Rite Aid, revisited…

Back in January, I wrote this post about Rite Aid Corporation (RAD), noting that all my neighborhood Rite Aids seemed incapable of consistently stocking mundane items like cleaning supplies and toilet paper. I referred to this phenomenon, rather snidely, as Soviet Economy Syndrome. One of these local stores was, in its former life, a pleasant, well-stocked Eckerd Drugs. I observed that as soon as Rite Aid began to fold in the Brooks Eckerd chain, that location developed the same malaise.

In honor of the unusual number of comments that post has generated over the past few months, and Rite Aid’s recent 10-K filing, an update seems appropriate.

A few days after the post went up, a huge display of attractively priced toilet paper appeared at a nearby Rite Aid. Whether this proves the power of the blogosphere or the randomness of the universe, who knows? Either way, I stocked up my bathroom. Since then, the shelves at local Rite Aids have been slightly less bare, but the problem persists. All too often I walk out of the store without the ordinary item I went in for.

All the commenters criticized the company, with the exception of one person who identified himself as a Rite Aid pharmacist. Others who said they worked at Rite Aid stores complained about low pay, low morale, and yes, low inventory. One said: “I’ve watched customer after customer leave and go to Walgreens because we’re out of stock or our pharmacy is closed. This post would be funny to me too, if my career wasn’t hooked to such an incompetent company.” (Any comments on today’s post will be held and published after Michelle returns on Wednesday.)

According to the 10-K filed last week, the company now has “a customer focused store visit guide that can be used by field management to assess the quality of customer service provided by specific stores.” Let’s hope this “store visit guide” explains that customers generally prefer having merchandise on the shelves.

In an update on the Eckerd integration, the 10-K says: “We…are well on our way to completing systems conversions in all of the acquired stores by the end of May 2008.” So maybe the chain will get its act together soon. If not, Soviet Economy Syndrome will be officially renamed. Hello, Rite Aid Syndrome.