Sunday, July 31, 2011

Nothing Special

We live near a small strip center with a Starbucks, Subway and Panda Express. It’s close enough to walk to, but far enough away that we don’t suffer from the traffic that it attracts. We liked Longs Drugs, which anchored the center. It had a lot of what you need, so that if you run out of milk or batteries, you could make a quick trip.

Longs also had a funky edge. As various holidays approached, you could always find some cute “yard art” – which Donna loves – like a three-foot tall “Monster Crossing” figure for our front porch at Halloween, or an appropriately patriotic gizmo with American flags that we break out every 4th of July. And their variety of Christmas lights and knick-knacks was as equally impressive as its prices were reasonable.

About two years ago, CVS/Pharmacy bought out Longs Drugs nationwide, and our favorite neighborhood drug store was transformed. The aisles are cleaner, the lighting a bit less harsh, the paint and carpet fresher. But its character was lost in the name change.

Much less funky. Fewer cute holiday-themed kitsch. Longer lines at the check-out. Fewer smiles from the pharmacy staff. In fact, no one looks like they’re doing anything more than waiting for their shift to end.

What CVS does have, however, is an “Extra Care” rewards program, where you rack up credit for purchases. You may not feel much employee-love now, but you’re always asked if you have an “Extra Rewards” card to scan with your purchase. And you’re encouraged to approach a free-standing scanning station each time you enter the store – and if you’ve racked up enough credit, money-savings coupons are automatically dispensed. To be honest, the savings can be worthwhile.

As I’ve confessed in earlier posts, I’m a Starbucks fan, and Donna and I usually stop by for a cup of coffee on Saturday mornings, and sometimes on Sundays as well. With CVS right next door, we still shop there. But less often than before.

Beyond locational convenience, there’s nothing that distinguishes CVS from other drug stores. Not the service. Not the selection. And the bribery of the “Extra Care” rewards program is not earning our loyalty.

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