Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Thanks to D for the following submission:
. . .
I would say that THIS is the "Duane Reade Sucks" story to top them all, but with Duane Reade, you never know.

About a month ago, I was at the pharmacy counter at the Duane Reade on 70th and Broadway, where one other customer was waiting for a prescription to be filled. Naturally, there was only one employee helping customers behind the counter, despite loud non-work-related conversations going on in the back, and naturally, the employee behind the counter was complaining slowly and loudly about how she was the only employee behind the counter. As I was being helped, a female pharmacist came out to join her. The other customer, increasingly irate, then began complaining loudly about how her prescription was taking forever to be filled. "I've been waiting here for forty minutes," she complained. "When is it going to be ready?"

Rather than responding politely, the pharmacist yelled, "Don't you be telling me that you've been waiting for forty minutes, 'cuz I've been here watching you, and you've only been here for twenty-five minutes!" I was thinking to myself that twenty-five minutes was already pretty long to wait in the store without being told to come back later. But the other customer, apparently inured to the typical atmosphere at Duane Reade, responded by yelling, "You fuckin' bitch!"

Irate or even disturbed customers are an unfortunate reality in any service business. But at Duane Reade, they are not to be outdone-- because then the pharmacist screamed back, "Don't you call me a fuckin' bitch, you fuckin' bitch!"

I would have left then, had the incredibly slow counter service not been holding my credit card hostage. As I watched, the irate customer then went up to the counter and began banging on it, screaming, "I need my fuckin' pills!"

Instead of responding calmly to this disturbed woman (who obviously really did need her pills), the pharmacist responded as only a Duane Reade employee would, by screaming, "Do you want to take this outside?" The disturbed customer then answered, "Yeah!" And it was then, to my absolute horror, that the PHARMACIST CLIMBED OVER THE COUNTER AND PUNCHED THE CUSTOMER IN THE FACE.

There was apparently no store security, as the person who ultimately came to separate the two was a Lincoln Center Business Improvement District security officer from the neighbhorhood (who, as far as I could tell, just happened to be in the store). As for me, I grabbed my credit card and ran.

Noted Issues:
Irate, irrational, and potentially violent customers exist everywhere. But
irate, irrational, and violent EMPLOYEES, who actually INITIATE PHYSICAL

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Foul-mouthed at the counter

I was at Duane Reade the other day at 47th and 6th Ave. The check-out line was long (about 8 people waiting for the single clerk at the front registers). When the clerk looked up to see the line, she said "shit" very loud in a nasty sort of tone. Then she picked up the phone and paged someone. Several minutes later, a couple of employees came up from the lower level. The clerk yelled at them, "what the fuck were you both doing downstairs together? Look at this fucking line."

Noted issues:
1. An adequate number of employees should be stationed at the front registers to handle customer traffic.
2. Employees should never swear at coworkers in front of a line of customers, some of whom may be children.
3. The store is generally quite dingy and dilapidated.

Welcome to Duane Reade Sucks.

There is a virtual monopoly in New York City on drug stores. As they say in the jingle, "Everywhere you go, Duane Reade!" The chain operates over 230 stores, and has been ranked as the fastest-growing drugstore chain in the country.

Yet for a city that prides itself on being the best in the world (best restaurants, best theater, best nightlife, best museums, best shopping, and so on), we have the worst drug stores. The typical Duane Reade drugstore offers a dingy, dirty atmosphere and surly, foul-mouthed, incompetent (if not downright violent) staff.

As feedback to store employees and managers has gotten me nowhere over the years, I thought it time to create a space for New Yorkers to share their Duane Reade stories. Please, be polite and be honest about your experiences in Duane Reade stores. Hopefully with some collective storytelling, and the power of numbers, we can make management aware of the problems and improve this staple of New York life for everyone.

Submit your own stories via e-mail to