5 Reasons Walgreens Has Faced Backlash From Shoppers This Year
The retailer has found itself in hot water over and over again in 2022.
Walgreens' popularity in the U.S. is hard to deny. With almost 9,000 retail locations and a daily customer count of nearly 9 million, the drugstore chain's reach in the country falls short to only one rival: CVS Pharmacy. But despite its clear success, Walgreens has managed to miss the mark with shoppers time and again recently. In just the past year alone, the company has found itself at the center of a number of controversies that have earned substantial backlash from customers and even calls for boycotts. Read on to learn more about why Walgreens has been under fire in 2022.
Shoppers called for a boycott of Walgreens in February over political donations.
In mid-February, the hashtag #BoycottWalgreens started trending on Twitter after consumers learned of certain political donations made by the company, Newsweek reported. According to the magazine, the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released a report on Feb. 18, alleging that disclosures from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) indicated that Walgreens had made a total of $25,500 worth contributions to 11 members of Congress who were part of the Sedition Caucus—a group of U.S. Senators and Representatives who voted against the certification of Joe Biden's 2020 presidential election win.
The CREW report indicated that the donations were made in Nov. 2021, months after Walgreens told Insider in Jan. 2021 that the company had suspended contributions to Congress members who voted against the certifications due to Walgreens' "high regard" for the "peaceful transition of power." Many customers' asserted that the company's continued donations were an endorsement of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. "I don't have to walk into a place that supports insurrection," one Twitter user wrote at the time.
In March, the company faced backlash for a major change in stores.
The next month, Walgreens customers expressed frustration with the company for non-political reasons. In March, the drugstore chain started switching out its clear fridge and freezer doors at thousands of its stores in favor of opaque doors with digital screens, CNN Business reported. The only problem? Many customers were outraged by the apparent upgrade.
"NOBODY needs TV screen replacing doors in your cooler aisles…. Stop," one user wrote to Walgreens on Twitter. Others noted that the new doors made for a frustrating user experience: "The digital cooler screens at Walgreens made me watch an ad before it allowed me to know which door held the frozen pizza," one customer said in a tweet.
Walgreens was sued over gift card sales in April.
In April, a consumer lawsuit was filed against Walgreens in an Illinois district court over concerns surrounding its sale of gift cards, according to Top Class Actions. Plaintiff Jacques Calixte sued the company, alleging that Walgreens both fails to implement safeguards for its gift cards and to warn customers that gift cards bought at the chain are not adequately protected against theft.
According to the suit, Calixte claims that in Nov. 2020 he purchased three Vanilla Visa gift cards worth $150 in Florida but did not immediately use them because he had "misplaced them." When checking the balance on them in March 2022, only one reportedly still had its full value of $150, while the other two had values of $0 and $5 due to transactions Calixte claims he could not have made.
Walgreens fails to "adequately train" and require employees to regularly inspect gift cards for "evidence of tampering, such as crooked security tape, scrape marks from tape removal, non-factory security tape and tape residue edge marks from original security tape," the lawsuit alleged. And Calixte is not the only shopper who called out Walgreens for this issue.
"This past Christmas I purchased six $100.00 gift cards from Walgreens—four were worthless, only two were good," another consumer wrote on Top Class Actions' website. "I was so embarrassed and humiliated when I got phone calls from family members saying 'ha ha good joke.' I went back to Walgreen's [sic] but they did not give my [sic] any help."
The drugstore company also faced backlash for allegedly overcharging customers.
Also in April, the Franklin Journal, a newspaper based in Farmington, Maine, reported that several Walgreens locations in various parts of the state had started administering a recycling fee. Then in July, NewsChannel 9, an ABC-affiliate in Syracuse, New York, reported that at least four Walgreens stores in Central New York were issuing the extra charge. The added fee is meant to be a bottle deposit based on bottle deposit laws from both states, but many customers have claimed they are being overcharged for it.
NewsChannel 9 reported that some Walgreens customers in New York are being charged another 5-cent fee in addition to the state-mandated 5-cent deposit. And the Franklin Journal revealed that consumers were being charged 15 cents—which is three times the deposit amount set by the state of Maine—for "recycling fees" at Walgreens stores.
"The deposit is set by the Legislature so you can't just increase it to 15 cents," Scott Wilson, the project manager of sustainability for Maine's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), explained to the Franklin Journal. "You have to be able to get your 15 cents back, so that wouldn't be a deposit."
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Shoppers are now threatening to boycott Walgreens again.
A controversial Walgreens policy has recently left a sour taste in many shoppers' mouths. The hashtag #BoycottWalgreens started trending again on Twitter in July following reports that employees were refusing to sell certain products to shoppers. One couple claimed a Walgreens cashier in Wisconsin refused to sell them condoms because of his "faith," according to a viral Twitter thread. That same week, a 21-year-old woman posted a TikTok detailing a situation in which a Walgreens pharmacist refused to refill her birth control prescription, despite having multiple refills left.
"I will boycott Walgreens which means that I will have to avoid the one in the town that I live, as well as the one in the town where I work," one person tweeted on July 18. "I will drive 20 minutes to get to a CVS. An employee does not get to make a moral judgement regarding my purchases."
Despite calls for a Walgreens boycott, the company confirmed that it has a policy allowing employees to refuse to fulfill certain orders based on their beliefs. "Instances like this are very rare and our policies are designed to ensure we meet the needs of our patients and customers while respecting the religious and moral beliefs of our team members," a Walgreens spokesperson previously told Best Life. "In the instance a team member has a religious or moral conviction that prevents them from meeting a customer need, we require them to refer the customer to another employee or manager on duty who can complete the transaction."