The Products You...Whether you're looking for heartburn relief, aspirin, vitamins or even shampoo and lipstick, shopping at a drugstore can be daunting. There are so many choices that the easiest option can be buying a brand you know.
But drugstore markups can lead to serious overspending. At the very least, you could be overpaying for a drug that can be found much cheaper in a generic version. After all, the Food and Drug Administration requires generic medications to have the same active ingredients as the patented medications they replace, so you're buying the same product, but you aren't paying extra for the fancy branding and packaging.
Outside of prescription drugs, which items at a drugstore are you likely to be charged more for?
Those little chewable Tums and Rolaids that you pop so casually between meals can really add up. A 60-count package of these calcium-containing tummy tamers retails for $10.53 at the stores that Cashier Live surveyed, but costs just $2.11 at wholesale, according to Greenhaw. The tablets are technically vitamins and are listed generically as oyster shell calcium with vitamin D. And though generic versions are available, you're still going to pay a premium for the convenience of fast relief.
Stores can make more profit from selling Bayer and other brand-name aspirins, along with other commonly-used items on this list, because they're in high demand and shoppers are willing to pay more for them, Greenhaw says. According to his data, a 50-count bottle of Bayer that retails at $3.89, actually only costs stores 78 cents wholesale.
Other pain relievers also have high markups at drugstores, although not as much as aspirin, according to Greenhaw's analysis. A 24-count bottle of acetaminophen, which is commonly sold as Tylenol, has a 378% markup -- from 87 cents wholesale to $4.16 retail.
Naproxen, a pain reliever commonly used to relieve arthritis, is sold as the brand name Aleve. A 250-count bottle has a 364 percent markup -- from a wholesale cost of $2.99 to a retail price of $13.87.
Eating enough oranges (vitamin C) or beans (vitamin B-1) may be cheaper than buying vitamins. A 100-count bottle of vitamin B-1 has a 395 percent markup, with a $5 retail bottle costing a store $1.01 wholesale. A 100-count bottle of vitamin C has a 382 percent markup -- from $2.92 wholesale to $14.10 retail.
Bacitracin, a topical ointment used to prevent skin infections from scrapes and cuts, doesn't have a brand name that stands out, but almost any brand in a 1-ounce tube costs just shy of $5 at retail. That's a far cry from the $1.03 you'd pay at wholesale, according to an average amount from Cashier Live data.
Spring is almost here and so is allergy season, but you may want to think twice before heading to the drugstore for some sinus relief. A 20-count package of Claritin, a brand of loratadine used to temporarily relieve symptoms of fever and other allergies, costs $12.36 retail. At wholesale, it's just $2.59.
A three-pack of Trojan condoms is $4.63 retail and $1.02 wholesale. Trojan is such a well-known brand that due to a lack of much competition, drugstores mark up the price a lot without worrying about losing sales. "There are certain products, like Trojan, where you associate that product with that brand," Greenhaw says.
The best way to avoid these high prices is to buy generics at small, independent drugstores, which could bring savings of 10% to 20%, Greenhaw says. At the very least, slow down while shopping at a drugstore and look for the best price without being swayed by the packaging, signs and brand names.
"Sometimes people are just in a rush," he says. "They just grab whatever they're familiar with."
Somgreeting cardse drugstores charge more than the suggested retail price printed on the back of a greeting card. It's an item that often has high drugstore markups because it's a last-minute purchase, says Josh Gurwin, CEO of Pushpins, a mobile coupon company that compares data from all of the major drugstore chains. If you've ever run into a drugstore for a card while on the way to a birthday party, you know how expensive these can get.
Even though hair products such as shampoo have low drugstore markups, hair accessories like brushes make up the difference, says Ash. Drugstores require distributors, such as Almar, to guarantee a 75% markup profit on these items and they can do so because they virtually corner the market. "If you have a beauty product and you're not in the drugstores, you're out of business," he says.
Ash recommends going to Walmart, Target or other big retailers for cheaper prices on such products.
Not all drugstores sell entry-level jewelry, such as costume jewelry, but those that do mark up their products by as much as 70 percent, Ash says. Drugstores struggle with selling costume jewelry, because it's less of an impulse buy than a hair accessory, toy or something else.
Most people don't go into a drugstore with a toy purchase atop their shopping list, but having a kid along can increase this impulse buy, Ash says. Drugstores realize that kids being dragged into stores can help drive toy sales, he says.
From lip gloss to nail polish, eye shadow and other beauty items, cosmetics is a high-profit item that drugstores rely on with a high rate of return, Ash says. Customers trust brands and will return to a drugstore because they know the retailer will always have them in stock, he says.
Worst Supermarke...Did you know you're paying more for some items at the grocery store? Click here for a look the biggest grocery store mark-ups.