There’s ridiculous variation in prices at different Walgreens

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It’s no secret that stores charge more for their wares in some regions than others.

But a new report found that people in the same neighborhood may pay significantly different prices for the same goods at stores within the same drugstore chain – especially if they’re shopping at Walgreens.

The Huffington Post’s Kim Bhasin reports:

Consumers in Manhattan shelled out $15.99 for Claritin at a Walgreens on 5th Ave., paying $4.50 more than those who bought the allergy medicine at another Midtown location on 3rd Ave. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, a Walgreens store on Cockrell Hill Rd. charged $10.49 for CoverGirl lipstick, while another nearby Walgreens sold the same product for just $8.29. And in Anaheim, Calif., Walgreens shoppers found that Neutrogena Face Scrub cost $9.49 on La Palma Ave., though it ran for only $7.99 on Brookhurst St., three miles away.” 

What’s with the discrepancy? 

Walgreens chalks it up to the price of real estate and labor, which can differ in dense urban areas. 

“Costs can vary from one location to another, even when they are a few blocks apart in dense urban areas, based on the store’s cost of real estate, its hours of operation including whether it is open 24 hours, labor costs and the number of customers it serves each day, among other factors,” said spokesman Jim Graham.

The National Consumer League surveyed 485 stores from three major drugstore chains (Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS). Researchers compared prices on a basket of 25 items that included over-the-counter medicines, groceries, beauty products, and nutritional supplements.

Walgreens, they found, was twice as likely as the others to have products with a price gap of $1 or more.  And Walgreens had more than eight times the number of products with a 20 percent or greater price range than CVS. 

This study is something of a bummer. The main perk of drugstores is their convenience factor – people don’t usually choose their drugstore based on prices but on how close it is to their home or office. 

If you want to save, you’ll have to rethink the way you approach drugstores.

Ask about price matching. None of the chains will match their online prices at brick-and-mortar locations, but managers often have the ability to match prices from other stores within their chain, the NCL advises.

Avoid Walgreens “flagship” stores. Walgreens acknowledges that its flagship stores are more expensive, and the NCL study basically proves it. A basket of items cost nearly 20 percent more —an extra $38—at a flagship store in New York than it typically did at other Walgreens in the city.

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