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  • RiteAid: Ready To Soar [View article]

    If you go by the Home Depot play book, if the Home Depot board had hired someone other than Frank Blake in 2007, perhaps Home Depot would now still not be anywhere near their new 52 week high. Frank Blake got it, owned the horrible customer service problem and fixed it!! Rite Aid historically has made excuses and no less with the help of some readers here too. It is simply telling that John Standley's Pathmark which had bad customer service there before his employment as CEO, remained bad right up to his sale to A & P (according to Consumers Reports). His expertise, his career up until that time had more to do with accounting/numbers/cost cutting NOT customer service. If all 3 chains do not provide award winning service, then how do you stand out-YOU PROVIDE AWARD WINNING SERVICE. And it does not cost a whole lot more money; some yes to be sure but it's mostly training. Should a Wellness Ambassador be doing anything other than helping our customers-that's the job description we were told she/he had. Yet my visit to one store showed her simply stocking the beauty aisle shelf with merchandise. Once again, penny wise, pound foolish. Cost cutting is good, cutting to a fault is bad!

    Anyway, as I have said I do not expect the current players to get this right, but others will and a buyout is very likely. The only question is when-will all my hairs have to turn gray first, who knows.
    Aug 22 03:27 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • RiteAid: Ready To Soar [View article]

    Don't stop there; keep branching out to other stores on Yelp in other big city states. Notice the number 1 complaint being the outrageously long lines. As I have mentioned previously, California in general has shown a dramatic improvement almost immediately after a new regional manager was brought in. Prior to this, the West Coast region had the most shocking and worst reviews in the whole company. So just like when the company finally, and mercifully, replaced senior management in 2010 (8 years after the board was first contacted by this shareholder) here too in California you see some positive change. However, even in California there still remain many, many poorly performing stores still that you can note on Yelp that simply stay that way. Is it due to cronyism, that senior management does not care, or the fact that they took the previous West Coast regional manager and retired him to Corporate to now oversee ALL Store Operations. What a bright idea!

    The mistake many make is judging customer service on their few local stores; unfortunately the stock price is based on 4600 stores!
    Aug 22 11:47 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • RiteAid: Ready To Soar [View article]

    Thanks again for your civil reply, not always found here. Responding to your comments in order made:

    1. Since there is supposed to be strength in numbers, and only because the author of this article published Investor Relations telephone number did I suggest it might be a better use of the "number crunchers" time here to instead voice their concerns, if they in fact have any on service issues, to call Rite Aid and voice it. I have no illusion that this writer alone can affect change; not with the board in senior management's pocket since before the year 2000. If dozens of calls came in to Investor Relations on the topic of service it would get more attention, maybe. The problem is few shareholders know just how much improvement must be made here or are complacent. Most "local" shareholders go to the Annual Meeting just for the coffee and doughnuts and are ill informed.

    2. If you have read some of my previous comments you could assume I am way ahead of you in contacting others with big positions in the company. In fact, I had contacted Carl Icahn years ago when the stock was at $1. and he did not bite; he missed an eightfold increase recently, but he was in the stock in the early 2000's very briefly before he left. He is in the process of contact again now.

    3. While Costco has extremely long lines because as you say "they offer good value" that is why customers will tolerate long lines. Ross Stores also has long lines because of good value. Rite Aid, however, similar to Walgreens and CVS does NOT offer good value. We all know that you pay the highest prices at drugstores for the CONVENIENCE factor, all whose products you could have gotten cheaper at Costco and many other sources. A long line at a drugstore, therefore, is not a good prescription for success. That is why you are much more likely at CVS and Walgreens to hear the lone cashier go on the PA system to say "I see three" and another relief cashier comes running up the aisle to open another register TIMELY, not eventually. Less likely for that to happen at Rite Aid due to no training and less support and money for the stores from Corporate.

    You also forgot to mention that Costco highly pays it's employees, no minimum wages there, and that means better interaction with it's customers; Rite Aid believes in minimum wages and lots of turnover. Also remember that Rite Aid has had many class action lawsuits against it for not paying overtime to non-exempt hourly workers who they claimed were exempt management, when in reality were doing the work of the non-exempt's. Of course, they tend to be settled out of court after the typical many years waiting period, but does this make for a dedicated and motivated employee either during or even after the settlement? Of course, not!

    I completely agree with you that this forum will change little, because too many here are locked into firmly held positions and anything that refutes that is met with attacks. I respond here to provide the few here with open minds who are shareholders the benefit of what I know about the company, but I can assure you the other avenues open to me are being concentrated on to a much higher degree. In fact, I have notified senior management of this in writing recently. I take this forum as an interesting hobby of sorts first, and providing information second.

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply.
    Aug 22 11:22 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • RiteAid: Ready To Soar [View article]

    Thanks for your reply. You may have missed one or more of my previous comments. In 2008 on behalf of myself and all other shareholders, I flew to Harrisburg on my own dime (their corp. jet did not pick me up) and as I previously indicated spent over 1 1/2 hours with senior management, including Mr. Standley. At least 1 and 1/4 of those hours was spent going over specific observations at the stores visited nationwide which were killing revenues, some previously submitted to corp. in writing. What this writer believed were easy resolutions to these continuous problems, which would involve better oversight of middle management were discussed. Based on current observations, a reasonable person would conclude that it went on deaf ears at the meeting and given the amount of complaints by others at Annual Meetings, there too.

    Apparently, it comes down to training and spending money, i.e investing in your employees neither of which Corp. appears to want to do sufficiently, it would appear. Because Corp. number crunchers consider store employees a cost instead, the store employee count and training suffers, as the author here has already noted. Generally, you are correct that all three chains do not do a very good job servicing there customers, although this year Rite Aid has routinely come in third on all independent reviews I am aware of. We need to be better than them, not just as bad! Additionally, as I have noted the Pathmark Supermarket experience for customers, where our current senior management were last employed at, clearly demonstrated by the Consumers Report extensive survey of customers on that business (where they placed the 52nd worst out of 59), that understanding what service is all about is foreign to them.

    This writer believes that you provide the correct service first to stand out from the 3 way crowd. Then watch the repeat business and new business by word of mouth come in extra profits. We do not have the money that Walgreens and CVS have to advertise continuously on TV and radio. Good word of mouth on service will trump this problem. If you understaff so 10+ customers are waiting for the one cashier to check out and do not train, pay minimum wage with constant turnover and treat your employees poorly, why should the first time customer, perhaps with Obama Care insurance for the first time, want to come back again, given a choice. I wouldn't and I doubt you would!

    Normally, I would agree with you that the right forum is discussion with senior management, however, been there, done that! The problems center around money; plenty for senior management, good performance or not, and less for the stores, where the action is, where the customers are, where the cash registers ring. I do not expect you to fully appreciate the involvement I have had with Rite Aid behind the scenes over many, many years. I have indicated to senior management that I will use my time more constructively in the future to inform others with deep pockets where the issues are and if resolved could mean a lot of money for any interested third parties. That, in the final analysis will get the stock up faster than waiting around for management to figure it out.

    I discuss the problems here, because to the extent many of you are shareholders you have a right to make the company more accountable for what goes on at the stores, remembering that your local store may not be the common experience of all stores. If shareholders elect to make management more accountable through Investor Relations, as provided by the author here, great then this was indeed the correct forum for some of my comments. If there is continued simple complacency, then clearly my time was wasted here too. Simple as that.
    Aug 21 04:45 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • RiteAid: Ready To Soar [View article]

    Now that you have provided the author of this article with the Santa Monica location, perhaps the author (and all the armchair experts) would like to do a little more homework instead of just regurgitating the official corporate numbers provided by the company. See what the lack of employee training and being "penny wise and pound foolish" does to our revenue and helps explain why our monthly numbers will never catch up to those of Walgreens and CVS.

    Just for fun, since Santa Monica has now been mentioned by you to the author perhaps some of you may want to go to and check out the reviews for the location at 2412 Pico Blvd. If you ignore the exclusive reviews on Thrifty ice cream (not where we make our money) you will read a consistent pattern of:

    1. long lines bitterly complained about by the vast number of reviews
    2. frustration dealing with the pharmacy, our money maker!!
    3. personnel that seem to care less

    And getting an overall 2 out of 5 star review is improvement since 4 years ago!! California in general shows improvement since the newer regional Manager took over, but even here when a store shows poor reviews it seems to just stay that way. Corporate has the same access to these reviews as you and I do and they do nothing to step in and take the necessary actions to stop this poor level of service. For those who doubt internet reviews in general or Yelp in particular, I have found them fairly accurate before visiting a store. Line control, is quite frankly OUT OF CONTROL in this company; it is the number one problem complained about in reviews. It is the number one issue complained about by his writer to senior management. If you continue plugging in your own big city towns in you will read the never ending complaints on this lack of service. Customers coming in on their cherished lunch hour to get a drink with their sandwich do not want to wait 15 minutes to checkout! Are shareholders comfortable paying $10-15 million in salaries to senior executives that can not get this right? Lip service will not correct it, a nice Investor Relations manager who knows how to say all the right words to a concerned shareholder will not correct it and yet another Annual Meeting will not correct it!

    So, armchair experts, perhaps right there in the convenience of your recliner, rather than regurgitating the company's numbers and being hypnotized by a now shrinking stock price, maybe just maybe you need to concentrate on what is important to the customer to make them want to come back. They do not care about the company's numbers, they don't care that the hedge funds juiced the stock for the last year and now seem to have exited for a little while. They care about how they are treated and the service they receive in a convenience business with lots of choices.

    I understand that many of you are newer to this Rite Aid investment and the added attention now paid to this company since the dramatic improvement in the stock price, compliments of all the prior mismanagement by previous executives. It is not enough to slice and dice company provided numbers. The company executives will not tell you that we do not have a clue just how bad line control is. They will not tell you that at their previous employment they also ran a business that also had horrible customer service (i.e. Pathmark supermarkets). So, if you are going to call Investor Relations, do some homework first, check out the reviews since I do not expect you to do what I do and visit stores out of my area. Ask the company how is it that they can allow the 1000's of terrible reviews on line control, pharmacy service and employee attitude. Prior management left the company (or shown the door) and became multi millionaires not caring about you, leaving you the shareholder with the mess. Although somewhat improved, service is still pathetic, employee morale is at low levels and if the armchair experts here remain complacent, then you do not deserve your "double digits" let alone the $20.+ dollar stock price we should be right now.
    Aug 20 11:39 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • International Game Technology declares $0.11 dividend [View news story]
    If this dividend is trying to make shareholders feel better for management running the company into the ground to only get a buyout at less than the 52 week high, in order to keep their jobs in the merged company, guess what IT DIDN'T WORK!!
    Aug 20 10:05 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • RiteAid: Ready To Soar [View article]

    In response to your comments, complaints about service have been routine at each and every Annual Meeting since I have been attending them since 2001. Little has changed, although there has been some limited improvement (emphasis on limited), because in part the board of directors have historically been incestuously closely related to the very people they are supposed to supervise. By way of example, the board was displeased with prior senior management at least 5 years before that executive was shown the door and being given huge monetary incentives on the way out; no matter that the stock reached .20 cents a share in 2009.

    There also appears to be nothing in the employment backgrounds of current senior management to suggest things will change any time soon on service, based on actual store inspections, which is why I believe a buyout of the company is the right solution not only for shareholders but the employees as well. The employees could certainly use more "inspiration" and less "intimidation".

    I agree with you and picked up a little more stock at $5.99 based on the buyout theory, and much less having to do with any success in improving the employee work ethic. That takes training, but first you have to acknowledge the problem, not with lip service but with action
    Aug 19 03:41 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • RiteAid: Ready To Soar [View article]

    You may know that I have used Home Depot (today at all time highs) as a model company where good senior management reigns supreme. Frank Blake came to that company in 2007 as CEO, the very moment that Rite Aid began its decline from $6.40 a share at the Eckerd Closing fiasco, with the same problems that Rite Aid still has. Then, Home Depot had exceptionally poor employee morale and worse customer service, with the same poor independent reviews that Rite Aid still has today, even worse. The difference is that Frank Blake recognized the problems and made no excuses, he acknowledged them and was determined to change the picture. Every Thursday, he visits a different store and puts on the orange Home Depot apron to see things not only from the customers point of view but at least as important from the employees point of view. The result- very high employee approval ratings; the employees simply love this guy.

    When was the last time John Standley routinely stood watch in a Rite Aid store either in the pharmacy dept. or front-end registers? While I do not exactly know the answer, I do know that his employee ratings at are not good (nor are they at Walgreens or CVS). It is amazing that the drugstore industry believes they can get away with poor service in a "convenience" industry with the highest prices, at least in the front-end of the store. Which is exactly why I harp on this so much, because if Rite Aid could ever get this right, if Mr. Standley showed the leadership traits of a Frank Blake or a Herb Helleher at Southwest Airlines the stock could already be at the "double digits" and begin with the number "2".

    The human condition makes some of the easiest observations so difficult to see. The armchair cheerleaders here, with no direct information other than the numbers they get from management that "seem to appear" so good to them, forget what the stock numbers used to be and surely could be today, i.e. $50. stock before the 1999 accounting scandal and even $12. after it in 2001! Senior management is fortunate to have these armchair cheerleaders not demanding a whole lot more from them. It makes it a whole lot easier for them to accumulate their retirement wealth here without controversy, without putting out that extra effort. Hopefully though there are others here who realize that if you do not demand more, you will not get it. These appear to be the very same people who have more of the facts, if only the armchair cheerleaders could have that open mind. If only they stopped saying "Don't confuse me with your independent facts, my mind's already made up".

    The author states the poorly staffed stores is necessary to improve profitability? Don't you improve profitability by a good store experience first? This philosophy from Rite Aid senior management, if we are to believe the author, is exactly opposite to what improves profitability. Once again, the human condition makes an easy theory way too difficult. Oh well.
    Aug 19 03:09 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • RiteAid: Ready To Soar [View article]
    Seeking Alpha Readers

    Where to begin, but at least this article brought the "double digit people" out of hibernation; I really missed you while you were on vacation when the stock took a 25% haircut!

    1. On the debt- The author states that the debt was taken on to turn around the company?? Really? The fact is the debt, namely the Eckerd purchase in 2007, was caused by either empire building to turn 3000 mostly mismanaged stores into 4800 mismanaged stores. The board that approved this transaction either did not know, and probably could care less, that the stores they already owned were disgracefully managed by incompetent senior management. You do not buy more stores if what you already own needs surgery UNLESS, maybe just maybe, you intentionally want to load up with debt to scare away potential suitors for the company, to keep your very lucrative jobs. I have commented previously, based on reliable information, that a major drugstore chain wanted to buy a piece of Rite Aid and was rebuffed. The recession masked the real problem here, namely incompetent management that was protected by our board, which took no action until AFTER the stock/company were in danger of not only a NYSE delisting, but also potential bankruptcy

    Interest rates will go up eventually, and now is the time to dramatically lower it, which is why this writer and others suggest and at the next Annual Meeting will demand that Rite Aid consider selling a piece of the company NOW to concentrate on improving operations still in hand. A several billion dollar reduction in debt caused by such a sale will boost the stock price 10-15% the day of the announcement.

    2. Customer Service- The author of this article extends politeness to others complaining here about service; I am not so fortunate. Never mind that this writer flew up to Corporate in 2008 to meet with current management and spent an hour going over, with excruciating specifics, my observations and my prior written reports. While some of the specific issues which lingered prior to my trip, and had already caused a substantial loss of revenues, were resolved only due to the meeting, the general resolution still go unresolved-poor training at the regional level leading to a total lack of initiative at the district/store level. Since 2008 we have allowed an additional six (6) years of lip service to continue. So, when the author suggests you call and speak to Investor Relations , because they seem to care, remember that they are well trained in making shareholders "feel" good. We need the right actions, not the right words!

    The author suggests that as sales improve and more Wellness stores come online this will trigger management to staff up better to come closer to Walgreens/CVS staffing. It's the old 'what comes first, the chicken or the egg". Doesn't common sense suggest the cash register rings more often when customers want to come back when they liked their experience the prior time they visited us? If the experience was horrible at the unrenovated store, why would they want to visit the renovated one, and even if out of some curiosity to see the renovated store, if according to the author's statistics service is no better based on apparently being understaffed why would they want to come back again? To be clear, dear doubters, this is not a uniform problem! Not all stores are run poorly; not all regional/district/store managers are bad, BUT TOO MANY ARE!! Even the author's employee count statistics ( i.e. being understaffed) match up perfectly with:
    1. Online reviews which bitterly and consistently complain about the stores being understaffed, usually and outrageously with only one register open and 10-15 customers waiting to checkout. No timely request for backup and backup not timely responding.
    2. Independent reviews, already recited here previously, which show Rite Aid placing last on service out of the three big chains, including this year placing the #2 Worst Retail Store in America based on Customer Service, according to 24/7 Wall St.(div. of Market Watch)
    3. The fact that Mr. Standley's prior employment as CEO at Pathmark Stores, a money losing operation, showed that at the end of Mr. Standley's 2 year employment there, Consumer's Reports placed his operation as the 52nd worst (out of 59) supermarket chain which had service (especially checkout line control) as a primary factor in the 4 point rating. Mr. Standley has proven to be successful in "numbers crunching" with little understanding in providing service, period! Attacking this writer, which I await again anew now, does not change that. We invested in Rite Aid not to be just as bad as Walgreens and CVS (which are not quite as bad but no bargain either), but to be better than them, especially given our debt level, inability to advertise as much as them and being smaller than them. Excellent service and treating our employees better is our best advertisement, and being penny wise, pound foolish will NEVER get us there. Service is where we could stand out, that "low hanging fruit" waiting to be picked, but our senior management has no prior experience in understanding that seven letter word called SERVICE, uniformly in ALL our stores and not just some of them.

    Double digit people, yes we will see double digits eventually, but this is one shareholder that does not want to wait first for Walgreens and CVS to be $150. per share to see Rite Aid at 10; not when we should be $20+ NOW, but for the mismanagement. We should congratulate senior management for their marketing and cost cutting skills( except for lack of training and understaffing), I have at the Annual Meeting, but not accept what appears to be a lack of understanding and ability to solve what is now a 15 year + inability to provide good service in a "convenience" business. In too many stores it is anything but convenient. Ultimately, I believe a sale of the whole company is the only appropriate solution, and I suspect you will not be waiting too long.

    Please excuse me, I must now put my armor on now to fend off the "double digit" people here who are sharpening their knives now, ready to go on the attack.
    Aug 19 11:23 AM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Interest grows in drugstore stocks [View news story]

    Oh, the wonders of human nature. Only now, with the stock price down some 20% from the highs, and the hedge funds presumably taking their money and run, does performance suddenly enter the picture. This writer has continuously been attacked because all along he has been commenting on store "performance" even as he was making a whole lot more money on this stock before than today. Performance always trumps the stock price, and the performance is not consistent throughout the FULL store base. No matter what this writer knows personally, no matter what each one of you could know by reading the online reviews which show spotty store execution, with some good performance BUT too much bad performance still, it did not matter to the arm chair experts here. So long as the stock is going up, we will attack anyone who spoils the party. Now we go back to basics and can only hope that what senior management promised at the Annual Meeting actually happens. This writer only gives that less than 50/50 odds, knowing the players as I do, however, as previously indicated rumours of a buyout will begin anew again, and with a lack of much better improvement a deep pocketed activist will materialize to force a sale. That, I have very little doubt about. The question is when and I expect to not be waiting very long.
    Aug 12 12:11 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Interest grows in drugstore stocks [View news story]

    Voila! 300 North Canon Drive in Beverly Hills is one of the newest and nicest Wellness remodeled stores in the whole company. Give it a try. We shareholders would like some of your money!
    Aug 12 08:17 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Interest grows in drugstore stocks [View news story]
    What ever happened to the Rite Aid "double-digit" crowd here on Seeking Alpha?? Must be on vacation these last several weeks, right? (lol). Actually, I am long Rite Aid, but know too well that revenue growth and margins had better start matching Walgreens/CVS OR BETTER. I say better since most here give prior management of Rite Aid a thumbs down, big time as I do based on more knowledge than I care to remember, and current management the thumbs up. That being the case, to an extreme, which this writer/shareholder believes is way overdone, should mean much more room for numbers improvement as compared to Walgreens/CVS, who were already going on all cylinders for many more years. Yet with Rite Aid we are still waiting to see more results. Either way, I believe the stock is a good investment, because if the numbers don't continue to improve, Rite Aid now looks like the classic buyout candidate. A sale of part or all of the company may soon present itself. Let's see, but the above should bring the "double-digit SA crowd out of hibernation, at least long enough to come to the blind defense of current Rite Aid management.
    Double digit crowd, Ready, set, go..............
    Aug 11 03:56 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Update: Rite Aid - Positive Direction Continues [View article]

    Just placed my order to buy more a little under current prices. Seems like the "double digit crowd" is quiet today here on Seeking Alpha, with the stock nearing $6.! Gee, I wonder why? Double digit people, stop making excuses for senior management! Now you know why I watch the performance in the stores first, knowing the stock price will follow, NOT watch the price first and salivating to see real quick even higher prices. However, even Rite Aid's performance does nor deserve a $6. ticker, so I bought a little more at $5.99 today, fingers crossed to avoid a seizure (lol). My thesis is that the story on Rite Aid has not changed, even though you know I believe they have much more work to do to become a first-class operation and not rely on hedge funds to push the stock higher. When they exit, as you see today, they are not fooling. Of course, the exit could be just minutes or days. The most money sometimes can be made when you are the most scared-Don't end up selling your shares to me today/tomorrow, PLEASE. Stay the course.
    Aug 6 01:58 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Rite Aid: Take Advantage Of An Unwarranted Pullback [View article]

    Absolutely loved your analysis here. Any of your named suspects, and those eliminated, are spot on. Thanks for your reply.
    Aug 6 09:53 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Rite Aid: Take Advantage Of An Unwarranted Pullback [View article]

    In answer to your question perhaps "it was getting too hot in the kitchen" for Walgreens. Walgreens does a lot of business with the government, and although unlikely to actually happen, was Walgreens concerned that if they unpatriotically avoided U.S. taxes, the government, i.e. "do nothing" Congress could punish them in the future and say maybe we need to take a look at the business we give to Walgreens. Otherwise, since human beings have short memories, I doubt that customers would have paid much attention to an inversion after the headline over it, in a week or two. Additionally, it is reported that CVS senior management met with a U.S.senator and indicated that if Congress did not stop the Walgreens inversion, that CVS might do the same exact thing!

    Separately, Walgreens just announced a lousy quarterly result and lowered guidance for next year. The take I get from this, could it be that Rite Aid's increased business is now taking a little share away from Walgreens (although CVS seems not to have that issue). This is why I continue to have a full court press on service issues. Inversion issues are just a fleeting moment in the minds of customers; on the other hand service issues may last in customers minds FOREVER, when they shop locally or need a drugstore away on business or vacation.

    By way of example, the recently closed Rite Aid store at 168 Montague St. Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. was replaced by a new Wellness store two blocks down the street at 101 Clinton St. While there are no reviews just yet for the new store, there certainly were a few for the old store. Employees goofing off and customers being ignored with a lack of service in some instances. If you look at the few reviews or experienced the same thing yourself when you visited this store previously, would you even want to try the new store? Maybe not. So, when Mr. Burnworth indicates here that the new store he visited was empty, and the vintage store had service issues, even according to him, that may be why a new drugstore might be a ghost town. He has unwittingly made my case, perhaps. Maybe Mr. Burnworth should start looking at published reviews, from customers and from independent rating survey companies, rather than trying to get (independent) reviews from management, which he will NOT get from them!
    Aug 6 09:38 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment