An article in the October 2003 issue of Consumer Reports opens with the following recommendation: “If you’re among the 47 percent of Americans who get medicine from drugstore giants such as CVS, Eckerd, and Rite Aid, here’s a prescription: Try shopping somewhere else. The best place to start looking is one of the 25,000 independent pharmacies that are making a comeback throughout the U.S.”
The article highlights the results of a year-long survey of more than 32,000 readers about their drugstore experiences. “Independent stores, which are edging toward extinction a few years ago, won top honors from Consumer Reports readers, besting the big chains by an eye-popping margin,” the magazine reports.
Independents outranked all other pharmacies—including drugstore chains, supermarkets, mass merchandisers (e.g., Wal-Mart), and internet companies—in terms of providing personal attention, offering health services such as in-store screenings, filling prescriptions quickly, supplying hard-to-find drugs, and obtaining out-of-stock medications within 24 hours.
Overall, more than 85 percent of customers at independent drugstores were very satisfied or completely satisfied with their experience, compared with 58 percent of chain store customers.
The one drug chain that nearly equaled the scores of independent stores was The Medicine Shoppe, which is actually a franchise, meaning that its outlets are locally-owned and operated.
The survey did find that internet pharmacies and mass merchandisers often have lower prices, but customers wait longer and receive less personal attention and heath information. Chain drugstores, such as CVS and Walgreens, had the highest prices, higher than independents.