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3/23/13

Getting to Know America Via Walgreens: There’s a Way At the Corner of Happy and Healthy

One way of getting to know America and its varied people is by shopping.
Yesterday my son’s Body Fortress Super Advanced Whey Protein Powder Vanilla, 2 lb jar was empty. Each day he goes to the gym, he makes his protein shake. It is crucial he goes to the gym, because I am rather dispirited and we have to keep the serotonin happy hormone up, otherwise we might succumb under this gloomy endless winter. Mid March and it’s still cold and cloudy and windy. Go get a life, winter. Let other seasons on stage too! You hog it all for yourself. Bore. Sour puss. Horrible. And it’s not just the winter, but my son graduated from college in December and we’re still job seeking. We wonder why does one go to college if upon graduation you’re offered mainly menial jobs?! So, even if I don’t agree with whey protein powders, I take it upon myself to buy my son jars of it. He doesn’t want me to because he is a proud youngster and agrees with society on how unmanly it is not to have a job and one who doesn’t have a job should beat at himself and so he doesn’t want his mom to buy him anything. I have to explain that this is an investment on my behalf. Our family happiness depends on his going to the gym and drinking whey powders. So I was pressing him for the last week to do a price comparison on the internet because when he was in college up in Albany he’d buy it cheap from Walmart, but there’s no Walmart in New York City because people or stores organized themselves and barred Walmart from opening here. I am glad they organized themselves, more power to the people, but it would have been nice to buy cheap whey protein powder in the city and not contemplate going to New Jersey for it. Well, sure there’s always the internet. In the end I get on the matter and after some research I narrow down our options to Walmart and Walgreens. The Walmart offer is about $16 plus $5 and something for shipping. If you buy three jars, you get free shipping. Problem with shipping is that we have to wait for a week and in our building the main entrance buzzer doesn’t work so the UPS or FedEx guys don’t bother to call your phone to let you know they are downstairs. So then you have to go to the other end of the Manhattan Island to pick up the package from some central delivery center, though they have stores a few blocks from us. Incomprehensible. So I try to figure out if Walmart standard shipping means USPS since the mailman has a key to our building and if we’re not at home he leaves his pink note and next day we go two blocks from here and pick the mighty whey protein powder jars up from the Hell’s Gate Post Office. Well, Walmart makes this standard shipping sound really mysterious. They reserve the right to decide on that particular day which carrier they’d be using depending on the best rates, says their website. I try to find a customer service number, there’s none. You either write them an email or talk to a store in your zip code. So I call Secaucus, Garfield, Saddle Brook, one just rings and rings, no one home, all gone shopping for whey protein powders. The next one puts me on hold long enough that I wash my dishes. I ask my question about the carrier, she doesn’t know, but gives me the Walmart 800 number. I proceed to call it. I am told it is their right to choose their carrier. Well, then it’s my right not to buy whey protein powder from you.
Walgreens online: a 2lb jar of Finest Nutrition Whey Protein Powder Chocolate Flavor is $24.99. If you buy two of them then the second one is 50%, and if your order is over $25 you get free shipping. You can have the jars delivered in their physical store and you go and pick them up. Even better they have what they call web pickup, and if you use it for the first time you get another $5 off. Of course, you have to register with them and become a member. Alright. I become a member, I shop the whey protein jars virtually, I check out, I pay $32.48 for two jars, almost the Walmart price. I am given the option to have my son as the designated pick up person. He goes cross town to check out the City College where he wants to apply for a master’s and then he’ll stop by the Walgreens and pick up the whey protein jars.
After two hours I get to be Super Mom again when he comes home screaming with hunger. Thank God! I warm up stuffed peppers, while he, famished, eats almonds and chocolate. He says he doesn’t want to live in a country where people go hungry, ever. ‘Well, hunger is good in our case, shows you are alive and well, hunger is life. And how is the City College?’ He beams, ‘Wonderful. I love the campus. It’s not Crackerville. It’s diverse. And the psychology department has 8 floors!’ ‘How many does it have in Albany?’ ‘Three. ‘‘Now we’re cooking!’
I take the two jars of whey powder. Then later in the evening I look at the receipt. $44.98. Two jars at $24.99 minus $5 off because it was a $15+ purchase. What?! I call the store, ask for customer service. Puts me on hold indefinitely. After five minutes I call again. Store manager or someone tells me there was no mistake. This is the price. ‘How can it be the price when I paid on the internet $32.48?! You charged full price for two jars when I paid for one full, one 50%.’ ‘Oh, no,’ she argues, ‘the 50% is just for members.’ ‘Lady, indeed, I am a member, otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten that price.’ ‘Then why didn’t your son show the membership card?’ ‘Lady, your website forced me to become a member a few hours ago before purchasing the whey jars. If I am to have a membership card, it shall come in the mail in a few days! You have to give me a refund! Please do this now.’ ‘No,’ she goes on, if I need a refund, I should come to the store. ‘Lady, it will take me one hour by bus to come to your store, one hour back, and $4.50 for round trip ticket! I paid in good faith on the internet!’ ‘Then talk to the internet,’ she sniggers.
I do. I call the Walgreens customer service 800 number. A young lady with a Southern drawl listens to my grievance. Then she puts me on hold so she can talk to the store manager in New York City. Then she tells me I had to go in person to the store to solve this. My son didn’t tell the store clerk my phone number to bring up the membership. There’s nothing she can do from her desk in Alabama. ‘Yes, there’s something you can do! Access my account and put my money back on my credit card.’ She can’t do that from Alabama. The card was charged in the store cash register. It can be undone only from the cash register in the store. ‘Give me your supervisor.’ She puts me on hold, here’s the supervisor. Same slow motion softly speaking sweet Alabama. I say my piece again. Again, there’s nothing she can do. ‘Well, Miss, you could try not stealing people’s money over the internet. That’s what you can do. I’d be ashamed to work for a company that steals people’s money.’ She’s not stealing my money, she protests. ‘Yes, you are. You work for a company that stole my money and time and hopes to get away with it and you facilitated this by not correcting it promptly. Just watch me.’
I call the store again. I tell the manager that she just took advantage of my son. It’s the first time and the last time we shop at Walgreens. If all she had to do to bring up my membership was to ask for my phone number, why didn’t she do it? She harps, my son should have known this. ‘No,’ I harp back, ‘he doesn’t work for Walgreens so how is he to know your rules.’ ‘Oh, but it was written in the info on the website.’ ‘No, it was not. I have the email printed in front of me. All it says is to pick up the whey jars after 4 p.m. and bring a photo ID. You don’t know how to handle customers. You are full of spite, full of ill will. You cost me time and energy and you aggravate me. You’ll have to reimburse me for my loss. For my bus ticket and time.’ ‘Oh, my gosh,’ she sniggers. ‘I will do no such thing.’ ‘No? You should be thankful that you have a job. You are power tripping, and I’ll see to it that you learn how to behave with people. What is your name?’ But she wouldn’t tell me her name. ‘No matter, I’ll complain against you at the Walgreens corporation headquarters. Just watch me!’
My son comes into the kitchen and I tell him they overcharged him. He says, slightly defensively, that he didn’t want the jars from the start. ‘I called here and there, but the store manager is a bitch.’ ‘Yes,’ he nods sadly. ‘She was belittling her co-workers in front of the customers. I told her I came to pick up and I said my name. She said, self-importantly, that there was nothing in my name. Then I said your name and she found the bag. Then she said, ‘Oh, here’s your name,’ on the piece of paper attached to the bag. I told her the price was too high, but she wouldn’t listen.’
I imagined my son watching this manager making life miserable for everybody and I thought how does he feel seeing how it is to work, to deal with obnoxious bosses? Would a young person want to work at all if this is how a workplace functions? What right does this ugly woman have over my son’s happiness?
And I called yet another customer service number, for the Walgreens web pickup, and I talked to Kay from Alabama and I told her the matter and that I want them to reimburse me not only the money that was overcharged, but also the bus ticket and my time and my air minutes I used on talking to Walgreens. She was sorry for all this, but the only way she can help me is to put me on hold and hand me over to Customer Satisfaction so I can register a complaint. Okay. The Customer Satisfaction officer, Kashmir from Alabama, wrote down what I desired to be fixed. My complaint number is 430 675. I am to expect a phone call next week from Illinois, from the Walgreens headquarters. I told her I’d like to send my complaint by email too. She couldn’t comprehend that, but in the end she said I could mail it to Consumer Relations Walgreen Co. 1419 Lake Cook Road, MS #L390 Deerfield, IL 60015. She wished me well.
I was amazed to discover that almost half a million people complained ahead of me about Walgreens.
My son checked on me in the kitchen, ‘No luck?’ ‘Actually, some luck. If they call how much should I ask?’ ‘$300!’ He says laughing. ‘I’m joking!’
Well, how to quantify my time and aggravation?! Were I to write a story for the New York Times instead of complaining to Walgreens, I’d be paid $1 a word.
This afternoon, I entered the Walgreens premises with my documentation, receipt, web pickup confirmation letter, internet membership confirmation letter. The guy at the entrance who granted a lady entry to the lower pharmacy level, though her dog was forbidden by law, asked me why I wanted to see the manager. Was I returning merchandise? ‘No, you overcharged me.’
He took me to the manager.
He was a quiet guy. He read my papers, went straight to the cash register, scanned in the receipt, deducted, added, sold me one jar of whey at $16 full price and $8 the second one. Apologized humbly. A rambunctious co-worker girl was nosing over his shoulder to see what he does. After I got the new receipt I said, ‘I’m not done. I’d like to know the name of the store manager last night.’ He asked the girl. ‘Oh, yeah,’ she blurted, ‘with the half price whey jar! Oh, yeah! It was you know who!’ She pursed her heart shaped rouged lips. The manager wrote her name down for me: Shamain. ‘Thank you. She was rude to my son and to me.’ He humbly apologizes. ‘I’m not done: Bus fare.’ He nodded and went to some office, the girl bouncing like a happy dog after him. He came back, scrambled under the cash drawers, got a gift card, punched about the cash machine and gave me a $10 bill.
‘That will do for now. I have the weekend to think how much my time is worth. Thank you, Mr. Vargas,’ I read his name tag.
I was about to tell him, fire the bitch and hire my son.
You’d be a good boss for him to start under here in America.
I sat in the warm cross town bus, calm that I did my bit to clean the work place of a bully and to fend for my son. I told him about our small victory. He said he felt relieved that justice was done.


March 15th
New York City

Proofreading by Ethan Black, blackroads.org


If you’d like to throw a bit of money my way to keep my endeavors going, and also enable me to spread the money to my various causes, fight against explotation being one of them, I’d be ever so grateful.


March 28, 2013
   New York

 

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