Dear Walgreens,

Let’s talk about your store on Lindell Boulevard, just east of Boyle Street, in St. Louis. That place is a dump. I’m not trying to be ugly, but there is no nice way to say it.

Here is a good example: Last week, I needed shampoo, a greeting card, a cap gun, cold medicine, and a Cadbury Creme Egg. In order, they were for my hair, my boss, my depressed friend, my head cold, and my immaturity. (Items three and five might have been interchangeable.)

In the shampoo aisle, you were out of nearly every kind I use. To be fair, I don’t want shampoo that costs more than $2.50, I only like shampoo that is translucent (no solid whites or pale greens), and I would prefer to smell like a vacation, not a piece of produce. Still, cheap, clear, indecipherably fragrant shampoo is a common item, and you had none. Instead, you had something more expensive that I couldn’t see through and that smelled like coconut. How do I know? It was smeared all over every bottle of its kind. Thanks for that. Worse, I’ve already forgotten which pair of pants I was wearing when I wiped my hands off in my pockets, so now I am playing a dangerous game of Russian Roulette every morning as I get dressed.

My experience was no better in the card section. Everything was out of order! The Get Well section was filled with grandmothers wishing their grandsons happy birthday. The deeply religious scripture cards were spread out in a manner that made it hard to compare the verses and choose the most unnervingly graphic. There weren’t any animals wearing human clothes or doing other anthropomorphic things—you know people love seeing non-humans in human situations! And the lone bar mitzvah card was labeled “Mahogany.” Really, Walgreens?

You came through for me on the cold medicine, cap gun, and Creme Egg. No complaints. Well, just one. The shelves were dusty, and that reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to ask: Do you hate your customers because they’re predominately black or because they’re predominately poor? Is it both? You figure that these poor, black people don’t deserve to care if the floor is sticky, or if the lines ever move? Were “soft bigotry of low expectations” a phrase used to describe retail experience, not education, President Bush would have said it about you. And look, I get it—the Lindell location is in a transition neighborhood across from a grocery store that people call “The Black Schnucks,” and this particular Walgreens attracts a disproportionately large number of unkempt people. You probably thought that no one whom you consider of consequence would notice, and that you could get away with half-filled cold-beverage racks that leak milk.

Sucks that someone caught you, but I did. Just go ahead and admit it.

This letter sounds angry, but really, you make me sad, Walgreens. I visit your store regularly because after a lifetime of New York City’s convenience, I still have bodega-enabled tendencies. That’s why I like to stop in around 10:30 in the morning on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a Starbucks bottled Frappuccino, or around 12:45 on what inevitably seems to be Wednesday nights for potato chips, light bulbs, and paper towel. You are the best I can do out here. (Any chance you might start carrying those tofu blocks submerged in tubs of water?)

I need you to get better. Clean yourself up, have some respect for yourself and for your customers. In a city where blatant classism is matched only by the population’s general apathy about it, doing what you do is easy. But remember John Kennedy; he said we had to go to the moon precisely because it was hard. That’s why Rice plays Texas in football. Cleaning up the Lindell Boulevard store could be your moon landing, Walgreens. Think about that as you preside over your glorified landfill.

Still seeing you daily, though largely out of necessity,
Joseph Andrew