Thursday, June 19

Confusing The Issues: The Consumerist

The Consumerist recently asks whether a CVS/pharmacy is discriminating against teens by only allowing two teens to enter the store at a time after the local high school lets out. The student who wrote in to The Consumerist called it ageism and has vowed to avoid the store from now on.

While most comments seem to defend the CVS/pharmacy policy as did many on SpinThicket (some even suggesting the letter writer ‘chill out’) based on the knowledge that stores around high schools have been employing similar tactics for years (even when I was in high school), most are wrong. Customers are allowed to express their dissatisfaction with a poor customer service policy and the best way to express that displeasure is to write a letter or shop elsewhere.

While I have a difficult time classifying this as ageism or legally forcing CVS/pharmacy to change its policy, I do think it’s beneficial to encourage teens to peacefully express their dissatisfaction with what amounts to poor customer service policy. And, in doing so, it might remind CVS/pharmacy (or any store with such policies) that shopping there is not privilege. On the contrary, it’s a privilege for the store to enjoy the after school rush crowd.

If the students boycotted the store for a few weeks, it seems to me that CVS/pharmacy would to have weigh the risks and rewards of a policy that doesn’t seem to be working for their customers, regardless of age. Not to mention, the security personnel who allegedly sneer at the students might consider that these students are probably the only reason that position exists.

Where this applies to communication is simple enough. Sometimes people tend to overextend their arguments (eg. ageism) when a simpler, less emotional statement might just be enough. And that is where the letter writer could have benefited. Conversely though, those who rose to defend CVS/pharmacy might consider reacting less and looking to the root of the problem. It’s a customer service issue.

You know, it really doesn’t make sense to teach students that they must accept disagreeable customer service simply because they happen to attend high school. On the contrary, learning how to communicate as a consumer early on will help them far into the future. All companies have to be reminded from time to time to time that companies and customers have choices.

Do you want them as a customer? Do they want you as a vendor?

For CVS/pharmacy, which invests millions in CVS Caremark All Kids Can to be kid and family friendly, I suspect they might be able to come up with a better solution that meets their needs of young customers. Likewise, I hope the student who wrote the letter learns that we don't need to scream discrimination when poor customer service is enough.



Anonymous said...

CVS says no to gangs, aye? Sorry, there was something similar a few years ago with the mall limiting the number of teens that could be together..purportedly an anti-gang policy. If it was an innercity area - I might of understood.

Anyhow - thanks for the link. The consumerist looks like a site worth following.

Rich on 6/19/08, 3:29 PM said...


You mean that one of the top high schools in San Diego (across from the Bernardo Heights Country Club) doesn't classify as inner city? Yes, I noticed how few people considered the location.

Anyway, glad you liked it. The Consumerist pops up on Spin Thicket from time to time. There's always great source material and this one struck me given the number of people offering opinion on a subject that shifted to the weakest argument.


Anonymous said...

Everybody is being discriminated - glad I'm the only one who hasn't been - jeez, when will people get a grip.

Rich on 6/23/08, 1:04 PM said...


Give yourself time. Ha!

All my best,


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