Oct 14, 2010

Which is the best overall drugstore to shop at?

There's a thread over at A Full Cup about which drugstore you would pick if you could only shop at one. It got me thinking about how I feel about the different stores. I like them and dislike them all for different reasons, but here's a summary of my thoughts:

  • I think CVS is the most straight-forward, and therefore the easiest, of the three major drugstore chains to shop at.
  • The limits are usually clear, and because of them I don't spend the entire week thinking, I have a few more coupons, I could/should go again.
  • I transfer my prescriptions back and forth between CVS and Ralphs to get gift cards, so I usually spend nothing out of pocket when I shop at CVS.
  • I have the least trouble with coupons beeping at CVS, and when there is trouble, the cashiers are pretty good about how they handle it.
Rite Aid
  • Of all the drugstores, I think Rite Aid is the easiest to make money at, because there is usually a $/$$ coupon available to use on items that are free after coupons and/or +UP rewards and/or Single Check Rebates.
  • SoCal deals start on Fridays, which can be great if there are coupons expiring on a Saturday, but it also means I'm usually struggling to figure out the deals for myself if I want to go on Friday or Saturday because deal blogs haven't posted their match ups yet.
  • I have the most trouble with coupons at Rite Aid, out of all the drugstores. I think it has something to do with the way their computers are programmed (coupons seem to beep a lot more often at Rite Aid), as well as a lack of training, despite the official coupon policy (pdf).
  • I usually spend the most out of pocket at Rite Aid, even though I make the most money there, because I have to wait for the SCR check to arrive before I am "reimbursed."
  • Most stores don't really have limits (or if they do, they're daily), so you can buy more at Walgreens than any other store, usually limited more by the number of coupons you have than anything else.
  • But the one Register Reward per transaction limit (per deal) makes for a greater number of transactions.
  • The items to coupons-including-Register Rewards ratio makes Walgreens the most complicated to shop at.
  • Because the Register Rewards values are usually low, I have to do a lot of transactions to minimize my out of pocket expenses, which is inconvenient and something of a deterrent.
  • Most stores don't seem familiar with and/or welcoming of multiple transactions (although I spoke to the manager of a newish store recently and she assured me that I am welcome to do as many transactions as I want unless they have very limited stock - yay!).
I find that I go through cycles at the drugstores: For a couple of months, I'll go to Walgreens several times a week, then for a couple of weeks, it'll be Rite Aid, then the next few months, it'll be CVS. I won't avoid the other stores but I'll only go once a week at most during their downward cycle. So I can't really pick just one store I'd prefer to shop at the most.

But if I had to pick, I'd probably go with CVS, just because it's the easiest and most convenient for me. But I'd sure be sad about missing out on all of the deals at Rite Aid and Walgreens too. So I'm glad and grateful to be able to shop at all three!

Which one would you pick if you could only shop at one of the drugstores?


Gigi said...

Honestly, it seems to me that most of the deals I get excited about are at Walgreens. So I guess Wags would be my choice. :)

I can't STAND shopping at Rite Aid! Yes, they have great deals, but I spend most of my shopping time trying to FIND the item - which is usually gone anyway. The stores by me are dirty and unorganized, and the employees have pretty consistently been rude with few exceptions. I'll go if it's a super duper deal, but I almost always having to go to 2 or 3 Rite Aids!

Just my $0.02!

CJ said...

I've been a Wags shopper for several years and a CVS shopper for almost a year. I like at Walgreens that you can get as many of the RR freebies you want per week. But CVS is the easiest because of no coupon-to-item ratio and they automatically adjust coupon amounts. Today I was able to use $24 in coupons and ECBs to buy an Entertainment Book. I could never have done that at Walgreens. At CVS I'm usually limited to 1 or 2 of each ECB freebie a week, which sometimes is a good thing (how many free toothpastes do I need anyway?). So there's good and bad with both, but I'd pick CVS because its less stressful.

Camille said...

I prefer CVS, but there isn't one in decent driving distance to our house so I usually go to Wags (there are TWO very close). Rite Aid closed all their stores in NV about 4 years ago!

Rebecca said...

I agree with pretty much everything you posted.

Up until recently, I had not stepped foot in a Rite Aid (we didn't have them in Texas, and though we now live right by one in Pasadena, I wasn't used to shopping at it), but I have been so impressed by how much money I can make by shopping there. And I've actually been pretty successful at keeping my OOP under $5. Plus, my store is clean and neat and has a better feel to it than most drugstores.

Walgreens drives me crazy and I always swear I will never go back there, but then I do. Plus, their in store coupons make for really cheap grocery items that you don't find at the other stores, like jello (the royal brand, 5/$1), soup, raisins, honey, etc.

But I still love CVS the best. They have never been rude to me, they are rarely confusing, and I somehow even feel like I spend less on tax there (it seems that I don't get charged tax for what the extrabucks takes off, or at least that is my theory). And since they have been pouring out the $4/$20 coupons lately, as well as tons of other great coupons, I have been shopping there a lot.

Gina @ MoneywiseMoms said...

I think you missed an important issue for people who can't do the drugstores every week--the expiration dates of the rewards and how they redeem. CVS gives you a full month to redeem your ECBs, where Rite Aid and Walgreens only give you 2 weeks. If I'm busy or out of town, I simply LOSE those rewards. Plus, Walgreens doesn't let you "roll" a reward onto a product MADE BY THE SAME COMPANY, and since their RRs don't print what they were for, so I've lost money because I used a Kimberly & Clark RR on another product without realizing it. What a pain!

I know CVS has its problems, but I think overall it's the best. There are often $/$$ coupons out, you get extra deals at the magic coupon printer, and I've found it easiest to teach to newbies. If you find a store that puts its tags up on time and keeps good stock of ECB items, you're golden.

Chief Family Officer said...

@Gigi - Some of the Rite Aids around me are like that, and I never go to them. I suspect I would skip Rite Aid completely, too, if all of the ones around were like that!

@CJ - I hear ya on the free toothpaste! I keep giving the stuff away now, I only buy it because it helps me complete my deals :)

@Camille - Now you're making me wish there were drugstores within walking distance of my house, I'd go every day!

@Rebecca - I know what you mean, I always find myself going back too!

@Gina - Great point about the short expiration dates on RRs and +UP rewards compared to ECBs. Thanks for reminding us about that!