Current prices at CVS and Walgreens

Our AirBnB didn’t come with shampoo or soap, so we hit the Walgreens in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. All of the travel items that I expected to cost $0.99 were $2.99 or more. Inflation? It then occurred to me that I had seen these prices back around 2018. The current Walgreens/CVS prices for stuff are the same as one would have paid in a resort hotel’s lobby boutique in 2018.

Given that nearly every drugstore seems to be either a Walgreens or a CVS, and there has also been a fair amount of consolidation among manufacturers/brands, could lack of competition also be a factor in why toothpaste, shampoo, and other basics are costly? (Walmart’s store brand equivalents are only about half the price compared to the name brands at CVS/Walgreens, right? That tells us it isn’t about the materials cost or the dreaded “supply chain”.)

Loosely related, a Rite Aid in downtown San Diego (June 2022). The precious deodorant is locked down and alarmed.

11 thoughts on “Current prices at CVS and Walgreens

  1. As far as competition goes between Walgreens, CVS and “others” I think you need to move and/or shop in a town where all three of them exist within 1/3rd of a mile of each other, because there are so many pharmacies and pharmaceuticals being dispensed to the aging Poor Mine population that one or even two chains cannot meet the need. In my area they are all well-stocked but I haven’t done an item-by-item price comparison.

    Myself, I always shop the bottom shelves for the store brands and use their discount cards, which seems to help a little.

    Recent anecdote: I needed a few items including a couple of gel ink pens while shopping in a local CVS that was very busy that day. I had just broken the one I usually keep in my car when I knocked it out of its place in the center console and stepped on it like a big oaf. I couldn’t find the pens! I was pointed in the approximate direction of the stationery products and found the ones I wanted, but amazingly they were unmarked! I went to the register and said: “I need these but they are totally unmarked on the shelf” and the tattooed and pierced clerk offered to give them to me for free – because she was apparently too harried. I said: “You should just be able to scan them!” $4.59 for two Bic Gel-Ocity, medium tip, fast dry ink. They’re good enough pens for the car. https://www.cvs.com/shop/bic-gel-ocity-quick-dry-retractable-gel-pen-medium-point-0-7mm-black-pack-of-4-prodid-285954

    My advice is: try to buy the store brands for most things. When I start working for CVS (which is probably going to be soon) I’ll give you a fuller report.

    • Sorry I didn’t mention Rite-Aid by name but I drive through a town where all three of them coexist to serve the COVID testing and pharmacy needs of the Poor Mines.

    • It is fascinating to me that deodorant is now guarded against theft approximately as much as ammunition used to be at my local Walmart (before they stopped carrying it in my area of MA.)

  2. It is interesting that the brands think they can get away with the price hikes.

    Here in Europe, Evian is sold out in many places and is replaced by a no-name French water for a fraction of the price (80% cheaper).

    I don’t intend to switch back.

  3. California passed Prop 47 that essentially decriminalized shoplifting and car break-ins under the guise of stopping pointless prosecutions of drug addicts. Unsurprisingly, both crimes exploded, and since it is state law, even right-wing leaning communities like San Diego are impacted.

    To no one’s surprise, Prop. 47 was pushed by San Francisco’s do-nothing former DA who is now LA’s do-nothing current DA. It also helps reduce the costs to the state of building more prisons because the prison guards’ union is so rapacious its staff are paid surgeon salaries for essentially unqualified work.

    • > It also helps reduce the costs to the state of building more prisons because the prison guards’ union is so rapacious its staff are paid surgeon salaries for essentially unqualified work.

      I’m pretty sure that’s true. I’ve heard about this. I actually know a fellow who is the lead singer for a tribute rock band and has also been a prison guard in his past. He’s a really nice guy and I talked with him about it a year ago. He was dyslexic and uninterested in conventional “school” but he’s a nice person – really. He sings very well and wound up trying his luck as a prison guard in CT for a while, but hated it. He could make more money in California as a prison guard but he doesn’t want to do it any more. He intensely disliked the job. I make posters for his band from time to time.

      He could probably make more money in CA as a prison guard but doesn’t want to do it.

  4. A Walmart or even a Target would have been about 40% less than CVS or Walgreens for
    what you needed. (But obviously convenience was the driving factor for you.) I am actually amazed at how inexpensive shampoo, toothpaste, soap, sunscreen, etc., remain at WMT, almost unchanged since 2020. What’s risen over 10%, and in many cases closer to 25-30%, since summer 2021 is groceries, as well as heavier/bulkier items like paper towels. Higher transportation costs for a massive bundle of Charmin than for a 6 oz tube of toothpaste, for sure. WMT is offering bonuses & substantially higher salaries to its truck drivers according to a WSJ article a few weeks back, added to the higher cost of diesel. If you were buying those tiny travel sizes (<3.4 oz), they are priced much higher than a full-size basic brand. Inelastic demand by airline travelers and others who like/need to travel light??? But instead of $2.99 apiece, travel sizes are $1.49 or less at WMT.

  5. Just started my vacation in west coast Florida. Haven’t been in the USA since 2018, and even then prices seemed a little high in CVS & Walgreens, but now they are off the chart. Food prices as well seem astronomical compared to Germany. Actually CVS/Walgreens here is more expensive than Zurich airport (in CHF!) where I took my flight from.

    btw, after corona money and this latest $6k child tax credit from my tax return I will have collected $18k in free money from the Federal government (family of 2 kids , 2 parents). I guess there is no free lunch and we will be paying this back in the form of silent taxation called inflation.

  6. Rite Aid sells cheaper staff that is expensive in Walgreens and CVS.
    Pharmacy and beauty products aisles in supermarket are cheaper but have smaller product coverage

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