Customers: CVS Takeover Erased Everything Good About Target Pharmacies

Image courtesy of Mike Mozart

One of the reasons that Target gave for its poor performance during a recent earnings call was that stores may have lost some foot traffic because of “some disruptions” when the discount store sold its pharmacy business to CVS. We wondered what that meant, and asked if readers had experienced those “disruptions.” They had, but the bigger problem is something that Target’s executives may not have realized: people filled prescriptions there because they liked things that Target did differently.

The Bottles

Image courtesy of Eric Spiegel

The ClearRX system, which Target introduced in 2005, solved most of the annoying problems with the standard amber prescription bottle, even making it easy to tell which medication is which with bottles standing up in a drawer or box. For nearly all customers who contacted us, these bottles were the main reason why they chose the pharmacy.

RELATED: Where Did The Target Prescription Bottles Everyone Loves So Much Come From, Anyway?

targetbottle“Target had the best prescription packaging I’ve seen,” reader R. wrote. “Labels were easy to read and the color-coded bands made telling whose bottle was whose without glasses simple.”

The safety-minded packaging for prescriptions at Target drew many customers to the chain’s pharmacy counter over other options that might have even been in the same strip mall. A Target representative told Consumerist that the ClearRX patents were part of the sale of Target’s pharmacy business to CVS, and the drugstore giant now owns them, but is not using them.

It would be nice if CVS implemented them across the entire chain, but readers report that the red bottles have been discontinued since the changeover, and their meds are in classic CVS amber containers.

The People

Image courtesy of Mike Mozart

“My local pharmacy team was always very friendly, and even knew my name,” reader S. wrote. “Now, they are staffed with new people who are extremely rude.”

This was a common complaint of readers about CVS: whether it was because previous staff members left or because CVS brought its own people in, the familiar faces behind the pharmacy counter disappeared.

“Target Pharmacies were great,” G. wrote. “They were like your old-time neighborhood pharmacists.” He notes that he used to drive past about a dozen other pharmacies just to patronize Target, but will no longer be doing that.

The Cost

Image courtesy of Brittany Loubier

Reader G. shared her experience trying to use her discount card through GoodRX, a site that lets you compare prices at different pharmacies in your area. She used the company’s discount card on the mobile app just as she always had at Target…or she tried to.

“I used to use it at Target with no problems,” she wrote to Consumerist. “Since CVS took over, even though they are still listed in the GoodRX app, when I went to pick up two of my prescriptions I was told they do not honor it.”

Other customers mourned the end of the discounts they received from pharmacy rewards. In states where such programs are legal, customers would receive a 5% off certificate good or a whole Target shopping trip after filling five prescriptions at the store.

The Actual Drugs

Image courtesy of Edward Kammerer

M. takes a medication with a very specific extended-release mechanism, and she has found the generic version from one manufacturer to be the most reliable. Target used that one, but the new CVS inside Target stocks a version from a different manufacturer that she doesn’t trust. “So many recalls,” she notes.

The pharmacy was able to get the drug for her after a month of taking the less trustworthy version, but didn’t stock it consistently, leading to wasted trips. She gave up and switched her prescriptions to Walmart.

“I like shopping at Target, and now I have no built-in reason to go there every month,” she wrote to Consumerist. “Sad for them too, because I never, ever walked out of there with just a prescription bag. I probably spent anywhere from $25 to $75 every time I went in to get my refill.”

Depending on how many customers are like M., this is exactly the kind of news that Target CEO Brian Cornell won’t want to hear.

While they aren’t exactly drugs, reader D. noticed a really common medical supply missing from his local pharmacy in Florida after the transition to CVS. “Basic diabetic supplies, such as test trips and lancets – no longer carried, with or without insurance,” he observed. Let’s hope that isn’t a permanent change.

The Data Migration

Image courtesy of jsbn123

Patients had less information on this, but recounted that their prescriptions were assigned new numbers under CVS. That makes sense. However, this broke the auto-refill system, causing problems for customers.

N. reports that the transition didn’t go well in Target’s home state of Minnesota. “Once the new CVS systems launched there were a lot of issues with employees struggling to input prescriptions and complete pickups with the new computer system,” he writes, saying that lines were exceedingly long for the first two weeks after CVS took over.

C. had her prescription for a controlled drug disrupted: her doctor needs to authorize it for three months at a time, and the pharmacy had to contact her doctor to confirm it even though he had just done so the month before CVS took over.

“It was a one-time inconvenience,” she wrote to Consumerist, “but enough of an aggravation that I elected to move my prescriptions elsewhere, since Target no longer had the bottles that made me interested in filling prescriptions there in the first place.”

Take heed, CVS: people really, really, really like those bottles.

Target Sales Are Down Because Customers Are Fixing Up Their Homes Instead

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.