Walgreens Buys Duane Reade, But New Yorkers Ask Will the Service Get Better Anytime Soon?

By DNAinfo Staff on February 17, 2010 4:43pm  | Updated on February 17, 2010 5:09pm

Walgreens announced its purchase of Duane Reade on Wednesday.
Walgreens announced its purchase of Duane Reade on Wednesday.
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Flickr/Esthr

By Nina Mandell

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

New York-based chain Duane Reade will keep its name despite its purchase by Walgreens, but will workers keep their attitude?

In an informal survey of five drugstores on the Upper East Side, DNAinfo found better service at Walgreens than Duane Reade, especially at the cash register.

The most glaring example of poor customer service came at a Duane Reade on Second Avenue in Midtown, where a reporter went to purchase Cadbury Eggs and tampons.

While the reporter was correctly directed by a helpful worker to the tampons, when checking out, the reporter put merchandise on the counter, only to be greeted by the sight of a worker’s tongue ring — as she yawned. When she glanced up from texting on her cell phone, she tried to ring up our candy, only to find it was already partly opened.

“I’m not selling you this! Get another one,” she said, though not unkindly. When the reporter came back with the correct candy, the cashier put the items in a bag silently, looking annoyed.

At another Duane Reade branch on First Avenue, DNAinfo wandered around aimlessly, trying purposely to look lost. The effort was lost on the only worker present on the floor of the store — a pharmacy worker, who was talking to the cashier and singing “I want RICOLA,” while looking at the candy.

When a reporter went to complete a purchase, the cashier first had to hang up on a personal phone conversation.

By contrast, at Walgreens on Second Avenue, DNAinfo was not only given correct directions to the merchandise, but also offered an extra bag to mask the potentially embarrassing tampon box. Even more impressive, at a Walgreens on First Avenue, a worker immediately greeted customers by asking if they needed help finding something.

The one slip-up from Walgreens came during our visit to the Second Avenue store, when DNAinfo asked a harried worker for help locating Cadbury Eggs.

“We don’t have Cadbury Eggs,” she replied. “Just regular eggs.”

On the blog I Hate Duane Reade: Service From Hell, news of the sale was greeted with glee. The headline read: "BREAKING NEWS: Walgreens EATS Duane Reade for Breffest." One commenter responded, "Death to the monster." Another, "Yayyyyyy."

DNAinfo tried calling Duane Reade's Midtown West headquarters at 5:20 p.m. Wednesday, but was unable to get a human being on the phone.

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