Lessons Learned Per Store – Part Four

Today, pharmacies.

Walgreens – this one gets complicated. The everyday prices are pretty high, so I only shop the deals. It’s just that to get the best deal at Walgreens, you really have to prepare.

  • The flyer – usually the best deals are on the front page. Best to check the whole flyer though, because you will find the deals change weekly.
  • The in-store monthly coupon book – these are Walgreens coupons, not manufacturer’s coupons, so you can combine them with manufacturer’s coupons to get a better deal. Since of course it is put out by Walgreens and they control their own sales cycle, do not expect their monthly coupon book to match up with sale prices in the flyer. They will note the deals in the flyer that are not marked down, but will be at a lower price due to the monthly coupon deals.
  • The flyer, part two – there are often in-store coupons inside the flyer that are for a variety of products. I rarely have any luck with these. It will be for super cheap cans of soup, limit two per customer, and I’ll go there and they won’t have any. Usually, they do not offer rainchecks for these types of specials.
  • Loyalty card – this gets complicated too. You will get points for purchasing, and there are often bonus points deals, that are detailed in the flyer.
  • Printable coupons – nothing special on their website, it’s the same coupons link that I provide on my coupons link here on this site.
  • Register rewards – a few items each month will be featured in the flyer as not being marked down, but will have a Register Rewards deal attached to them. For example, it will be a specific type of vitamin that is normally $16.99 but offers a $10 Register Rewards, meaning your net price is $6.99. Keep in mind, you do pay the $16.99, but when you checkout, you will receive a separate piece of paper with your receipt that is good for $10 off your NEXT purchase. It will have a short expiration date, so keep an eye out for it.

Complicated. You’ll see a pattern with this, I’ll explain at the end of the post.

CVS – also a few layers to the deal process here.

  • Flyer – new every week, comes out every Sunday, rarely has a coupon in the flyer itself.
  • Loyalty card – all of the deals published in the flyer will require a loyalty card to get the deal.
  • In-store coupons – there’s a machine in each store where you swipe your loyalty card, and the machine prints out coupons. Some are good for only that day, some might be for a week or a few weeks. You can combine them with manufacturer’s coupons for an even better deal. There are frequently coupons for CVS-branded products only.
  • Extra bucks – explained very carefully in the flyer, deals vary from 20% to 100% back. You get the money in the form of a coupon that prints at the bottom of your receipt when you cash out. You can use this money back on your next purchase, usually it has a short expiration date.
  • Cumulative spending – tied to the loyalty card, you will get a certain percentage back on total spending, usually per quarter. Plus there will be bonus deals for segments of the store such as the “beauty club” which will get you money back when you spend specified dollar amounts on those products. You get the money back in the form of a dollar amount printed at the bottom of your receipt the next time you make a purchase. There’s usually a short expiration date on these, so keep them handy.

The number one bit of advice I have for CVS is to watch the totals at the bottom of your receipt, every time. You will see totals for each category, and although it is rare, I have had to call the 800# before to update my totals to be sure I get credit where it is due.

Rite Aid – also has a lot of layers to understand in order to get the best deal.

  • Flyer – every week, new deals. You need the loyalty card to get any of the deals.
  • In-store rebate flyer – changes every month and is also available online. It requires an extra step on your part and may or may not be a good enough deal to make the decision to make the purchase. I would say this is my weakest area, I’m not good on the follow-up with these. It will be several items that might cost $10 on up, and you will get a $1 or $2 rebate on each item. And it changes every month, and it may or may not correspond with in-store markdowns, manufacturer’s coupons, or any other good deals, so I tend to only buy the things I was going to buy anyway instead of focusing on chasing the deals.
  • Plus Ups rewards – same deal as the CVS Extra Bucks and the Walgreens Register Rewards. The item might be regular price, but you will get rewards in the form of a dollar off amount good for your next purchase.  These will have a short expiration date, so keep them handy. You have the option of instead of having them printed, they can load on your loyalty card instead. That might work for some people, but because I worry I will forget before the expiration date, I prefer to have them printed. I can imagine that if you are the type of person who hates coupons and doesn’t want to keep track of little pieces of paper, you will really like that they can just be loaded onto your card. You would just have to remember to spend them before they expire.
  • Cumulative spending – you need the loyalty card for that, and as your total increases, you can qualify for larger discounts and other bonuses, that are available on the Rite-Aid website.
  • Video values – again, gets complicated. They change every month and are available on the website. You watch videos, commercials for each product, and get a coupon for each product who’s commercial you watched. The coupons have a short expiration date. There’s been some debate as to whether they are actually manufacturer’s coupons, or whether they can be combined with manufacturer’s coupons. I’ve been told both, so I leave it up to the store to decide.

My best advice for Rite-Aid is if you do participate in the loyalty program, watch your Plus Ups carefully. I have had to call the 800# several times for clarification and adjustment on Plus Ups that either didn’t print at the store level, or wasn’t counted correctly for the products I purchased. Another reason why I’d rather have them printed then loaded on the card, because I can verify they are done correctly. I have never had a problem with customer service when I call to have these corrected, and they are always prompt about refunding any Plus UPs that weren’t done correctly, and they also give a longer expiration date for corrected Plus Ups. So, as long as you stay on top of it, the program works well.

As you can see, it’s a competitive business so there are multiple layers to every loyalty program. Also, regular prices are simply too high and I just never pay full price at any of these stores. As they all have new fliers once a week, if you are trying to follow all 3, it will get complicated. My best advice is to pick one and stick with it. This is usually not my advice, but since for the most part, pharmacy items such as vitamins and band-aids will keep for a long time, you can buy things when they are at the best price and store them.

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