Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Walgreens. The Pharmacy Drug-Crazed Armed Robbers In Washington State Seem To Trust.

Tonight my friends the magic of the Internet will take us to the great Pacific Northwest, specifically to Seattle, home of lots of rain, the legacy of both Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, and perhaps not surprisingly lots of folks who seem to like their Oxycontin:

It's not the place you'd expect to come face-to-face with a dangerous criminal.

But in record numbers in Washington state, pharmacies are being robbed, and robbers are targeting two big-name chain stores....

Whoever wrote that first line has never worked in a pharmacy a day in their life. 

KING 5 Investigators researched drug store crimes in Washington dating back to 2003. At that time Rite Aid and Walgreens accounted for only 17 percent of hold-ups. Most were at mom- and- pop shops.

But we discovered an astonishing reversal by 2008, when nearly three quarters of robberies happened at Walgreens and Rite Aid.

When not reached for comment, Rite Aid CEO Mary Sammons didn't say "Wow! called us a BIG-NAME chain store! BIG-NAME! My God! Maybe we are going to make it if an actual news reporter says we're BIG-NAME!"

Sammons then didn't announce a new Rite Aid program whereupon any armed robber who held up a Walgreens in the past would be eligible for a $25 gift card the next four times they rob a Rite Aid.

OK I was kidding about that. Kind of. The TV station doing the story did get a written statement from Walgreens though, and being a fair and balanced kind of guy, I thought it might be interesting to play with the cut and paste and let you look at a few things side by side. From Walgreens statement:

Walgreens has almost doubled the number of drug stores it operates in Washington. In 2003, Walgreens operated 65 stores compared to 111 stores now.

Oh, I see, that totally explains why there are way more robberies at Walgreens now.

Except when you read the original story you'll see it doesn't.

...combined, Rite Aid and Walgreens still account for only one fifth of pharmacies statewide.

Now go back up and read the blockquote that says three-quarters of robberies in Washington were at Walgreens or Rite Aid locations. Walgreens hopes you won't, because if you do you'll probably realize three quarters is way bigger than one fifth. And that Walgreens is full of shit.

That was fun. Let's try another. Walgreens says:

Over the last year, all of our stores have been outfitted with profile cameras.

Wow. That makes me feel all secure and stuff. Now to the news story:

Cameras are the number one tool to identify and convict suspects.

While the DEA wouldn't single out any pharmacy, agent Carter said: "It's more often than not that the video is of no value"

When cameras are present they're often pointed at the pharmacy's own employees to guard against internal theft. There isn't much financial incentive to aim those cameras at the robbers.

Pharmacies don't necessarily lose money from robberies of OxyContin, which is the drug stolen in 90 percent of these crimes.

Manufacturer Purdue Pharma, concerned by the refusal of some pharmacies to stock the drug, has a program to pay all insurance deductibles and uninsured OxyContin losses.

Because pharmacies aren't losing money some are slow to upgrade security, exposing employees and customers to the dangers that accompany every desperate robber who walks through the door.

And that makes me a trusted professional. And a valued member of the corporate team. How non-surprised I was to read those words.

Walgreens employees have been trained on how to detect and react to potential robberies.

Detecting a robbery isn't all that hard. And I'll tell you exactly how Walgreens employees have been trained to react. Give them everything they want. And hope they don't kill you. Robbers have gotten hip to this policy, which is why three quarters of Washington robberies are happening at the big chains and not at independents where things like this can happen:

Mike Donohue runs a small "mom and pop" pharmacy in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood.

His security camera recorded a hooded man earlier this year walking into the pharmacy on the same day Donohue returned from the police station to identify a suspect from an earlier robbery.

"I was in disbelief," Donohue said. "I thought this can't be happening again."

It was, but this time Donohue fought back. When the robber saw Donohue’s Glock 19 handgun, he ran out the pharmacy door.

No word on Donohue's gift card policy. Or if he treats the people he chooses to hire as criminals.

Christ I need a new job.

Thanks to the multiple alert readers who tipped me to the story.


DKLA said...

I agree that the Wal-Greens policy (possibly Rite-Aid, CVS, etc.), involves bending over and taking it in full view of their "useful" security system (sounds dirty doesn't it...).

I do like the option of carrying a gun in a high theft area, but their could be alternatives.

I remember certain banks have bulletproof windows for their tellers or video conference with clients in a different room. Even a fast food chain would go along with the bullet proof glass.

I think that a lawsuit will be involved with this one (the lawyers are probably on top of this one). Citing that employee safety is not taken into full account in a high risk area.

sickofstupidpeople said...

I think King5 ran that story on the 11:00 news, after I'd gone to bed... But, I'm in the Pacific Northwest - not Seattle, but close enough. The area that I work in has had a rash of pharmacy robberies recently. Five in 1 week. One of the robbers left a "bomb" on the counter at a local independent. It looked real enough that the bomb squad took it out to a field and blew it up. I spoke with the owner of the pharmacy shortly after that, and he said a security expert told him security cameras don't do anything, because they're usually aimed from above, and robbers wear hats, hoodies, or look down. So, I forwarded his suggestion to my bosses, and now to your readers as well. Put a camera down low - get the robbers FACE on the camera, not just the top of his head. I think my boss saw the story. That, combined with a crazy lady last week who climbed on our counter and proceeded to kick, scream, and throw things until she was arrested, made him see the light about my request to have a 'panic button' installed. Not gonna hold my breath, but it's a step in the right direction that he gets it now.
Now, if I could talk him into allowing me to get a concealed weapons permit... Maybe I would name my gun Oxycontin... "You want Oxy? Well, here ya go!"

little mermaid said...

That Donahue guy is packin' heat. Just like the Drugmonkey.

Anonymous said...

I guess I missed the "how to spot a thief" training day that supposedly all Walgreens employees receive. We did get a memo to stop telling people when our narcotics order comes in! "I'm sorry we don't have your son's Concerta in stock--uh WHEN will we have it??...uh I can't tell you that because you might come back and rob me that day!"

And it is SOOO true that the cameras are on the employees NOT the robbers to be...At WAG you are presumed guilty until the day you quit and then they probably think the only reason you would leave their wonderful place of employment is because you were about to be caught. We are all a bunch of lazy crooks......but I'm no bitter or anything....

Anonymous said...

You should go work for an independent. It was the smartest (and luckiest) thing I ever did.

Frank, CPhT said...

I've worked for both of the big name chains, but fortunately not in the Pacific northwest (although I imagine that the Pacific Northwest would be a little more scenic). When I worked for Walgreens all of the Walgreens around me were robbed, mine generally just got the small thiefs who came in to steal the shitty used DVDs that we sold...

When I worked at Wrong-Aid, we generally just had our liquer stolen... and my boss wouldn't stand for that. I chased more then a few of those types down over a bottle of Crown Royal. You do not fuck with the Crown Royal, or Frank will kick your ass!

But seriously, Rite-Aid... Big Name Chain? Aren't they actually paying people at this point to buy their stock... I think if I put every dollar I earn into Rite-Aid stock, I would be Majority share holder in like 3 days?

Anonymous said...

Well, if it is mom and pop's shop, they can choose how much oxycontin they stock, and WG and RA have standard stock levels, I'm told. Also, staff at souless chains have no vested interest in protecting stock- nor should they. My husband's grandfather was killed at a robbery to his store- he had been robbed many times when he was working for someone else, but never hurt. In his own store....

Anonymous said...

Seattle???? the home of the flannel shirt grunge stoner caffiene addict? Post sign that says "don't steal...go to ER, c/o chronic abdominal pain, be admitted, get 3 straights, a clean bed and all the hillbilly heroin you want because we want our customer to be satisfied." Why risk jail time when you can have all the above. Those video cameras on you..those paper clips and pens you take home cost money, you know.

Nana Jackie said...

This story makes me reflect on a couple of points: How much crap would I be willing to tolerate to live in the PNW, and how satisfied I am, approaching my silver anniversary as a pharmacist, to have chosen hospital practice. I am in no way dissing my retail colleagues, I just don't think I could stand on my surgically altered feet all day and deal with the daily potential for armed robbery. I know my spouse would be a basket case by now.
I am also reminded of an incident from my student days, when I worked at a very successful and posh independent pharmacy. The owner loved to drink his Pepsi in a state somewhat resembling brown slush. He stuck a two liter plastic bottle of said carbonated beverage in the freezer one morning and forgot about it. When he took it out later that day, he had a senior moment and opened it. Behind the counter. Very near the back door and right next to the cash register. That negatively pressurized bottle of goo escaped containment with a very loud report and with such force the bottle cap ricocheted around the stock shelves at least five times. The other pharmacist dropped flat to the floor and everyone else in the store was running for the exit, evidently all of the opinion a weapon had been discharged. Good times.

Anonymous said...

We run a small retail pharmacy in front of the hospital pharmacy. Only a door separates us. There is no security up front, so our customers are at risk as well as our staff. Too bad none of us seems to matter to admin, but I guess we're all replaceable. Besides, nothing's happened yet, right? So it's probably not going to, statistically speaking, right?

Yes, I AM being sarcastic. The only good thing about this is that the admin offices are right behind the pharmacy, and bullets maintain a lot of velocity after going through people and doors and such.

pdx said...

Here in the PNW section we call Oregon, they just jump over the counter!! This is one of those 24-hour Walgreens. To wit:

Anonymous said...

pleaase go over to nurse k's blog and kick her ass about her comment that wal-mart's 4 dollar scripts are an example of kick ass capitalismm...please

Anonymous said...

I work for Walgreens in Seattle and the number of robberies here for Oxy is ridiculous, although there was one idiot who robbed us for Hydrocodone. Walgreens' "training" on how to deal with robbers was a computerized lesson on giving them what they want and "don't be a hero". As far as I'm concerned, WAG will only take serious measures when one of us gets shot.

Anonymous said...

And at WAG if you are shot in the commission of a robbery, you will be placed with all respect in a warehouse tote, to be replaced by a non-english speaking, FPGEE licensee who does not know that Claritin is non-sedating, and who does not know that diaper rash can be treated successfully OTC.
But at least they can work without overtime...

Anonymous said...

During walgreens trainging we are required to watch a video on what to do if we get robbed. We are instructed to look down (don't look at the robbers face or they might freak out) put out both hands palms facing up in a non threatening manner and give the robbers whatever they want. No drugs are worth anyone's life, except maybe the really good ones

KC in Fla said...

~ As far as I'm concerned, WAG will only take serious measures when one of us gets shot.~

Yup, I'm a WAG employee as well, and I've said that many times. The police in our area have complained repeatedly about the camera positions, but the PTB do nothing to change this.

Oh, and btw- we've been robbed 3 times in the past year, and I'm in Central Fla. So the PNW does not have a monopoly on this situation.

My kids are starting to get really scared for me at work. And I really can't blame them.

Anonymous said...

as a dear friend and fellow Walgreen's pharmacist said, "I'm afraid to scratch my ass, they might think I'm stealing a suppository!" I've Been robbed 3 times in the past 2 years, and have been chastised harshly for "calling in sick" the next day, and "you didn't give them all the oxycontin! Just give them 1 bottle" from a mgr who obviously never had a gun in his back.... what a messed up world we work in. Thanx for putting this up, its good to hear others airing their frustration and fears of this escalating situation.

Moral Nomad said...

Here in Columbus (that's Ohio, DM,:))there is a fairly regular rash of robberies involving Oxycontin. I work for CVS and they are hit pretty regularly, including my store. Last year the store down the street was hit. The PIC there had been at his store for some 20 years or so. He carried plenty of all the Oxys. It was rather strange this robbery didn't make the news, because you will usually hear something. I found out a couple weeks later from a corporate flunkie this was the biggest robbery in CVS history. I can't verify that but one very local internet reference put the value of stolen goods at $300,000.
What, you ask, was the company's response to this? They fired that good man the very next week. Despite the fact he wasn't even on duty that night, somebody, apparently, had to pay. And it wasn't because he was suspected or anything like that. Let's just say CVS has an extremely ambiguous, dangerous (to its employees) approach to the issue of Oxycontin.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps if one were to tell some of these pharmacy chain corporate heads that unions are trying to organize their pharmacies they would be quicker to take actual security measures.