx, "sometimes they'll kind of come around." She meant that as a compliment.

But frankly, she's right: Cheer is often spreadable. I've spread some and had some spread on me. One grim Duane Reade clerk turned into a grinner when we started talking kids. One manager personally walked me over to the antihistamines and pointed out the cheapest ones.

The problem is that these pleasant experiences are as rare as garlic-flavored Altoids, probably because the employees themselves are treated so miserably. Underpaid, they toil in skinny aisles where everyone's always knocking things over. The lighting is Abu Ghraib-soft.

Moreover, says Robert Passikoff, an expert on customer loyalty, the owners probably don't demand much charm, figuring, "If you don't buy it here, you'll buy it from us two blocks away."

And so New York's drugstores continue to cast a pall, with more flooding in. Let's just hope they give out shopping bags as indestructible as Duane Reade's.


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