Drugged out

Brian Thornton

Welcome to America: land of mom, apple pie and CVS.

Nothing excites me more when I’m driving around the Cleveland area than new construction. For the decade I’ve lived in Northeast Ohio, the city has always seemed a dirty, gray mass of boarded-up buildings that hints at a glory long lost to suburban flight and hapless leadership. So whenever I see hardhats and fresh, rust-colored bricks working together to bring something new and clean to the city, I get a little squirm of joy.

Until I find out it’s going to be a new CVS. Or Rite Aid. Or Walgreens.

We are living in a country of drug stores, people, and it’s not pretty.

For years we’ve lived with the urban legend that you’re never more than 10 miles from a McDonald’s, that someday soon there will be a Starbucks on every corner – perhaps two, even. But McGriddles and double-venti-no-fat-soy-chai-chilled-mocha lattes are nothing compared to the evil that drugstores have become.

Drugstores have shopping carts now. Shopping carts? You should not be purchasing anything at a drugstore that requires a cart. Yet people consistently walk out of such stores carrying bags filled with 2 percent milk, frozen entrees and boxes of cereal.

That’s called grocery shopping, and if you’re doing your grocery shopping at the Walgreens, you’re paying way too much.

This December, the National Retail Federation released a survey that predicted 21 percent of shoppers would complete their holiday shopping at a drugstore. In fact, an economist speaking on CNBC predicted drugstores would have the second-highest growth at the holidays because of sales of popular items such as iPods and Nintendo’s Wii.

Who the hell bought a Wii at CVS?

The sad truth is that, at least in urban areas, convenience stores are filling the void left when supermarkets pack up and leave. On the near west side of Cleveland where I generally roam, one of the three supermarkets closed during the past two years and the other two are filthy and poorly stocked. People simply don’t have the choice of luxurious, clean megastores of the suburbs.

Even here in Kent, almost anything seems like a better option than the Giant Eagle.

So that leaves drugstores to fill the void, and fill it they have. A decade ago, CVS had 1,400 stores. Today, through new stores and acquisitions, the chain is 6,200 strong. That’s insane growth, and America’s need for prescriptions to cure any ailment and over-priced eye serums to keep looking young simply fuels the fire.

I don’t know why I’m so anti-drugstore. Somehow, I feel as if they are preying on the poor who have no other choice but to buy essentials there.

And then there’s the seasonal-goods aisle, filled with tacky knock-off Halloween decorations and odd children’s beach inflatable toys. And the loaded-up checkout counter, overflowing with huckster hangover remedies and weight-loss tablets. And the drive-through, because we’re too lazy to walk inside to get our Viagra. And the condom/women’s product/incontinence aisle.

Drugstores are just creepy.

Lest you call me a hypocrite, I will admit there are two legitimate drugstore purchases I have approved: drugs (natch) and Hostess chocolate-frosted Donettes at 3 a.m. after the bar.

Dang, I will overcome any creepiness to get some waxy-chocolatey treats with a misspelled name.

Brian Thornton is a graduate journalism student and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].