SCOT BELLAVIA: Drug Store Fiction

Most customers come in and out of Walgreens. They know what to get and can generally find it fast. The lost and in a hurry bother to go to an employee to ask for assistance. It’s a 24-hour store, so I’m sure the night shift has some stories to tell.

Before my diagnosis, I would stop at a Walgreens, maybe once a quarter, to treat myself to an overpriced Gatorade or to grab a bottle of OTC pills or in search of one of my ex-wife’s pregnancy cravings. Now, I go in every two weeks to get my medication prescription filled.

While the pharmacist fills my dosage, I roam the aisles for a deal until I trick myself into buying something I didn’t need if it weren’t for looking ahead to a full day of nothing else to do. If I’m tired (a side effect of my medicine), I’ll stay seated by the pharmacy and Casey will just motion to me instead of calling me back over the loudspeaker once my order is ready.

In these biweekly visits, I’ve picked up some insider terms. ‘End caps’ are the shelf displays at the ends of the aisles. ‘Mylar’ is not just what balloons from Party City are made of; it’s also a synonym for the price tag just below an item. I learned about the balloon material when I was getting my prescription at the CVS down the road. (Don’t get me started on why I switched pharmacies.)

At Walgreens, I learned there’s an intentionality in where they place what throughout the store. I could have guessed–but closer inspection proved–they sell seasonal items on certain days. Headquarters mails specific cardboard displays and, in small print, lists what day to set it up and when to collapse and recycle it. There’s careful thought into what’s put on the end caps, based on flavor, palpability, supply, and other terms one would assume only students of retail marketing would know. Bet you didn’t think Walgreens employees went to college.

For instance, in the checkout line, positioned at a child’s eye level is a sugary Eden that turns the kids from Mommy’s little helpers into desperate sales boys and girls and the mothers will rationalize that it costs as much as they could find in their couch: 83 cents or a dollar thirty-four. So, they pop in the kids’ mouths a sucker or Butterfinger for a few moments of quiet.

It’s purposeful that Walgreens and their competition have this; the checkout aisle is a cash Cow Tale. And they’re not ashamed to manipulate the kids. In fact, if you’re in the know—like I am—they almost brag about it in the name they’ve given the zone: “the impulse queue!”

I’ve further learned, by observation, that, like being especially friendly to a toll booth worker is patronizing because they know going into it that the job isn’t terribly thrilling, Walgreens employees don’t care for you to address them with a “hello” or an “ahem.” They’re much more used to customers standing in their bubble until acknowledged or being addressed not by their name but by “Magazines” when the customer is looking for the magazine aisle.

I used to marvel at the employees at Walgreens and Kroger and Walmart who, from anywhere in the store, could direct me to the exact shelf of a product, knowing whether it’d be on my left or right, correctly assuming which end of the aisle I’d enter. But then I realized that the college graduates designed the store so customer traffic is generally in one direction so the employees can usually give the same answer. But I’ve spent enough time there now I can perform the same trick.

Yes, I could just about work at Walgreens and sometimes, on a day I know it’ll take them a while to fill my dosage, I’ll go in wearing a collared, gray shirt and a lanyard and as I search for something I don’t need, I’ll be called “Gift Cards” and assist a customer looking for things they don’t need either as they just pop in and out, not realizing Walgreens is the whole world to some people, like me.

Scot Bellavia

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -

Related Articles