ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Signs warning customers of staffing shortages and reduced hours at corporate pharmacies like Walgreens are becoming all too common around the Denver metro.
"I think it's really a sad state of things, and, hopefully, things can get better in the future," former Walgreens customer Addison Capell said.
The last straw was earlier this year when she called ahead to make sure her prescription was ready. When she arrived, she waited more than half an hour in line, only to find out it still wasn't.
"They were just very apathetic, didn't really care. They're like, 'Sorry. You can wait for another 30 minutes, and then we'll be ready,'" she said.
Others have expressed similar complaints on websites like NextDoor, often recommending independent pharmacies as possible alternatives.
That's how she learned about Front Range Pharmacy, a locally-owned store located at the corner of South Broadway and Englewood Parkway in Englewood. The difference, Capell says, has been night and day.
"The customer service there is amazing. They're so friendly," she said.
Co-owner and pharmacist Michael Scruggs says he has seen an increased interest in his store in the past year. Some of it has been from people desperate to have their prescriptions filled because of the challenges companies like Walgreens are facing right now.
His store, for example, is open until 2 p.m. on Saturdays. The two nearest Walgreens pharmacy locations on South Broadway are closed both weekend days because of staffing shortages.
"The hours being cut back in corporate pharmacies, the staffing being kept out at corporate pharmacies, have really added up to people leaning on us when they never knew they could," Scruggs said.
The former Walgreens pharmacist says the staffing shortages are partly because of all the responsibility corporate pharmacists have had to take on, especially during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"There was really lack of focus on the interaction at the counter, and it felt, overall, the company underestimated the value of the relationship between the customer and the pharmacist," Scruggs said.
A spokesperson with Walgreens sent Denver7 the following statement regarding concerns about its reduced hours and staffing shortages:
In communities impacted by staffing shortages, we have adjusted hours of operation with the goal of creating minimal disruption for customers and patients. In such instances, we will direct customers to other nearby Walgreens locations for prescription needs, care and support.
Adjusted store hours are reflected on the store locator, which is updated throughout the day at Walgreens.com/FindaStore and on the Walgreens mobile app. Customers who have questions about their medications can also talk to a Walgreens pharmacist using the Pharmacist Video Chat feature available 24/7 on Walgreens mobile app and website.
We continue to aggressively recruit and hire pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. We are grateful for the responsibilities our pharmacists are fulfilling, whether its administering life-saving vaccines or helping patients keep up with prescriptions and health screenings. Our focus is on continuing to drive staffing efforts to hire thousands of additional team members so we can provide our entire pharmacy team with the support and resources needed.
For Scruggs, this shift in the market has helped renew interest in local, independent pharmacies like his own, and it's also helped his business continue to thrive two years in.
For Capell, it means getting her prescriptions filled on time.
"It is unfortunate that these corporations that we have been used to relying on are no longer as reliable," she said. "But I do think the silver lining is that more people are being driven to local pharmacies and having better experiences and supporting the local economy."