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Interesting piece in the Seattle Times the other day about how Bartell Drugs, recently acquired by Rite Aid, seems to have a problem with customers who say they are disappointed by changes in a Pacific Northwest chain known for customer service.

In June, the story says, "Rite Aid rolled out new systems and staff training at some of the 67 Bartell locations.  Since then, many customers say, Bartell’s online prescription refill system has malfunctioned. Phone calls to the stores haven’t been answered. Customers entering some stores have found long lines at the pharmacies and, in some cases, just one or two overworked pharmacists remaining after weeks of heavy staff turnover."

The story goes on:  "Many Bartell customers worry that the problems mean Rite Aid is trying to import its mass-market, cost-cutting, cookie-cutter business model to a Seattle-area company that has been celebrated for generations for its customer service, spotless stores and a quirky product selection featuring lots of locally made goods."

Rite Aid and Bartell officials, however, "insist that the problems customers are encountering are temporary and related largely to the introduction of new back-office systems at Bartell — and aren’t signs of deeper changes from Bartell’s Pennsylvania-based corporate parent.

"The online glitches, for example, reflect efforts to preserve Bartell’s existing online customer experience while upgrading to the digital system used in Rite Aid’s 2,500 stores."  The effort, the story says, was more complicated than expected.

But the staff shortages are a different issue, the Times writes:  "As of Monday, Bartell’s website showed 127 pharmacy job openings, including for 29 pharmacists and 32 pharmacy techs."

KC's View:

I want to take the Rite Aid people at their word, but it wouldn't be the first company to make an acquisition and then screw it up by voiding all the advantages that the purchased company brought to the table.