Friday, September 30, 2011

It's a Miracle You're Still In Business - Thanks Walgreens Bail Out!

So BusinessWeek profiled the DR and spent 20 minutes on the phone with me for the article. Nothing I said made it in, but it was a fluff piece about DR's new lipstick-on-a-pig campaign, so as expected.

Also? Just because this blog is now #6 in search terms versus #1 doesn't mean people like your pharmacy. It means we've focused on other projects that aren't as depressing and haven't created new articles. Pretty much SEO 101.

Pretty sad when you use the measure of THIS spiteful blog as your benchmark for success.

"The layouts were labyrinthine and the merchandise disorganized. The staff was so famously sullen that the blog “I Hate Duane Reade: Service from Hell” used to come up first when Googling the company. In 2007, New York magazine asked the actress Martha Plimpton, a lifelong resident of the city, what she hated most about living there. “The dead-eyed pharmacy people at Duane Reade,” she said. “It’s always a journey into the heart of darkness.”


"Duane Reade still has some transforming to do. This year it again ranked last among pharmacies in customer service, as measured by J.D. Power. Its score did improve, though, something that’s never happened in the five years the survey has been taken. Duane Reade executives prefer another ranking, which measures how likely it is that a customer will refer someone to the chain; on that score, Duane Reade says it has improved 150 percent since 2008.

Then there’s the informal score: The I Hate Duane Reade blog went quiet after Walgreens bought the chain. These days, if you Google Duane Reade, the blog comes up sixth."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: Walgreens EATS Duane Reade for Breffesst


(via Gawker)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Gentler Sox

Is this the dawn of sexist pricing? Because what I'm seeing here is:

One pair of plain, white, low cut Women's Kushyfoot socks for $4.19.

And right next to them? THREE pairs of plain, white, low cut Men's Kushyfoot socks for $4.99.

Who's fault is this? Kushyfoot's MRSP? Duane's fleecing tactics? Discuss.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rules of Supply and Demand

When there's no demand for your product - put that shit on sale.

Oh and why is there empty space at the bottom? Half went over to an end cap (the beginning of an aisle) for 'special promotion'. Don't fool yourself - sparkling kool aid ain't selling.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

You Want Feedback? I Think I Can Help.

Checked my Twitter feed (@ihateduanereade, come spread happiness with me) and stumbled upon this little nugget of joy:

DR_DuaneReade: Thanks for your message ... looking forward to working with you and addressing your challenges and def welcome your feedback ... thank you!

(Damn. I forgot that I have my feed on temporary auto-message, which sent our friend a little note from yours truly.)

Oh, Brian. Let me share the challenges me and the IHDR readers face. As for 'feedback'? You have this blog to play with.

1. This re-branding of Duane Reade, while very bright and shiny, doesn't cover up the fact there are systematic issues with your drugstores. The old 'lipstick on a pig' solution doesn't work.

2. The heart of this blog and the subject of 99% of the complaints about DR is your STAFF. They are not happy, therefore they treat us like assholes. It's like the classic abuse cycle. Pay them more, change their hours, give them incentives, whatever it takes. Don't just hire more staff, or fancy staff, like the skin care girl who stands there drinking her morning smoothie (yeah, I saw you in the Herald Square location). Hire managers who motivate, not intimidate.

Side note: I'm not excusing the idiot customer here, as there are some champion douchebags out there. However, customers don't make money off of the way they treat employees. Businesses make money off of giving, at least, satisfactory service for payment.

3. Your pharmacy. I can't even begin to get into this. Stop losing our prescriptions, hiring bored, inattentive staff to man the front counter, lying about policies (ex. how you can't transfer scripts between branches more than 3 times, but invite website users to do so for every medication via your website. I'm looking at you, 86th Street.), and how long it will take to get our prescriptions.

Also? Pick up your damn phone.

4. Your cashier line. I see with the new stores you have a nice little cattle corral, with which to coordinate your customers into one orderly line. But the other 80% of your stores still have a row of cashieR, who is unwilling to make eye contact with the very confused double line of people, and who most certainly won't make the effort to say 'hi folks - one line only, please.'

5. Where the hell is your manager? He's certainly not helping when morning rush hits and there are four employees rearranging cigarette boxes, while an angry mob gives up and discards their purchases in the candy shelves - in favor of making it to work on time and keeping jobs.

Yeah, I make it sound soooooo easy, don't I? Well, if you took some of your budget and applied it to staff training and layout efficiency programs, there wouldn't be a need for pretty, shiny colors...or thousands of laminated, earth-unfriendly, 'Duane Readers' that will only end up strewn across the sidewalk and stuck under the security guy's shoe.

Thanks, Brian, for 'working' with me. I'm sure we'll have some great conversations. Oh, and if marketing for Duane Reade doesn't pan out after the holiday season (because let's face it, this is only a 4th quarter push and most likely not a long term investment), maybe the old guy behind the photo counter will let you take over.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Duane Tries a Little 'That's What She Said'...Fails.

Click on image for larger version. Heh.

Update: Brian is BACK!

Remember this post, where we'd discovered that Duane Reade's Twitter feed was a bit lacking in skill, updates, life signs, customer service? The last time they'd posted was in late May and seemed a bit confused as how to handle the rush of customer DMs and @replies.

Well, "Brian's" back, ya'll!

@duane_reade started to show signs of life on October 28th and a new Twitter addy @dr_DuaneReade has been added. Both are run by poor Brian. I wouldn't want that job. Once people catch wind that you are available for comments and questions, it ain't gonna be pretty.

Anyone want to place bets on how long they will last? Will they follow 'IHDR' (@ihateduanereade - feel free to show your love)? More to come, my fellow victims.

UPDATE: We're being followed on Twitter by Brian himself. What should we ask?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Delish Taste Test: The Elegant Dinner Party

One of the perks of being friends with a snarky consumer blogger is they'll show up to a dinner party, armed with pharmacy-brand snack chips and beg you to try them.

Today's review is of Duane's Creamy Ranch Soy Crisps. I really wanted to review these on my own and not subject others to my ridiculous hobby. But every time I opened up the cabinet and saw the bag, I wrinkled my face (even more) and quickly grabbed something else. Remember that scene in Pee Wee's Big Adventure when there's a fire at the pet store and he keeps avoiding saving the snakes because of his complete disdain for the slimy things? Yeah, that.

Can someone tell me who the hell is their packager? I mean, I get the Statue of Liberty branding and even the phallus-shaped salt shaker on the baked chips, but a chick in a soy crisp skirt? Is she someone's niece who needed something for her portfolio? I'm totally picturing this poor girl sitting down at an agency with this moment of elegance: 'This is my commercial look. I'm giving a kind of hey-bite-my-skirt vibe.'

On to the testing. The victims today are all six of us dinner guests and hosts. I've told them before they partake that they should be honest and not feel compelled to hate them, as is trend with this blog.

Their reactions were interesting.

Mike: (sniffs bag) Smells like peanuts at my grandparents' house.

Ernio: There IS a weird cardboard smell...I'm very afraid.

Joe: (turning the crisp over) Now, where does the 'creamy' part come in? I'm not tasting any ranch here. I have to have another to figure this out. Oh wait, there's an herb.

Claire: (scrunched up face)

Greg: Not bad. I'm not a big rice cake fan, but this is ok, they all taste like cardboard.

Claire: My mouth was sealed shut.

Mike: This tastes like off-brand puffed rice cereal with salt and ranch flavoring. Made my body hair fall out.

Joe: (checks bag) Maybe they're already expired?

We tried them again, this time dipping them into actual ranch dressing. While I believe anything that serves as a vehicle for cream-based dip gets an automatic pass, this was definitely pushing it.

Final vote: Duane Reade 1, IHDR 5

Star rating for the hell of it: 1 star out of a possible 5.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

This Just In: Lady Liberty Peddles Spicy Cajun Trail Mix

Is Duane Reade violating a UPC code rule by stretching it out into a Statue of Liberty shape? I'm assuming not, though I wouldn't put it past them. But I can guarantee they're in violation of my taste bud laws.

IHDR reader Scott writes:
I don't know if this counts as a horrible retail experience or just as horrible plagiarism. The new packaging for DR house-branded items uses a Universal Product Code as a design element ...

Well, it seems that there is a standard UPC use (here via Wikipedia), but when have we seen Duane Reade follow any standards?


UPC-A Bar code symbols can be printed at various densities to accommodate variety of printing and scanning processes. The significant dimensional parameter is called X-dimension, the ideal width of single module element. The X-dimension has to be constant in UPC-A symbol. The width of each bar (dark bar) and space (light bar) is determined by multiplying the X-dimension by the module width of each dark bar or light bar (1,2,3, or 4).

The X-dimension for the UPC-A at the nominal size is 0.33 mm (0.013 in.). UPC-A can be reduced or magnified in the range of 80% to 200%.

Nominal symbol height for UPC-A is 25.9 mm (1.0 in.).

Quiet zone (light margin)

The minimum Quiet Zone width required by the UPC-A bar code symbol is 9 x X-dimension on both the left and right sides. UPC-E requires 9 X-dimension units on the left side and 7 on the right. (Source; UPC Symbol Specification Manual).

Barcode text

Exactly 12 digits must be printed below the UPC-A barcode.

Yep, I don't know what the hell they're saying either. Best I can surmise: there's a standard, though there's a little bit of breathing room when it comes to sizing. I don't see a 'Statue of Liberty' clause here, so maybe they've found a loophole.

(Thanks, Scott, for the head's up)

Friday, November 6, 2009

This Just In: Pharmacy Woes

Poor Kayan. Trying to get a prescription at the DR only to be met with harassment and hours of waiting. Sound familiar?

I am a long time Duane Reade customer, but today was the first time I left a prescription at the pharmacy to be filled. Though there were several people working, it took quite a few minutes to get the attention of an employee. The clerk took the prescription, asked how it would be paid for, told me that the cost would be $105.00 and that I should come back in one hour. When I asked why a simple prescription which involved placing 5 packets in a bag and making a bill would take such a long time, the clerk said that the processing and the customer volume (the place was nearly empty) would take time.

I returned 1 1/2 hours later to find there were no employees at the 'pick up' line, though several walked about in the pharmacy and one was browsing the aisles and talking to people while drinking a Dunkin Donuts Iced coffee.

I attracted the attention of an employee and asked where I should stand to pick up a prescription. I was told they was only one line open (mostly for people purchasing tissues and laxatives and such). The employee drinking the coffee returned, I asked for my prescription and was told "You have to wait! All these people have been waiting a long time! It's that way everyplace, you just have to wait!" I asked for the prescription back and said I would have it filled somewhere else, to which the employee replied,"Why do you want to do that? Just wait like everyone else! It is already ready but you have to wait for it!". I repeated my request for the prescription order, and left amid angry mutterings from other customers, "Why don't you wait?!?" I have waited over 3 1/2 hours!.

I went to another pharmacy a block away on 181 St., was told to come back in 20 minutes, and was given the identical product for which I was charged $54.00! I will never use a Duane Reade Pharmacy again.

I'd have to agree (surprised?). 3 1/2 hours of repeated requests for updates, assistance, and the damn prescription is just not worth it. And, for the record, this letter was sent to Duane Reade via their website. No response yet (still surprised?)

What do you guys think?

(Thanks to Kayan for the head's up)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

How Duane Reade Sets Up Their Displays

with Post-Its! Pink ones!

There were a few of these around the 86th / Lex location. This one says:


tie in DR baby wipes

Popcorn end cap
to vitamin water

::puts on Beatnik beret:: that is some hep poetry, Duane.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Overheard In the DR: Bored Security Guard Edition

Security guard: I hate it when there's nothing to do all day.

Cashier: Today's been good, though. Hectic. Lot of people robbing us.

--Duane Reade

(via Overheard In New York)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Duane Reade 'Delish' Taste Test: Turkey Gouda Mini Bites

During my trip to Duane Reade Herald Square, I thought I would pick up one of their fresh 'food' items. I tried to find something that ran the least risk of running to the ladies' room and I came across these:

That's right - Turkey Gouda Mini Bites. Ingredients: Smoked Turkey, Gouda, Lettuce, Tomato, Mayo. Ok, this look promising.

Wait - these things are fucking mini. They weren't kidding. And holy shit - 560 calories?! For WHAT?!! What, do they soak the turkey in Burger King juice?!

Skimpy. I believe I found only two hints of tomato out of six portions. Hmmm...what would I do to improve upon these? Something more filling than six pieces of wrap lightly kissed by meat product. Ah, here we go:

Final Vote: -5 for Duane Reade, 1 for IHDR.
Star Rating for the hell of it: 1 Star. Ed McMahon is rolling in his grave.

I Survived Duane Reade Herald Square

As promised, I took a trip to the new Duane Reade in Herald Square. I really wasn't expecting too much to complain about, after all, this is probably where they've been spending all of their money. Rather than beefing up cashier training and pharmacy coordination, that is.

Duane Reade...brought to you by the $3.00 ATM fee. Let me find a better angle.

Ok, here we go. Nice new branding, all that jazz. Location's good - it's catty-corner (kitty-corner?) to Macy's so it's great for trapping the tourists.

When you walk in, the first thing that comes to mind is suburban grocery store meets hospital. Everything is bright white and spotless. This is to be expected, after all, they just opened a little over a week ago. On the first level there's food, cold items, beer, and something they're calling 'Apartment Living'. That's just a nice way of saying 'Here's some stuff to clean your shoebox of an apartment.'

I immediately went upstairs, understanding from all the blog postings that this is where the magic happens. And holy balls, it's fucking Sephora. The entire layout is exactly like Sephora, but what's hilarious is even minor items, like hand soap, get the well-lit row with brand names on top of the shelves. The staff upstairs is dressed in all black...again, the Sephora uniform. Very interesting.

The other thing that you notice right away is that you can't turn down an aisle without at least two DR workers stocking shelves or moving items around to look busy. This is why I wasn't able to take interior photos - the place was crawling with employees. Good plan. There is one cashier during the 4:30p rush on Park Ave. South, but Herald Square needs a dude rearranging baby wipes full time. I get it.

Speaking of aisles, they're getting all fancy-like and chose a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote to tempt you into buying hand cream. On the display: 'Beauty without grace is like the hook without the bait.' Ah, the fish reference. Gets me every time.

After about five minutes of walking in a circle, I feigned interest in a product on display called 'Perfect Cleavage Cream'. A young man saddles up next to me and says triumphantly 'this is also sold at Barney's.' This is true - I checked. I asked him and his co-worker, a woman with handy makeup fanny pack, whether they were trying to copy Sephora in their layout. Their response was a look at each other, an awkward chortle, and a decisive 'NO'. But, they tell me I should take advantage of their in-store events, which happen daily, and they give makeovers.

Dear readers, there are some things I am terrified to do and it usually involves Duane Reade employees touching my face.

As I was leaving, I picked up one of their 'mini wrap' sandwiches (taste test post TK), and passed a decorative table display of Brownie Pops with the sign 'What I Need Now'. Yes, Duane, what America needs is a table of diabetes.

All-in-all, if you want to brave the tourists and hit up Herald Square's DR, you should. You'll only appreciate it more because of the ten-cent versions you have in your neighborhood.

UPDATE: DrugstoreNews has a good slideshow of interiors. Enjoy.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Duane Reade 'Delish' Taste Test: Grande Chunk Cookies

Originally, I'd hoped to have a group full of Halloween partiers take part in this taste test. But. I left the cookies at home. Yeah, grande chunk fail.

Slap on wrist over. On to the taste test.

These are called 'Grande Chunk Belgian Chocolate Chip & Chunk Cookies (made with creamery butter)'. And there's a tag line: 'Bright Lights BIG Cookie'. Alright Duane, we get it. These are big ass cookies.


Alright, Duane. These are standard size cookies.

Sigh - a little annoying, but it's still a cookie and my four-year old self didn't earn my iron-on cookie monster sparkle t-shirt for nothing. Cookies and I speak the same language: nom-ish. I'll also accept nom-ese.

Tasters are the usual suspects: me and the BF.

Me: So what did you think?

BF: Meh. There was no flavor and they were super dry.

Me: What about the chocolatey factor?

BF: ::waves hand:: Pfffft.

And there you have it. In my opinion, they were exactly like Chips Ahoy, but a bit bigger. The cookie was definitely crummy (not as in 'sucks', but as in 'have to clean my couch'), but was an ok sweet chocolate cookie. I'm a little partial to chewy cookies myself, so I guess other would like this crispy version of the classic.

And PS: They're really liking this alkali stuff - it's in the chocolate liquor, which is the third ingredient.

Final vote: 1/2 Duane Reade, 1 1/2 for IHDR

Star Rating for the hell of it: 2 Stars. If it's in the house, I'll eat it, but I'm not buying these again.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Duane Reade 'Delish' Taste Test: Scrumptious Brownie Bites

Looking a bit like meatballs, no?

Ok. Today's taste testers are me and the BF. No cat again today - chocolate is no good for felines.

I'm a little annoyed already (surprise face) because they have a 'best before' notice on the package...but clearly they don't label the freshness at the point of packaging. They wait until it gets to the fucking store and then JimBob or whoever tags it with a sticker gun with whatever date they feel like.


Sorry, my iPhone camera was zeeking out and not focusing. But you get my point: 'Best Before' has no date next to it. Sticker loosely posted on the packaging says 11/28/09. Therefore, if it's dusty, stay the fuck away from them.

On to the tasting. There are only four to a package, which isn't so bad, but I was surprised. Maybe because whenever I'm ready to eat brownies, there's a tray involved.

BF: Hmmm...not bad. Ok wait, there's a funky aftertaste.

Me: Yeah, like I sucked on a nickel and then ate a brownie.

BF: Yeah, like an alkali taste (note: BF is supersmart, so him referencing 'alkali' is not me padding the story).

Me Checking the Ingredients: Holy shit. Egg, Corn Syrup, Cocoa Powder - PROCESSED WITH ALKALI! Ew.

Me Eating Another: You just have to keep eating them to get rid of the aftertaste. That's how they getcha.

Final vote: 0 for Duane Reade, 2 for IHDR.
Star rating for the hell of it: 2 stars out of 5.

Next up will be Chocolate Chunk cookies I'm bringing to a Halloween party. Will be good to get a group opinion.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Duane Reade 'Delish' Taste Test: White Chocolate Drizzles

Alrighty - today's taste test is all about taking something relatively healthy, like a multigrain rice cake, and slather some chocolate all over it. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

In this case, we're tasting white chocolate multigrain DRIZZLES. Fo-shizzle. Why there's a fork and knife bookending the plate on the packaging, I'm not too sure. Is this a meal replacement? Should we be using utencils? Are Drizzles considered fine dining-zzle?

My judges are my piano teacher, Doug, and the BF.

Doug was with me when I opened the bag and took a deep sniff. What. I sniff my food. Stop judging me. Anyway, the odor whooshing from the bag was overwhelmingly maple-y. Like a maple fart.

So Doug tried it first and although he was initially put off by the 'scent,' he said he liked it. Ok - one for Duane.

The BF tried it just now and said 'Not bad.' Right. Two for Duane.

My turn. Hey, these aren't as horrifying as their moniker (which, by the by, is reminiscent of Dad trying to be 'hip' and 'withit' at my 13th birthday party). Think rice pops with a little white chocolate, but crunchier.

Damn Duane 3, IHDR 0. That's ok - they're pretty good. I wouldn't rate them up there with my current obsession, which are Sweet and Sour Twizzlers. But I'd grab them if I was craving a sweet cereal-like treat.

Final vote: 3 Duane Reade, 0 for IHDR
Star rating for the hell of it: 4 1/2 stars out of 5

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I'm Gonna Vom...Duane Reade Launches Upscale Makeup Department

Are you kidding with this?

MSMPR 24 Seven has posted a pretty in depth photo montage of Duane's new powder room in their new Herald Square location. Will you take a look at this wide shot and tell me you see our friendly-neighborhood DR Cashiers manning this shit? Seriously.

I'm all for saving money, but this is yet another 'dress on a cockroach' situation.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Duane Reade 'Delish' Taste Test: Cashew Crunch

Tonight's treat is DeLisH's All Natural Cashew Crunch. I'm feeling pretty optimistic about this one because for me, you can wrap a cashew with fiberglass and I'd still eat it. The bar's pretty low.

Before we start, let's look at the marketing:

'These crunchy little morsels are Slowly Dry-Roasted [why are these capitalized?] with a pinch of sea salt, lightly glazed with sweetness, then lovingly [...] packaged to guarantee freshness.'

Isn't that precious? Oh and check out the HEALTHY BENEFITS:
  • All Natural
  • 100% Vegan
  • Gluten Free
  • Kosher
  • Wheat-Free
  • Cholesterol-Free
  • No Preservatives
  • Dairy-Free
  • Contains No Peanuts
Are we still eating food here?

Alright, enough jibba-jabba. Judges are just me and the BF tonight - can't really feed the cat sugared cashews. Anyway, we're digging in.

Boyfriend: Hmmm...that's nice. Like the roasted nut cart on the corner, but nice. It's clearly not health food. But I'm surprised...definitely not the rice cakes from Hell.

Me? Yeah, I like it. It's really pretty good. Damn you, Duane. You win this round.

Final vote: 2 Duane Reade, 0 IHDR.
Star rating: 4 out of 5 stars. (Come on, Ed McMahon didn't give these out lightly, so neither am I.)