It’s All About What You Expect

I hate my local drugstore. And by “local drugstore,” I don’t mean a place with wooden floors, bins of penny candy and a bespectacled proprietor in his eighties. I mean Walgreens.

There’s a lot to dislike about all Walgreens. Every store pretty much stocks the same thing, including no Lifesavers. Which is weird. And possibly un-American. Except for that one Walgreens in the Financial District. Which is even weirder, given that kids don’t make up a big segment of the financial services industry. (Unless they do and I just don’t know about it. Which would certainly explain this whole recession thing.) They also apparently believe that little girls’ bangs are on their own because they don’t stock child-size barrettes. Or any good greeting cards. Or the caramels and chews only assortment from Russell Stover.

I digress.

I’ve boiled my Walgreens’ failure down to this: their only selling point is that they are open. All the time. Which is an awfully narrow business proposition, but there it is. The doors are unlocked and staff is present. That’s all they’re going for.

It’s like a restaurant whose sign just says, “Food.” If you are hungry enough, you will go there. If you would like an interesting menu, a polite staff, timely service, or warm food, you may well be out of luck. They told you right up front: they serve food. It might be burned toast. It could be overcooked peas. But they’re not wrong: it is food. And they promised nothing more.

Here’s how you can tell you’re at MY Walgreens:

  • Do they lock up a random assortment of all their products, requiring you to press a broken-looking button next to your deodorant, which, when it does work, summons an employee to come and unlock your Secret from plastic prison?
  • Is the entrance surrounded by people talking to themselves and teenagers who look like they would rob you of your recently paroled shampoo without batting an eyelash?
  • Does the pharmacy have no record of your prescription when you show up to collect it even when your doctor @$(*&! confirmed that it was received? Yes.
  • Is there always a wait to collect that bad news even when there is only one person ahead of you because the only people who frequent my Walgreens do not understand their insurance (including if they have any) or their doctor or plain English or all of the above, and the pharmacy assistant is willing – God bless her misguided soul – to try to address these much-bigger-than-a-five-minute-conversation problems at the checkout window instead of referring them to the clearly labeled Patient Consultation window to the left?
  • Is all of this adding up to a tornado of soul-blasting inefficiency? Yes. Yes, it is.

But they are open. So I guess that makes up for the nerve-numbingly frustrating experience of going there.

It took me a while to realize that all of these things, while clearly – CLEARLY – super valuable, were not the true essence of the 24th Street Walgreens. Now that I finally get their, “Look, we’re open, OK?” thing, I have high hopes that I will be able to adjust my expectations and all future visits will feel like a success when the doors part in front of me. I aim to stop attaching my satisfaction to whether I am able to walk out with my prescription or whether it took 20 minutes of waiting behind an obese young woman with spiral pigtails discussing the finer points of probiotics with a checkout clerk to find out that I will not be walking out with it, and just rest in the happy knowledge that they were, in fact, open.

Or maybe I’ll just start going to that other Walgreens in my old neighborhood again. At least they’re closed sometimes.

Categories: My Day


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