Are some Walgreens stores gouging customers?

Advocacy groups say the drugstore charges different prices within the same city. The company says the cost of doing business can vary.

By Kim Peterson Sep 11, 2013 12:46PM
People walk by a Walgreens in Boston, Mass., on April 30, 2013 (Photo by Wendy Maeda/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)Shoppers know it's best to compare prices among retail chains. But in the case of Walgreen (WAG), you might want to compare prices among the company's own stores.

A new report says Walgreens locations in a single city can charge different prices for the same item. And that means customers can overpay by as much as 55% for common drugstore items, depending on which location they shop at.

Researchers went to 485 Walgreens, CVS (CVS) and Rite Aid (RAD) locations in the U.S. for the study, which was developed by the National Consumers League and the Change to Win Retail Initiatives. You can see the report here.

The researchers checked prices for the same basket of 25 items at locations in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and California's Orange County.

Here's what they found:
  • Different Walgreens locations were more likely to charge different prices for the same item.
  • In every city, Walgreens had the greatest percentage of products costing at least 10% more than the market's lowest price.
  • Walgreens' "flagship" stores in New York charge a lot. The basket of 25 items cost nearly $38 more at those flagship stores than at other Walgreens stores in the same city.
In the Los Angeles area, for example, researchers found that Centrum Silver vitamins cost $2.50 more at one Walgreens location compared to another. In Dallas, two Walgreens stores less than four miles apart had a $2.20 price different for CoverGirl lipstick.

When asked for comment on the study, a Walgreens spokesman told MSN Money that the prices reflect the cost of running a store in a particular neighborhood as well as any nearby competition.

"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 the spokesman, Jim Graham. "We strive to be price competitive with nearby competition, and we believe our pricing reflects that."

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Sep 11, 2013 1:35PM
Surely, this can't come as a surprise to anyone over 10.
Sep 11, 2013 1:13PM
Walmart does the same thing.  I have seen prices vary by a couple of bucks from Walmart stores within a 5 mile radius.
Sep 11, 2013 1:33PM

Walgreens and CVS are the biggest rip offs in our town.  The prices they charge for non

prescription related items is substantially higher then everyone else.  That is also why

you see most people that use them go to the Pharmacy get their prescriptions and walk

out of the store.

Sep 11, 2013 1:39PM
All the companies have been doing this forever! Where is the news story behind this or was this article written by a naïve 13 year old.
Sep 11, 2013 1:52PM

next they will tell us that taxes can be different depending on what city you are in or what state you are in!!


Sep 11, 2013 1:16PM
I like how they singled out Walgreens because I know that CVS does this also.  There is a CVS across the street from my office which is in a high-income area and the products cost significantly more than they do at the CVS near my house where the incomes are more modest.
Sep 11, 2013 1:28PM
Sep 11, 2013 1:45PM
all companies do it. the cost of rent and other factors vary from location to location. thats why they call it shopping. if you actually shop around you find the best prices
Sep 11, 2013 1:55PM
I have to say, the Walgreens where I live has the highest prices for stuff that I have ever seen.  They far outdo the Martins and Safeway and Walmart in the same area . Somethings are double the price of what they are in the close-by Walmart. I NEVER buy anything from Walgreens the prices are just too high. 

Sep 11, 2013 1:35PM

That's what the word shopping is all about.  Don't like the price don't buy it.  Find a good bargain buy it.

Much like life not being equal, neither is the cost of business and of course these costs are passed on to the consumer.

Sep 11, 2013 1:47PM
All retailers follow this philosophy, it varies between cities, states etc. It's about how they are paying the electric bill etc.
Sep 11, 2013 2:00PM
Gas Stations do it all the time.  If a Shell, Chevron, Texaco, or whatever station has multiple stations in the same area, each one usually has different prices for gas on any given day.  In my town we have four Maverick stations, and each one has a different price for gas, up to 7 cents per gallon.

I look at the ADS in the newspaper, or in the mail, find the best price for what I want to buy, then I go to Wal-mart and Match-Price the Items.  One stop shopping for me.  It's MY MONEY, and I want to keep as much of it in MY POCKET as I can. 

Sep 11, 2013 1:51PM


how can that possibly happen??

I mean, really I am so un-surprised that I can barely even type this response...


Sep 11, 2013 2:04PM

I also must say CVS does the same thing


Sep 11, 2013 2:42PM
Walgreens is terrible. Even their cost for prescriptions is among the highest. I don't understand why even generics are so much higher at this chain, but I refuse to shop at any location after they tried charging me $3.00 for a 2-liter of diet Coke. Outrageous!
Sep 11, 2013 1:25PM

Hey, they differ in the same store!  Almonds on their regular shelf are marked 4.99 and appear at 2 for 7.00 on the front end of the same shelf...along with the same size and brand also marked 4.99 right next to them.  Every other store I've been to in the area has them marked 2 for 7.00!



Sep 11, 2013 2:03PM
So what.  Is there a law that says they must price exactly like the other stores?  What ever happen to comparison shopping?
Sep 11, 2013 2:03PM

Walgreens is always more but their 24 hour convenience I thought was the reason I paid 27 dollars for a tube of nystatin cream when I could have got it for 6 dollars had I waited for the hospital pharmacy to open on Monday but I paid for the convenience. Had I known it was going to be 27 dollars I would have waited.


Sep 11, 2013 1:50PM
I bought items at Walgreens several times only to find I was overpriced from $1.50 to $2.00 per item. I was shocked at the mark up. This is happened often enough that we now only go there for items we can only get there. Price check ! better to check after the fact and know for next time than never bother to look.
Sep 11, 2013 3:06PM
Their online prices are cheaper than what stores charge, and they won't match the price either.
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