Apr 18, 2011

Drugstore Disappointments & Strategies for Avoiding Them

I took a couple of hours to go shopping today, and I struck out at all of the drugstores! That's pretty rare, but it does happen sometimes.

The CVS I stopped at had no Aquafresh kid's toothbrushes. They are supposed to be on sale for $1, and there were $1/1 coupons in yesterday's RP insert as well as $1/1 printables at Red Plum, so they're free after coupon (the printables may have hit the print limit already). There didn't seem to be a space on the shelf for the toothbrushes, so I don't think that store even carries them. It turns out that the Aquafresh kid's toothpaste is also on sale for $1, so they'll be free after the $1/1 coupon that was also in yesterday's RP insert. Unfortunately, I didn't have those coupons with me, so I left the store empty-handed.

I'm running very low on tissue, so I planned to buy some as part of the household items deal at Rite Aid - you get at $10 +UP reward when you buy $30 worth of participating products. But when I got to the store, there was all of one box of Puffs on the shelf. I could have bought it, and the other items on my list, because the deal is reported to be tracking, meaning you can buy the $30 worth of items in multiple transactions and the $10 +UP will be triggered when you hit the $30 mark. But if I can't find more Puffs at other stores I won't be able to hit the $30 mark so I decided to wait until I can get to another store tomorrow.

Finally at Walgreens, they didn't have many Reach Total Care floss with whitening, so I only bought two instead of four. Those are on sale for $2.99 and giving a $2 Register Rewards, so they're a small moneymaker after the $2/1 coupon from the 10/10 RP and tax. This store also didn't have any of the single serve peeps that are $0.50 after the in-ad coupon.

Low stock and hit and miss deals are, unfortunately, always a part of playing The Drugstore Game. There are a few ways to minimize the disappointments, however:
  • You have a better chance of finding items in stock at the beginning of the sales cycle. But remember to be considerate and not clear the store's stock without permission.

  • Ask the store management if they will order extra quantities of an upcoming sale item. If you know you want a large number of something that's going to be on sale, you can see if the store manager will order some especially for you. If I'd planned ahead, I could have done this with the Puffs!

  • Know which stores in your area tend to have good stock. My favorite Walgreens is, unfortunately, one of the smaller stores, so while I have a great relationship with their manager, they simply don't carry some of the items that I'm looking for. There is a Walgreens that's a couple more miles away that's bigger and has better stock. And I'm optimistic that the CVS I'm planning to visit tomorrow will have the Aquafresh toothbrushes, since it's a large store that's usually quite good about managing its stock.

  • Find out when the store gets new stock. Most stores get one or two trucks per week, on the same day(s). You'll need to give them time to unload it and find out what they got, but you might be able to get the hot sale items mid-week if you can get to the store right after the stock has been replenished.

  • Call the store to check on their stock before you head out. This is my least favorite strategy, partly because it entails a lot of waiting on the phone, partly because I think it just annoys the store's staff, and partly because I find it unreliable since there's always the chance the employee didn't quite understand which item you were calling about. Also, it seems rude to ask if they have three or four items in stock, so I'd rather go in person or just skip the store that week if I don't have time to stop by.

  • Ask if there's stock in the back. Most of the time the answer is no, but sometimes you get lucky.
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