Those of you who frequented Eckerd’s in Georgia know that Rite Aid recently bought out Eckerd’s. If you are an employee of Rite Aid or were an employee of Eckerd’s, you know that there have been many changes and much hoo-ha during the store conversions. What you may not know is the next step in the acquisition evolution. First, a bit of history. Most people are familiar with the name Rite Aid. The company has been around since the first store, Thrif D Discount Center, opened in 1962. Within 10 years of the first store opening, there were 267 locations in 10 states. By 1981, it became the third largest drugstore in the United States. Rite Aid has been gobbling up other drug stores and further expanding its operations by entering into partnerships such as the ones with GNC and drugstore.com.
Through all its expansion, Rite Aid has had its ups and downs. The July 25, 2004, Department of Justice press release titled “Rite Aid to pay $7 Million for Allegedly Submitting False Prescription Claims to Government,” was not the only negative publicity they experienced. Rite Aid has been under investigation by regulators in California, Washington, and Oregon as a result of consumer complaints. Rite Aid has been accused of “aggressive marketing of pharmaceutical products and other consumer-unfriendly practices, including selling date-sensitive products well past the due dates” (Wikipedia, 2008). There is an accounting scandal in Rite Aid’s past-what big company hasn’t had one of those? And, there is always tomorrows news.
In August, 2007, Rite Aid Corporation acquired approximately 1,850 Brooks/Eckerd Stores throughout the United States, for the same reason most corporations acquire-fast customer number increases. While Rite Aid saw an increase in revenue, it had a drop in income as the conversion and integration process of the additional stores began. Rite Aid shares have taken a big drop and that can’t be good.
If you are currently employed by Rite Aid, it may be a good idea to polish up your resume. As with any merger, there are usually closings and Rite Aid is likely just getting started. Corporations that acquire competitors to increase market share routinely close stores and terminate employees to “right size” the new organization. Stores that are the least profitable or have high loss are usually the first to go. Employees who were last hired or part of the acquired competitors wage roll are usually the first to be terminated. Big salary? May look like a juicy cost saving “steak” to the corporation. (Rumor has it that upwards of 40 stores may be closing in Georgia-but that is just rumor J.)
Beginning around March of 2008, Rite Aid started closing stores, especially where they were nearly next door to each other (Eckerd on one corner, Rite Aid on the other). It appears they have been closing the older Rite Aid stores and “moving” to the newer Eckerd stores with drive through pharmacies. As was inevitable, based on the falling income and stock, layoffs have begun–quietly at the moment.
If you work for a large corporation that has recently merged, there will be no warning when the big push begins. If you thought that those 60-hour weeks you were putting in to keep up with all the changes were worth anything to the corporation, think again. Many times when a company is preparing to begin downsizing personnel, they get tough. They ask for more than is reasonable, they set expectations beyond what is possible and then they use failure to meet goals as a means to determine who will be on the termination list…if you don’t quit first (which they would prefer). Of course, any company would vehemently deny that they use this type of strategy, because they don’t want to be sued and they have attorney’s who tell them just how far they can push the labor laws and exactly how to phrase the verbiage.
If you are lucky in a “down size,” you will be “laid off due to lack of work” and be able to apply for unemployment, while you search for your new job. If you are unlucky, you will be terminated for failure to perform, excessive absences, or failure to meet standards and will probably not qualify for unemployment benefits, unless you put up a heck of a fight.
This isn’t something new. It is a result of nearly all acquisitions and conversions in nearly all industries. Anyone who worked for C&S Bank, NationsBank or Bank of America is familiar with this scenario. Corporations let the dust settle after the conversion, let employees get comfortable with the change, then slam, bam, it hits the fan and no one is safe from the ax.
You may believe after reading this that the author is “a woman scored by a big corporation.” Well, I guess so. I was actually part of the group within a corporation charged with downsizing the overstaffing. I hated my job, but I was more prepared than most when my job went on the chopping block. But it was the best thing to ever happen to me. I am healthier, happier and set my own hours. For what I was being paid to devote as much time as I did, it was a rip-off. Why did I write this article, if I’m so happy? Because it makes me grind my teeth when I see it happen to other people who hadn’t a clue about what was coming. They have no time to prepare, families suffer and the roles of the unemployed swell as a result of corporate greed. No wonder the economy is in a…what are they calling it today… “slump.”
If you think you might be let go, read my article “Applying For Unemployment Benefits And Getting Beyond The Moment – Georgia” and “Finding Your Niche.”