Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hell on earth: Walgreen's sucks

I was in Walgreen’s the other day. I’m usually there a couple of times a day, even though it is one of my least favorite places in the world, and even though a terrible Walgreen’s store went in where a Rite Aid previously had existed across from my office. Although there are many terrible things about Walgreen’s, I have prepared a list of the top 5 terrible things:

1. The stupid products that are locked up. Many of the items for sale throughout the store are kept behind plastic cabinets that require a Walgreen’s employee to come and unlock a case with a key. On almost every aisle of the store, numerous key-access areas exist, requiring you to push a button. So, if I’m standing in the area for the stomach pills and it so happens that the brand of stomach medication I want is behind the plastic flap, I must push the button and listen to the chime and the recording of the old woman’s voice that echoes throughout the store: “Assistance needed in the Antacids Department.” An Antacids Department?

What is so infuriating is that some brands are behind plastic and others are not. The crappy Walgreens versions are often in the open, while the Prilosec is behind plastic. But not all of the Prilosec might be behind the plastic. Some sizes are too large or too small for the plastic, so those are just above it on the shelf. Once you push that button, and a sour Walgreen’s employee arrives to assist you [see more about sour Walgreen’s employees below], he or she pushes the same button and the voice says, “Antacids Department,” supposedly indicating that somewhere in the store, some poor soul with stomach issues has been approached by a Walgreen’s employee with a key. When I started to take two containers out and compare the ingredients, the guy sighed like “hurry up” and then finally said, “I don’t have much time.” I said it would just be a few minutes more and added an apology, but continued to compare the composition of the stomach pills.

Sometimes what is behind the plastic panel makes no sense: Crest is not but Colgate is. Vitamin E is not but Vitamin C is for one brand, and for another brand Vitamin E is and Vitamin C is not. The good news about some of the pills and products locked in the plastic key-access spaces: you can sometimes knock over a few containers of whatever’s adjacent to the case, and stick your hand into the locked area from the side. It means knocking over a few bottles of pills for $11.99 outside the case to reach your box of something for $3.99 inside. Sometimes it’s just easier than pushing the button and waiting.

2. The ugliness of Walgreens, whether it’s the “old” design or the “new and updated” store design. It feels old and dated. The uniforms are ugly. The logo is screamingly tacky. The store displays are ugly. The people who work there are ugly and unpleasant and have never smiled in their lives. And the people who shop there are really ugly.

3. The terribleness of Walgreens products. Need Sudafed? Buy Wal-fed. Looking for Claritin? They have Wal-itin. And Wal-dryl, Wal-tussin, Wal-act. In addition to the products that seem to have been named by a 50-year old woman who is a PTA volunteer in Deerfield, Illinois, they have created a number of fake “brands” that are really manufactured expressly for Walgreens including a line of stale peanuts, ‘European’ chocolate (Albania is in Europe), and dried fruit for $1 that tastes more like the added sugar and preservatives than the name of the fruit listed on the label. Many of their horrible products are actually marketed under the name Deerfield Farms. Do farms exist in Deerfield? Oh, and use your food stamps for some delish Walgreen’s Bridge Mix, Circus Peanuts, Peanut Clusters, and Walgreen’s Comfort Stretch training pants. They even sell their own Splenda-like product: delicious Walgreens Sucralose Sweetener Sugar Substitute in little yellow packets.

4. The awfulness of Walgreens coupons. Ok, so you’re browsing around the shitty Walgreen’s store and you see a sticker on the shelf under that can of toilet bowl cleaner that says ‘only $2.99 with instant savings coupon.’ Next to that is a bottle of dish detergent that says ‘only $2.99 with coupon in this week’s circular.’ Next to that is a can of powdered bleach that says ‘like spending $2.99 after the little crappy coupon is printed out at checkout so you can come back and save a buck on your next purchase.’ In the next aisle is a sign under some candy corn that says ‘2 for $5.00 (or $3.69 each).’ In order to get all of these savings, you have to run to the front of the store and pick up a circular and rip out the coupon, grab a copy of the monthly coupon savings catalog somewhere in the back of the store and take that powdered bleach to the front and buy it and hope that the sour Walgreens employee remembers to give you a coupon for one whopping dollar off your next purchase. And for the candy corn, you have to buy two to save any money, and if you happen to grab one bag of the Walgreen’s chocolate-flavored candy corn and one bag of the Walgreen’s banana-flavored candy corn and expected to pay $5.00, good luck to you because stock boy #1 only entered the banana-flavored candy corn into the computer system even though stock girl #2 put the savings labels under both. Basically, buying anything at Walgreen’s is a frigging ordeal if a coupon is involved.

5. The artificiality of it all. Nothing natural exists in the Walgreen’s store. If Alexander Hamilton were to appear and go shopping in San Francisco, I think the most shocking store he would set foot in would be Walgreen’s . Whether it’s the one at 3rd Street, 4th Street, or 5th Street, or any of the others a block away in any other direction, I think Mr. Hamilton would be mortified that the apothecary had become a bastion of artificial flavors and colors, and plastic-wrapped brightly colored boxes filled with chemicals for fat people to lose weight.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Something odd about this

I took this photo in Waikiki. I can imagine how appealing it might be for a tourist from the Mainland to go sit and have her toenails done while she's chomping on a big fat funnel cake, with the grease and powdered sugar oozing down her arm: it's good for the skin.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Just an observation about Minnesota

I just spent the last few days in Minneapolis, with a little time in St. Paul. I had a meeting to attend so I made a short vacation out of it, bringing Brad along to continue our exploration of the great cities of the American Midwest. First there was Pittsburgh, for a family Thanksgiving and later a funeral, then Cleveland for a wedding. A couple of trips to Cincinnati to visit my sister and niece and nephew gave us the southern Midwest experience, and now we have Minneapolis to point to. And when I asked Brad if he had to live in any of the cities we’ve visited so far, Minneapolis is the winner. Flat and expansive with terrible winter weather and an overcooked summer climate, Minneapolis has a great arts museum, nice cafes and restaurants, a beautiful river setting, pretty architecture, and a nice crop of doughy all-American white people who came from Norway, as well as a mindboggling concentration of Somalis who fled that county’s anarchy for a better life – in the upper Midwest.

I felt okay for the Somalis in the summer because it was hot – maybe a little more humid than it is in Somalia. And they were everywhere, quickly integrated into Minnesota Culture, but also still speaking the language of their homeland and wearing clothes designed for the desert. When one is accustomed to seeing big-boned white people everywhere with Scandinavian baldness patterns (the men, that is) peeking though their stiff dirty-blonde and reddish hair, it’s quite a sight to come across groups of women and girls wearing dark veils with skin dark in the northern plains.. According to Minnesota Public Radio, Minnesota is the American home for the former prime minister of Somalia, Ali Khalif Galaydh. He was ousted from office in October, 2001. Galaydh, his wife Mariam Mohamad and three children live in Owatonna. Most Somali refugees moved to Minnesota because a small group of Somalis had settled there.

From my experience, each time I’ve visited Minnesota, the people there are very friendly in restaurants and on the street, and waiting in lines. We had the biggest fan (and long-time theatergoer) of the Fringe Festival serving as our ambassador, passing out coupons, making recommendations about which shows we would want to see. The other women in line were laughing and chatting away. We stopped in a small antique mall and the people were following us around making beautiful small talk. A waitress in a diner had all of us eating out of her hands. And two women in a gift store welcomed us to town with rave recommendations for a St. Paul ice cream spot that gives its patrons a gimmicky Izzy ball of ice cream on top. I have been told the Minnesotans are great people, and indeed are masters of small talk. Friends who have moved to Minneapolis had a hard time “breaking in” because, according to them, everyone there went to kindergarten together and although they’ll gleefully chat with you in any public space in the upper Midwest, trying to form a close relationship is like trying to find an outfit you could wear all four seasons.

Perhaps what makes the Minnesotans seem so friendly is their goofy accent. It’s hard not to smile when people are pronouncing everyday words the way they are actually pronouncing them there. Whether it’s eating hoagies or grinders, or being told by my waiter the fish special on the Thai restaurant menu is a basil spiced walleye, it’s amusing to those of us who grew up in other states. Minnesotans have a wide-eyed joy about life unlike the hurried Michiganders or the wily Pennsylvanians. Just ask me, a dopey drawling Georgian or a sly and fake Californian. Obviously these are all fun stereotypes to rattle around, but I do appreciate something about the Minnesotan that I don’t necessarily appreciate about others.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


I’ve been regretting not having the flights lately that have allowed me to keep writing, and looking at my schedule for the months ahead, I will probably have plenty of time to catch up. There was that pesky one-month trip to Italy that got in the way, and I didn’t bring my laptop along for that one. And then after being on vacation for a month I didn’t have very many negative thoughts, so there wasn’t much to write about.

About Me | Contact Me | 2007 Joey Goldman