Prices can vary wildly on the same item at different Walgreens in Orange County, and the chain's drug stores in OC can have prices that are 2.5 times higher for the same product at CVS and five times more than what you'll pay for it at at Rite Aid.
Those are the findings of the Change to Win (CtW) Retail Initiatives in partnership with the National Consumers League, which compiled data on a basket of 25 items at roughly 80 Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aids throughout Orange County.
"Certainly consumers expect different chains to offer different deals," says Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League, in a statement with the report announcement. "But price variation within a single chain is a wake-up call for consumers, who don't tend to shop around and compare within a chain. This is a reminder that caveat emptor--let the buyer beware--applies even within the same chain, where prices may vary depending on where you're shopping."
"Price variation isn't fair to consumers, who need their dollars to stretch in a tough economy and deserve to get the best price available, regardless of which Walgreens they happen to walk into," says Nell Geiser, research director of CtW Retail Initiatives, in the same release.
"America's pioneer consumer organization" (it was founded in 1899) discovered that in Orange County:
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- Walgreens had twice the number of products that were priced at least 10 percent higher than the market's best than CVS and Rite Aid combined. Common drugstore items were up to 33 percent more expensive based on which Walgreens location a shopper chose.
- The range of prices for the total basket at Walgreens was more than twice as wide as its CVS and three-and-a-half times bigger than Rite Aid.
- Across Orange County, Walgreens had seven times the number of products with a price range over $1 than Rite Aid and three-and-a-half times more than CVS.
- Stores close together had significant price differences. A Walgreens shopper in Anaheim could get serious savings by a quick 3 mile drive. For example, she could save $1.50--or 18 percent--on Neutrogena Face Scrub.
Orange County is not special in this regard. Studies were also conducted in LA County, New York City and the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where Walgreens' price variations were also much more common than at their competitors, according to the researchers.
Shoppers are advised to avoid Walgreens flagship stores and ask managers about price matching to find the best deals. More tips are available here: nclnet.org.