Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Moment in Blackness at Walgreens

The following is a copy of a complaint I sent to Walgreens in response to sub par treatment I recently received from this business. I would like to dedicate this post to my friends who believe we live in a post racial society. Yes, even your friend Francesca gets discriminated against. And now a moment in blackness...

Dear Walgreens,
I have been as patient as a customer can be with the pharmacy at your store on Church Avenue and E. 21st in Brooklyn, NY (11226.)
On June 26th I dropped off several prescriptions to the pharmacy. My dermatologist prescribed a few items that were not 100% covered by my insurance. I was fully aware of this and more than prepared to pay for the items necessary for my wellness. During my first visit (Wednesday, June 26th) a young female attendant (fairly young, looks like a West Indian of East Indian descent) scanned the prescriptions written by my dermatologist, typed data into the computer, and gave me the grand total. She was really nice, warning me that most of what I needed would have to be ordered so it would take a while to arrive. This was completely acceptable, since your pharmacy is small and one of the products I needed is fairly new and isn’t widely advertized.
On Friday, June 28th, my second trip to the pharmacy,  I dropped off another prescription from another doctor and went in to pick up my first order. On this day the young lady was accompanied by a tall, thick man with a lab coat. He had dark hair and light (not white skin.) I assume he is Latino or of Mediterranean ancestry.  While she input my new prescription, the man glanced at the screen, made a surprised face and said something to the tune of, “That is expensive. You sure you have the money to pay for it?” I was taken aback and responded, but calmly responded “Yes, the young lady here discussed the cost with me the other day.” I smiled and walked off, but deep inside I was fuming. How dare you ask that question to a customer, especially with the tone accompanying his statement? I really didn't have time to call him out on his lack of professionality; I was already late for work.
On the 30th I entered the store with every intention of picking up my remaining order. My third trip to Walgreens, however, was as unsuccessful as the one before. A tall, Asian man assisted me on this day. As he finished scanning my order I saw that it came up short of what the young lady told me it would be. Instantly I knew what happened because the “expensive” treatment didn't show up in my order. I ask why it was not ordered. I turned in the prescription and saw her scan it. What was going on? He replied, “It must not have been ordered because of its high cost.” I snapped at him, “If I ordered it, I can afford it,” swiped my card, grabbed my items, and left. Same treatment, different day, different associates. Is this the Walgreens way: make assumptions about affordability to clients based on physical appearance?
I visited Walgreens once again on July 3rd. Knots began forming in my stomach as I approached the store. My temperature began to rise as I walked to the pharmacy in the back of the store. I was relieved to see a black, female face (one that was relatable to mine) behind the counter. I asked her to check for my prescription. After reviewing my history she informed me that I had no pending orders. I repeat, after three visits the prescription was still not ordered! This last visit confirmed my suspicions of being discriminated against. I expressed my frustrations to the woman on register at pharmacy, going out of my way to assure her that I was just venting and was in no way attacking her personally. She assured me she understood. After speaking with the pharmacist in the back she told me my order would be ready for pick up on Friday, July 5th after 2 p.m. Feeling like the issue had been resolved I thanked her kindly, wished her a good day only to have her cut me off and ask it I was aware of the price. Did I not just go through this whole explanation of how everyone I spoke to didn’t put my order in because they didn’t think I could afford the medication? Surely this twisted way of dealing with customers, the lack of listening skills, professional courtesy, and blatant discrimination seems to be rampant at the Church Avenue and East 21st Street branch of your store. This is highly unacceptable and I do not have to tolerate it.
The contents of my pockets were assumed based on my color and my geographic location. After I fill this prescription and exhaust my refills I will take my business elsewhere, not even to Duane Reade, as I am aware of your recent merger. I do not deserve to be treated like a second class citizen based on the ignorant assumptions of others. I do deserve an apology. Walgreens, I’ll wait, but I won’t hold my breath. In addition to sending copies of this letter to the Church Avenue store, headquarters, and filing a complaint online, I have also posted this letter to my blog, as well as to,, and to in hopes that sharing my experience improves the service your employees provide to customers, especially in Flatbush, my neighborhood.
FHB, MS Urban Policy (The New School)