Walgreens still green-lights feet

  A newbie store manager learns the truth, chalks up some experience

There's a Walgreens in town that I've been going to for years, getting my flu shots and sending an occasional prescription through its pharmacy.  Over the last two or three years I'd freely been in the store shoeless, and it was fairly well-known around the barefooter community that Walgreens did *not* have any sort of footwear policy -- which had been true for quite a few years.  Walgreens had been among the earlier companies to affirm its commitment to diversity and public well-being, and if an individual's health choices included avoiding the destructive effects of shoes, so be it.

But apparently the training for new retail personnel doesn't specifically mention that, leaving them guided only by their existing prejudices.  I was waiting around in the store one day while the pharmacist was pulling a prescription for me.  A little bit of construction was going on at the front of the store, where they were putting in a whole new check-out counter, but that area was taped off and it wasn't like the whole store was strewn with hazards.  A middle-aged employee approached me and expressed concern about it and my feet anyway, but I reassured her that I was fine and that I frequently worked in construction environments without shoes.  She said "okay" and walked off, and I resumed my studying of ingredient content on various brands of vitamins while waiting around.  A little later I saw this same person conferring with a younger woman up at the end of the aisle, and then a little later the younger one came up and started with the nonsense assertion that I needed shoes on to be in the store, and that it was "Walgreens policy".  She was apparently the store manager, so the older woman had evidently gone and tattled on me.

I shot right back that it was not policy and I didn't wear, need, or have shoes, and that I was all set and knew what I was doing, not to mention being a long-time customer of the place without issue.  She then played the "well, next time" card, which I also shot down, and had to defend myself on a couple more points until she finally went away.  She said she was going to "check on the policy".  In the meantime, my order came ready so I went to the window to pick it up and pay.  While there I thought to ask the pharmacist who the younger woman was, which is where I learned that she was the manager, her name, and that she had only been at the store for a couple of months.  Made sense, I had never seen her there before.

I surmised that she was newly-minted into this role, and with all kinds of fresh enthusiasm about the position felt that she needed to micro-manage every little aspect of her store.  [Perhaps it was under her instigation that the front counter face-lift was going on?]  For some people, being given increased responsibility brings with it a certain tendency to overreach, believing that it's part and parcel of "doing a good job". 

Sorry, wrong.  Here comes your next teachable moment.

I went home, called Walgreens corporate customer relations, and asked for contact info for the regional manager that covered the area with that store.  Sometimes it's better to work these issues through regionals than the main corporate entity, as they're a bit more agile and more interested in solving local on-the-ground problems.  Corp didn't have any phone numbers but could pass messages, and said they handle regional interactions on a callback basis -- that's sort of annoying, as it feels like an ivory-tower excuse and a means to more easily blow off complaints, but I gave them my phone number and hoped for the best as far as anyone actually calling me back to discuss the incident.  I did *not* supply any description of the problem, only that I wanted to talk to a regional about that particular store.

The next morning, I had not heard the phone ring, but later realized there was a voicemail on it, which turned out to be from the store manager herself.  Not a regional.  She would not normally have had any contact info for me.  Either the regional had already talked to her and passed my number and they had *assumed* that the reason for any contact was me and my feet, or she had pulled my contact info from the pharmacy order.  While that felt a little creepy, it was far outweighed by the fact that she had called to *apologize* about everything, had learned that if Walgreens might have had an anti-foot policy in the past they did not anymore, and to say that I was welcome in the store anytime.  The best way to get the full context is to simply listen to her voicemail. [205 K]  It's nice to have more affirmation that Walgreens *is* foot-friendly, in the living words of its own people, after learning the truth and why treating a long-time good-faith customer like a five year old is likely to have consequences.

A few days later I did have the conversation with the regional manager, who said that the store manager had already reached out to her as part of her researching the situation.  So the regional was already aware of the incident, and was now able to connect it together with the "mystery callback" with no information that she'd gotten from Corporate.  We had a great conversation; it was clear that everyone up and down the line agreed that there's no point in "policies" against bare feet if that's a person's choice, especially if it's for health purposes -- since after all, health is foundational to Walgreens business.  The regional said they were having a big meeting the next week, and she'd bring all of this up as a lesson learned and an example of positive customer-service outcome.

_H*   191112

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