For the second week in a row, Walgreens is facing accusations that its stores are overcharging customers, this time based on where they shop. Researchers found that shoppers could be paying up to 55 percent more at some locations than they would at others on the same items.
The new report was conducted by the National Consumers League and labor coalition Change to Win and looked at 485 Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid stores in New York City, Los Angeles, Orange County and Dallas-Fort Worth. Researchers bought a basket of 25 items including non-prescription medicines, groceries, beauty products and nutritional supplements and compared the prices at each store.
In Manhattan, customers on 5th Ave. paid $4.50 more for Claritin than those on 3rd Ave. In Anaheim, Calif., shoppers buying Neutrogena Face Scrub on La Palma Ave. paid $9.49, compared to $7.99 if they bought the same thing just three miles away.
"It's sort of a cautionary tale for shopping at any chain—whether it's for groceries or drugs or clothing," Sally Greenberg, executive director of the NCL told the Huffington Post.
The news comes just a week after Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed a suit accusing the chain of charging customers more for products than the posted price.
"My concern is this is not sloppiness—this is a business practice that is consciously intending to steal from sick people that go into Walgreens, from old people that go into Walgreens," Koster said during a news conference announcing the suit.
The largest U.S. drugstore chain defended its pricing practices in a statement to the Huffington Post, saying the price discrepancies are a result of the costs of running stores in different areas, where factors like rent and the competitive environment fluctuate.
"Costs can vary from one location to another, even when they are just a few blocks apart in dense urban areas, based on the store's cost of real estate, its hours of operation including whether it is open 24 hours, labor costs and the number of customers it serves each day, among other factors," said Jim Graham, a spokesman for Walgreens. "We strive to be price competitive with nearby competition, and we believe our pricing reflects that."
Whether the price hikes are justified or not, Walgreens could have an uphill battle keeping customers' trust after the week it's had. When there's this much smoke, most people are going to assume there's fire.
- See this Huffington Post story
Walgreens Overcharging Shoppers, Says Missouri Attorney General
Walgreens And L'Oreal Trying To See If Mobile ROI Can Be Proven
Walgreens Mobile Flips The CRM Assumptions