Uptown Bourgeois is an art space for the creative works of freelance writer, editor, author, and content creator Jefferey Spivey.

I Almost Sent This Angry Letter To Duane Reade Today



I really despise Duane Reade.  For those reading this who don’t live in New York, Duane Reade is the convenience store demon of your worst nightmares.  The locations are just as plentiful as Starbucks but the experience is on par with that of the DMV.  Without fail, there always seems to be two available cashiers for the 8-15 people waiting in line.  And of those two cashiers, neither makes eye contact, smiles, or thanks you for waiting for 15 minutes to buy a Speedstick deodorant.  If you’re lucky, the two cashiers will just talk to each other about how turnt they were last night or how turnt they’ll be later tonight. 

I’m sure you’re wondering why I haven’t moved on to another convenient store.  Well, all the other convenient stores just aren’t convenient.  The closest CVS Pharmacy is a 15-minute walk away, and I’d pass at least three more Duane Reades on the way there.  When I run out of toilet paper, I’m not concerned about convenience store brand loyalty.  I just need the damn toilet paper from the closest place possible.  And, unfortunately, that happens to be the Duane Reade that’s attached to my building.

"It seems like you have to spend at least a million dollars before you earn a $5 reward to use on a lucky purchase." 

So, much like the city’s public transit situation, trips to Duane Reade have become a necessary evil that seems to get worse with each use.  One of the most frustrating and mystifying parts of visiting the drugstore is using its rewards point system.  Most of us here in the Big Apple have a blue reward points balance card.  It only saves you money on purchases if you’re buying artery-clogging goodies like donuts, chocolate chip cookies, or fudge ice cream.  Anything useful or healthy always seems to be full price.  And it seems like you have to spend at least a million dollars before you earn a $5 reward to use on a lucky purchase.  I’m not quite sure how DR calculates these points, but I think we’re all being Punk’d. 

Today, I was finally lucky enough to exceed my million dollar spending limit and earn a $5 reward.  All I had to do was enter my zip code, and voila, my purchase would be $5 less but still too expensive.  But my current zip code was wrong.  And so was my last one from Harlem.  And my zip code from Hell’s Kitchen before that.  What the hell?! You have to remember the zip code of the original location in which you first got the card? This isn’t a credit card.  Why do I need such specific info to use a $5 coupon? I worked hard for this.  Using it should be hassle-free.  The best advice the cashier could offer was to call a customer service number to change the info.  Call someone? No thanks, ma’am.  That seems like a lot of work to claim something that I earned.  And if the phone customer service is anything like the in-store experience, I’ll pass.

"I realized that I was definitely in my 30s now because I was upset about not being able to use a $5 drugstore coupon."

I paid full price for my purchase and went about my day privately fuming.  First, I realized that I was definitely in my 30s now because I was upset about not being able to use a $5 drugstore coupon.  Then, unfazed by how ridiculous it all seemed, I logged onto Duane Reade’s website to send an angry letter that would eventually be received by an outsourced customer service agent.  They would be able to magically unlock my coupon from its digital prison, and probably give me some free shit too.  But even sending in my complaint was plagued with problems.  Here’s the letter I would have sent:

I was at one of your stores today, the Wall St. location, and I was attempting to redeem my $5 coupon but my zip code entry was incorrect.  I entered all zip codes that I've ever lived in here in New York City (the city in which my card was originally issued), and none of them worked.  My card was issued years ago.  I don't remember which store it was at, and frankly, I find it absolutely ridiculous that the locale is required when submitting a request to update information. One of your store employees updated the zip code for me last time this was an issue, but apparently she updated it incorrectly as it now doesn't match any zip code in which I've ever lived.

 It takes months to earn a $5 reward.  As a customer I have to spend hundreds of dollars, wait in long lines, and deal with subpar service on every visit.  And now, when I want to use the rewards that I've earned, I can't because I don't remember the zip code I was living in five years ago when I was issued this card.  This is the most user-unfriendly rewards program I've ever been a part of.  The only reason I even shop at Duane Reade is because it's literally the only convenience store option I have in my neighborhood.  The DR stores are everywhere in the Financial District.  I simply want to update my zip code so I can use the damn coupon, but it's like I'm trying to access a secure Swedish bank account.  This is ridiculous!

Please offer me some type of easy, fast, and convenient fix to this problem that does not involve as much effort as it's taken to earn and attempt to use these points.  And I don’t want to talk to anyone on the phone about this. Your help is much appreciated.


And PS, thanks to the dated and faulty backend of your website, I can't even select a store to submit this request. (Insert angry emoji here)


I’m at home now.  Unable to complain to Duane Reade.  Unable to use my $5 coupon.  That coupon is mine, dammit.  I’m defeated.  I’ve given up.  But I’m still not going to walk to the CVS that’s 15 minutes away.  And I’m not going to stop using my balance rewards card because another $5 coupon could be on its way by early 2017.  I’m pulling back for now, but I’ll solve this, Duane Reade.  You just wait and see.  First round: Duane Reade-1, Jefferey-0.  Stay tuned for the rematch.

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