All Things Considered, OC Shoppers May be Better Off at CVS or Rite Aid Than at Walgreens

Categories: News Roundups

Prices can vary wildly on the same item at different Walgreens in Orange County, and the chain's drug stores in OC can have prices that are 2.5 times higher for the same product at CVS and five times more than what you'll pay for it at at Rite Aid.

Those are the findings of the Change to Win (CtW) Retail Initiatives in partnership with the National Consumers League, which compiled data on a basket of 25 items at roughly 80 Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aids throughout Orange County.

"Certainly consumers expect different chains to offer different deals," says Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League, in a statement with the report announcement. "But price variation within a single chain is a wake-up call for consumers, who don't tend to shop around and compare within a chain. This is a reminder that caveat emptor--let the buyer beware--applies even within the same chain, where prices may vary depending on where you're shopping."

"Price variation isn't fair to consumers, who need their dollars to stretch in a tough economy and deserve to get the best price available, regardless of which Walgreens they happen to walk into," says Nell Geiser, research director of CtW Retail Initiatives, in the same release.

"America's pioneer consumer organization" (it was founded in 1899) discovered that in Orange County:

  • Walgreens had twice the number of products that were priced at least 10 percent higher than the market's best than CVS and Rite Aid combined. Common drugstore items were up to 33 percent more expensive based on which Walgreens location a shopper chose.
  • The range of prices for the total basket at Walgreens was more than twice as wide as its CVS and three-and-a-half times bigger than Rite Aid.
  • Across Orange County, Walgreens had seven times the number of products with a price range over $1 than Rite Aid and three-and-a-half times more than CVS.
  • Stores close together had significant price differences. A Walgreens shopper in Anaheim could get serious savings by a quick 3 mile drive. For example, she could save $1.50--or 18 percent--on Neutrogena Face Scrub.

Orange County is not special in this regard. Studies were also conducted in LA County, New York City and the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where Walgreens' price variations were also much more common than at their competitors, according to the researchers.

Shoppers are advised to avoid Walgreens flagship stores and ask managers about price matching to find the best deals. More tips are available here:

Email: Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

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JBinOC topcommenter

And why would an Anaheim shopper need Neutrogena Face Scrub?  


JGlanton topcommenter

"Price variation isn't fair to consumers" -- LOL that's dumb. You can get fixed prices in Cuba if that's what you need to feel secure in your fairness. And the rationing that goes with it. One chicken per month but the price is the same.  Price variations are a catalyst of the free market as consumers move and adjust to suit their needs, desires, and budget, driving businesses to adapt and change their offerings and prices. The study this group did is useful to consumers but spare us the marxist judgements. Walgreen's must be doing something right to give consumers what they want. I wonder if they considered another big driver of consumer price choices: coupons and sales. That changes the effective prices paid significantly and they vary from store to store within a chain. From my experience, the grocery stores charge the most for household items. The drugstores use this to their advantage. People are smart, they know where the deals are  and the make choices every day to use price variations to save money. They'll buy groceries from Albertsons, toilet paper and soda from CVS (with those 25% off coupons), and meat from Stater Bros.  Or they shop for quality first, with a different set of choices.


@JGlanton No one mentioned government regulation or Marx - until you brought it up.  You apparently have an unhealthy fixation, oh my.

This is an example of what nice capitalist economists call "asymmetric information" which lessons consumer ability to maximize their satisfaction through the markets, leading to inferior inefficient outcomes.

JGlanton topcommenter

Saying that consumers don't tend to shop around within a chain doesn't mean they don't shop around within their buying area. Who is going to go accross town to a different Walgreens when they can comparison shop with CVS, Rite-Aid, Albertsons, Costco, WallMart, or whatever else is nearby? I don't see the concept of comparison shopping within one chain as more than a fringe buying decision. Wallgreens probably has a different management model that gives flexibility to store managers to set prices to maximize profits. They probably can figure out which bait-and-switch strategies work best in their neighborhood.

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