Thursday, March 08, 2007

Is Walgreen's Racist?

In today's New York Times I read a confusing article. The gist of it is that the world's largest pharmacy "makes" African-American managers work in inner-city stores, thus reducing their ability to advance in the company. Johnny Tucker, a black manager with the company 21 years, is suing because he has always worked "in the 'hood" (my words, not his). From the article:

He applauded Walgreen for having stores in inner-city neighborhoods. But he said the company needed to spread the challenges of managing such stores among all its employees, not just black ones. Over the years, he added, he had been held up at gunpoint and threatened with a knife.

“I didn’t live in these neighborhoods, so why was I working there,” Mr. Tucker said.

It seems to me that if such people were not available to staff these stores, they would not open so many of them. Walgreens builds pharmacies across the street from their competitors and even within a mile or two or EACH OTHER on the same thoroughfare! They are "everywhere."

Mr. Tucker thinks that they should "spread the challenges" to all its employees. But not even a retail giant like Walgreens can dictate that good managers work stores that by there locations will not turn good profits. I am surprised that some stores open where they do. This suit is against Walgreens for placing the right people in the right stores in a society that is fractured in to "communities" of hyphenated Americans.

Walgreens with more than a hundred years in the business has learned what works. Neighborhood pharmacies serving neighbors is a proven formula. It would be a shame if this government action should force a socialistic answer to a personnel problem.

The circled area of this map is "my" route at work. I presently serve FIVE Walgreens stores, with one taking shape (M). I personally have NOT seen or heard any such prejudice here in the deep south!


hondo said...

At one time in my life, I worked as an assistant manager for a Walgreen's in Indianapolis. I did that for 6 months, and learned that the retail business was just exactly what I should not be doing with my life! It did give me some valuable experiences, though, and I learned a little bit that might shed some light on this topic you addressed.

The way the Walgreens management program works is that you get hired as an assistant manager, you work like a dog and do their self-study program for a year or two, and then, if you are deemed successful, you get your own store and become its manager. The turnover rate for assistant managers is very high--many of them never make it, for a variety of reasons. If an assistant manager does make it through the program, Walgreens Corporate has to find a suitable store to give you.

The sad truth is that the Corporate mindset is that the customers at a "suburban" store won't like shopping at a store that is managed by a black man or woman. Those suburban stores are "plum" assignments, and they usually go to white managers.

Nobody wants to get assigned a ghetto store, for obvious reasons. Walgreens has learned that white managers will quit rather than take an assignment at a ghetto store. Black managers will accept those assignments more readily. That's just a fact of Walgreens life.

Corporate Walgreens has always been more prone to assign black managers to stores in black neighborhoods anyway. The customers of those stores tend to be very hostile to white managers (especially white female managers) and, as I said, white managers tend to resign when given that kind of assignment.

By the way, Henry, you mentioned something about the locations of these stores, and how they are often right on top of each other. When I worked for Walgreens, they were just starting this practice. It's called "market saturation" and supposedly it was pioneered by McDonalds. You put a new Walgreens 2 blocks north of another Walgreens, because you want to make it as easy as possible for everyone to get to your store without having to drive very far. You also want people to see your "brand" everywhere they look, so that they will be more likely to shop at your store. They will open up a Walgreens right across the street from a CVS or an Osco because they know that there are "fish" in that "pond."

Henry Martin said...

Thanks for the insight. It just makes sense that black neighborhoods would feel more comfortable with black management. It is sad, though, that white neighborhoods feel uncomfortable with black managers. Segregation was wrong when it was forced and it is STILL wrong when it is voluntary.

Anonymous said...


You are a racist dumbass. Just because the black community may feel more comfortable with black staff, why should the black managers not be offered the "plum" locations just as the white managers are?

Do you simply choose to ignore the fact that many of the inner-city stores are known to be in more dangerous areas where robberies are prevalent?

So what you are essentially saying is because it is more comfortable for a black clientele base to frequent a store with black employees, that it's OK for those black employees to be placed in a position that holds much greater risk of being threatened with violence? So are you also saying that black are expendable, and less valuable than their white counterparts?

You, as a white male, have been blessed to not ever be placed in this position. You will never feel the sting of discrimination because you are black (or female), and will never be denied a promotion or choice placement based on your race.

But let me ask you this: how would you feel if it was you that had to get up everyday and go to work, not knowing whether you would be the victim of an armed robbery-not knowing if you would return home to your family at the end of your workday?

This is a perfect example of why these discrimination laws are in place. It's so people like YOU won't be able to play God with someone else's life.

Henry Martin said...

I was going to delete the previous post for is obviously posted by a coward who only wishes to misrepresent my viewpoint. This anonymous poster calls me a "racist dumb---, and then carries on with why he thinks he is right. And he feels he is making a statement when it is obvious that this blog has very little traffic as it is. The post is almost three years old!

Anyway, the point of my post was that I think the stores follow the market, and that no one can be forced to work in a store in a free society. I am not a racist, an I sometimes wonder if I may indeed be a dumb---, but I am open to my opinion on my blog. Personally, I abhor the idea of "race" -- their is but one race -- the human race. I am not a criminologist, nor a sociologist, so I cannot imagine why ethnic neighborhoods tend to have more crime. If crime is a problem, though, I cannot see how stores of a chain such as Walgreen's would put a store in a high risk neighborhood in the first place. It is not "racist," though, to try to work around the expectations of the neighborhoods in which they do put their stores.