Mini-Rumination: Chain Drug Stores, Enemies of the Environment

The Curmudgeon is no tree-hugger.  Yes, he recycles diligently, makes a point of turning off the lights in rooms he’s not using, and only runs his washing machine and dishwasher when they’re full, but he doesn’t see a Prius in his future, doesn’t select his fruit based on how close to home it was grown, and has no plans to calculate his carbon footprint in this or any other lifetime.  Still, he likes to think he’s doing his part, at least in a small way, not to leave too much of a mess behind when his time finally comes.

He wishes he could say the same for some of the national drug store chains.

The national drug store chains like to tell us that they care about our health, but as long as they continue to sell cigarettes, we know that’s not true.  Companies that care about their customers’ health do not sell tobacco-filled death sticks; companies that care more about their bottom line do.

Now comes evidence that at least some of those chains also are enemies of the environment.

The Curmudgeon had noticed in the past year or two that the paper receipts some of the national drug store chains give their customers are rather long – in some cases, alarmingly long.  After wondering whether this was merely his imagination, he decided to conduct a scientific study.  The Curmudgeon visited each of the three major drug store chains in his area and assessed their receipts using cutting-edge technology:  the twelve-inch ruler he’s owned since his parents bought it for him when he entered first grade.

On January 24, at his neighborhood Rite Aid, The Curmudgeon purchased two items:  a chocolate bar (Cadbury milk chocolate – yum!) and a container of lotion to give his bald scalp a modest but unmistakable glow.  The cost of his purchase was $8.89.  Rite Aid issued a receipt that was seventeen-and-three-quarters inches long – for just two items!

On January 20, at his neighborhood CVS – located directly across the street from the aforementioned Rite Aid (because every neighborhood needs two large drug stores right across the street from one another), The Curmudgeon purchased a Belgian chocolate bar (because they were out of Cadbury) and a can of iced tea.  The price was $6.28, and CVS issued a receipt that was twenty-two-and-three-quarter inches long.

A few days later, The Curmudgeon visited the closest Walgreens to his home and purchase a roll of packing tape for $4.06.  Walgreens issued a receipt of four-and-seven-eighth inches.

And a few days after that The Curmudgeon visited his regular drug store, an independent, and was issued a three-inch receipt – but only after being asked if he even wanted a receipt.

Clearly, something is going on with the Rite Aid and CVS people.  They’re wasting vast amounts of paper and contributing to overflowing landfills with enormous receipts that cannot possibly be justified.  The Curmudgeon looked into the potential justification for it, too.  He spoke to a Rite Aid store manager, who shrugged his shoulders in embarrassment and said it was his impression that the company felt the receipts were a good opportunity to communicate with customers.  Judging by the number of crumpled receipts he saw on the ground just outside the store, The Curmudgeon suspected that this opportunity to communicate was not being realized – but that perhaps it was creating employment opportunities for the people who sweep drug store parking lots.

Still curious, The Curmudgeon contacted Rite Aid’s district manager by email.  She said she felt the company was very interested in the environment, the matter of the more-than-foot-long receipts notwithstanding.

The Curmudgeon knew better than to attempt to contact anyone at CVS.  If the store he occasionally visits is any indication, it’s a miracle the company is still in business at all.  The idea of finding someone intelligent there with whom to discuss this matter is ludicrous.  The Curmudgeon’s neighborhood CVS is so uninterested in cleanliness and the environment that it even removed its one and only trash can from the exterior of its store, as The Curmudgeon noticed recently when he crumpled up a foot-long receipt and looked for an appropriate place to throw it, only to end up stowing it in his own pocket instead.

So the lesson is a simple one:  since most people now seem to have prescription drug plans and the price is the same no matter where you go, steer clear of Rite Aid and CVS if you care about such environmental concerns because these companies are tone deaf (and dumb) and apparently oblivious to what’s going on in the world around them.  Walgreens is a better choice, and even better still is your neighborhood independent pharmacy.  Many of them even deliver!