Rite Aid

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Think Twice

Rite Aid lags the other stand-alone drugstores on nearly all fronts, from health clinics to product selection to number of locations. In price comparisons of prescription drugs and personal-care products, it was the most expensive of the entire bunch -- sometimes by a landslide.

Rite Aid just isn't competitive with the other major drugstore chains, nor does it come close to matching big-box-store and supermarket prices. Rite Aid came in with the highest totals in all our price comparisons. The $389.95 bill for five prescription medications was the most expensive by far, although one drug accounted for the gap between Rite Aid and the rest of the pack. The pharmacy quoted us $118.99 for a 30-day supply of the sleep aid Ambien (10 milligrams), compared with $50 or less elsewhere. Joining Rite Aid's free Prescription Savings Program drops the price, but many consumers may not know about the program, and pharmacists we spoke with didn't volunteer information about available discounts.

The layout of the Rite Aid we visited in central Ohio was difficult to navigate, with short, diagonal aisles that pointed toward the middle of the store. This chopped up some categories of products, and we had trouble locating the eight items on our shopping list among the limited selection. The unusual set-up did give the pharmacy counter a central location with a wide view of the store, which made it easy for a pharmacist to point us in the right direction. There were very few other employees in the store at the time we visited.

Many consumers we spoke with said Rite Aid rarely seems to have the products they are looking for, so they don't frequent the chain. Some Rite Aid customers said they fill their prescriptions there because they have developed a relationship with a pharmacist but shop elsewhere for drugstore items. The Rite Aid Wellness+ rewards program attracts some loyalists. It awards shoppers as many as 25 points for a prescription and one point for every dollar spent elsewhere in the store (with some exceptions). Benefits and discounts accrue to customers who reach bronze (250 points), silver (500 points), and gold (1,000 points) levels.

Rite Aid offers standard conveniences such as online prescription management, automatic refills, and drive-thru pharmacies at some locations. It operates just under 4,600 stores, far fewer than CVS or Walgreens. Although Rite Aid recently acquired Texas-based RediClinic, which has 30 locations, it's nowhere close to catching its larger rivals, which count hundreds of in-store health clinics.

On most every front, Rite Aid just doesn't stand up to the other drugstores we considered. Sparse selection and locations, along with some sky-high prices, make it the least appealing choice.

Emily Lugg

Emily Lugg is a freelance writer and writing tutor in the Writing Center at Ohio Wesleyan University. Always looking for the best investment for her family at the cheapest price, Emily uses research and consumer reviews as her sharpest tools for the savviest shopping.

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