5 Warnings to Shoppers From Ex-CVS Employees
Pharmacists say they're incredibly overworked, and that's not all you need to know.
The signature red color of CVS is taking on a new meaning, with former employees issuing several warnings to shoppers. Behind the shiny veneer of the pharmacy chain's discount programs and coupons, there are some major concerns you'll want to be aware of, from store cleanliness to price-gauging schemes to employee treatment. Read on for five behind-the-scenes alerts from ex-CVS employees.
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Stores and pharmacies may not be as clean as you'd hope.
A former CVS employee took to the press to reveal how infrequently certain parts of the store are cleaned. In an interview with The Sun, they said, "The shelves are super dusty and dirty. We would have to clean them and it was so gross." They blamed this on the fact that staff can only clean during their downtime, which isn't often.
Similarly, the ex-employee said that the trays pharmacists use to count prescriptions are not always washed between uses, a big no-no since "some medications can't be mixed or touched by other [medications]," they explain. Another snafu went viral on TikTok when a user posted a video of a pharmacist using non-gloved hands to fill her prescription after handling money in the cash register.
Pharmacy techs are overworked, which can lead to mistakes.
For the past few years, many CVS pharmacists have claimed to be burnt out. Even before the pandemic hit, the New York Times published an investigative report detailing how "understaffed and chaotic" many CVS pharmacies are. The story quoted an anonymous pharmacist who wrote to the Pennsylvania Board of Pharmacy: "The amount of busywork we must do while verifying prescriptions is absolutely dangerous. Mistakes are going to be made and the patients are going to be the ones suffering." Likewise, a North Carolina-based pharmacist who quit his job over the situation detailed to the Times how he had worked a 13-hour shift with no meal break and filled 552 prescriptions during that time, in addition to handling the phones and giving shots.
Earlier this year, the Times published a follow-up story that made clear how pharmacists were perhaps even more overworked due to Covid-19 vaccines and tests, as well as a nationwide labor shortage. To address the issue, in February 2022, the pharmacy department began closing daily from 1:30 pm to 2:00 p.m. for personnel to take a "pre-scheduled, uninterrupted lunch break," as a CVS spokesperson told Drug Store News. It's not clear if this has helped. A former employee wrote on Indeed in July 2022 that "workers [are] not given notice on schedule changes, expected to work past schedule hours, and unable to take breaks due to understaffing and unrealistic expectations."
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Beware of being overcharged for prescriptions.
In June 2022, a former senior CVS executive filed a whistleblower lawsuit that claimed CVS Health "intentionally prevented certain Medicare beneficiaries from accessing less expensive, generic prescriptions," according to MedCity News. The scheme, which was allegedly targeting elderly patients since 2015, resulted in the company garnering "astonishing profits for itself while passing the increased costs onto taxpayers and Part D beneficiaries," the complaint read.
This lawsuit puts CVS Caremark, the pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) for CVS Health, under scrutiny. PBMs are third-party entities that manage prescription drug benefits for large companies, but they're often criticized for the fact that they receive rebates from drug manufacturers.
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Think twice before signing up for CarePass.
CarePass is a CVS membership program that costs $5/month but also comes with a $10/month promotion. So if you take advantage of that perk, you're actually $5 ahead of the game. However, just like a gym membership, CarePass can become yet another subscription that you don't end up using, but the corporate strategy is to push employees to meet sign-up goals.
Entire Reddit threads are devoted to the pressure put on store workers to sell CarePass, which, in some cases, has caused them to resort to less-than-ethical tactics in order to keep their jobs. One commenter explained how his co-worker lies to elderly shoppers when the CarePass prompt appears on their checkout screens, telling them "it's just an upgrade to your ExtraCare card, it's free," when, in fact, it's only free for the first month.
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Don't have inappropriate photos printed.
CVS is known for its easy-to-use photo center, where customers can upload images via the website or the app and then just swing by to pick them up and pay. But if you're considering printing anything racy, think again. On TikTok, a CVS employee captioned her video: "idk how many times I have to say this. don't print your nudes at CVS i do in fact see every single one." You also run the risk of getting flagged by CVS, as their photo policy states that it "prohibits the uploading of adult or offensive content." Another TikTok user confirmed this, sharing a video about how she received a censorship notice from the store after trying to print "sensual photos" for her boyfriend.