Don’t look, but there’s a bit of a train wreck at the corner of happy and healthy.
First, Missouri’s attorney general sued Walgreens over alleged deceptive pricing, and now the National Consumers League has issued a study showing that the price for an item purchased at Walgreens stores can be “all over the map,” even at stores within the same city.
While the Missouri investigation involved purchasing random items from various stores and comparing the prices at checkout with the prices displayed on the shelves, NCL’s involved buying the same items over and over from different locations to see whether prices were consistent. It checked the same 25 items at 485 Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid locations in New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth and Orange County, Calif.
You already know the result, but the degree might be surprising: “Walgreens had more than eight times the number of products with a 20 percent or greater price range than CVS,” the study says. The price could vary as much as 55 percent between stores. Here’s what else the study found:
- “Walgreens stores in a single market were up to five times more likely than a competitor to charge different prices for the same item.”
- “Walgreens also had more than twice the number of products with a price range over $1 than both competitors.”
- “In every market, Walgreens had the greatest percentage of products that cost at least 10 percent more than the market’s lowest price.” Rite Aid and CVS generally had consistent prices for items within a market.
- Walgreens’ prices tended to be higher at flagship stores.
- Managers can sometimes price-match other stores in the area, so it’s worth asking.
Walgreen Co. spokesman Jim Graham told the Chicago Tribune that the company’s prices “reflect the costs of doing business in the neighborhoods we serve as well as any nearby retail competition.”
The Tribune also notes, “Adjusting prices based on location or property values is common among national retail chains and not against the law.”
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