CVS/pharmacy Blogger Trip

Mastermind Weekend 1/16

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I'm Tina

I’m the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.

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Disclosure: CVS/pharmacy sponsored by hotel accommodations and meals during my stay in Rhode Island. The opinions expressed are honest and all my own.

Recently, I was invited to the CVS/pharmacy headquarters in Woonsocket, Rhode Island for a two-day blogger event hosted by the brand.

Obviously, I love CVS/pharmacy. Besides Whole Foods and Stop & Shop, CVS is the next place where Mal and I spend the most money. There’s a CVS/pharmacy right near our house, so I shop there all the time. My mom even bought me a CVS/pharmacy gift card for Christmas last year because I shop there so much. Long story short, I am really excited about this new partnership, and I am looking forward to what the future holds.

And, without further ado, here’s my recap of my visit to the CVS/pharmacy headquarters!

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The first day started with a buffet breakfast (veggie omelet with goat cheese = yum) followed by a number of presentations, which highlighted various CVS/pharmacy programs and updates.

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All of the presentations were really interesting, and I sort of geeked out learning about all of the different ways I could save money at CVS/pharmacy. #nerdalert

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We learned some fun statistics about the ExtraCare program, including one in three people in the U.S. have an ExtraCare card. Isn’t that nuts?

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It was also neat to hear what CVS/pharmacy has been up to lately, including a re-design of their receipts. You guys know what I’m talking about, right? Those things are SO LONG! They are so long, in fact, a lot of customers have expressed their dissatisfaction with them.

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One thing that came through loud and clear during my visit to CVS/pharmacy headquarters was just how much the company appreciates and seeks out feedback from their customers. Attached to the main CVS/pharmacy building is New England Opinion, a qualitative research group that conducts focus groups and works very closely with CVS/pharmacy. Besides focus groups, CVS/pharmacy has a mock store where they watch how consumers shop. They even use eye-tracking glasses that record the consumer’s field of view and where their eyes look first when they shop. Cool, right?

Basically, CVS/pharmacy really cares about customer satisfaction, so they are constantly using research and feedback to improve their business, which includes shortening those crazy-long receipts. Here are some things they’ve done to make them shorter:

  • Shrinking barcodes
  • Reducing white space between text
  • Using more targeted/personalized coupons (mine would include Brach’s candy corn versus cat food coupons)
  • Offering more coupon categories ($3 off $15 worth of beauty products versus $2 off Pantene)
  • In-store coupon center (you can print your ExtraCare coupons before you start shopping)
  • Send to card option <— I love this, especially since I sometimes forget my coupons at home, but I always have my ExtraCare card on me, and it is just better for the environment.

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Another cool thing that CVS/pharmacy has been up to is their Pharmacy & Health Rewards program, which is another way you can earn ExtraBuck rewards. You need to sign up for it separately from the ExtraCare program, but it’s worth it because it’s so easy to earn money back. For every 10 prescriptions you fill, you earn $5 ExtraBucks. I wish I knew about this program sooner because I fill so many prescriptions there! (I am all signed up and earning cash back now. Woohoo!)

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The morning session also included a couple of interactive games to test our knowledge of CVS/pharmacy and its programs.

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After the morning presentations, we broke for lunch, which included a number of healthy options.

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Throughout the afternoon, snacks from the CVS Gold Emblem brand were available to munch on.

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I chowed down on the Classic Trail Mix.

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And, later that night, we received the most amazing Dark Chocolate Salted Caramels in our hotel rooms. The Gold Emblem brand is a lot better quality than I thought it was. I will definitely be on the hunt for those Dark Chocolate Salted Caramels since Mal and I ate them all in one sitting.

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The afternoon started with a discussion and group focus group about My Weekly Ad, a new online tool that customizes your shopping experience at CVS/pharmacy.

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CVS/pharmacy gave us all new iPad Minis to test it out!

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I still can’t believe it. What an incredibly generous company!

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My Weekly Ad is really cool. It basically takes your regional CVS/pharmacy circular, tailors it based on what you typically buy, and then highlights what’s on sale and what you can earn ExtraBucks on. Basically, it shows you all of the sales/deals at your local store, but organizes them by your personal preferences.

Some cool features:

  • You can select products/deals and add them to a shopping list for easy access.
  • There’s an aisle locator, so you know exactly where to find things at your local store.
  • A sneak peak option (available on Thursdays) shows you what’s on sale the following week. <— I recently used this when I wanted to buy Crest White Strips. I waited until they went on sale the following week to get $10 off.

As you can see, My Weekly Ad is a really useful, money-saving resource. I use it every week and have saved a bunch of money. It is especially useful when it comes to buying your favorite products because as soon as you see them go on sale, you can buy them at a reduced price. That way, you never pay full price. Long story short, if you’re a CVS fan, you will love this!

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After a full day of presentations, we headed back to the hotel for some spa treatments featuring Salma Hayek’s new beauty collection, Nuance, which is sold exclusively at CVS/pharmacy.

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The Nuance collection includes everything from cosmetics and skin care to hair and body products.

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All of the products were inspired by Salma’s grandmother and the entire collection is made from all natural ingredients. A bunch of them smelled really nice!

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It was a fun experience, and I really enjoyed my manicure and hand massage!

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After our spa sessions, everyone got ready to go to dinner at Local 121, which my manicurist told me was her favorite restaurant in the area. I was excited to dine there!

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A number of CVS/pharmacy employees joined us for dinner, so it was nice to have the opportunity to chat with them.

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I wish I could remember what story I was telling here! Haha!

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The dinner menu was inspired by the Essence of Beauty collection at CVS/pharmacy.

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It sounded a little weird, but it worked and dinner was delicious!

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Inspired by Secret Woods: Spinach salad with pomegranate vinaigrette tossed with caramelized pears, chevre, and toasted walnuts.

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Inspired by Wind Kissed: White amber smoked kabochi squash puree soup. <— Incredible!

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Inspired by Forever Paris: Roasted chicken with potatoes dauphinoise and mushroom sauce.

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Inspired by In the Tropics: Citrus semifreddo with pink grapefruit, edible flowers, and agave.

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On Friday morning, we enjoyed a “very merry holiday breakfast,” which included a wonderful breakfast and first look at the 2013 holiday collection at CVS/pharmacy.

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The room was totally decked out! Christmas in September!

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The decorations, music, and gingerbread lattes definitely put me in the holiday spirit!

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We got to experience the holiday collection by doing a Yankee Swap at each of the tables. It was a lot of fun, and I ended up with a Mickey Mouse mug warmer. Haha!

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The majority of the gifts were kid-orientated, but there were a lot of adult gifts too, like plush, super soft blankets and even a wine cabinet. Who knew CVS/pharmacy sold such fancy things?

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The final session of the day combined beauty product sneak peeks (I’ll share them in a future post – I want to try them first) and celebrated 50 years of CVS/pharmacy. The first store opened in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1963.

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Happy birthday, CVS/pharmacy!

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All in all, my trip to CVS/pharmacy headquarters was a great one. I’m excited to see how our new partnership unfolds!

Questions of the Day

Are you a CVS fan? What do you love most about it?

Are you an ExtraCare card user? What do you think of those long receipts? Love ”˜em? Hate ”˜em?

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75 Comments

  1. I’m definitely a fan of CVS (I worked there as a pharmacy tech when I was at Bridgewater State), but nowadays we really only get our prescriptions there.

    I’m SO excited to see they’re going to revise those long receipts. I went in once to pick up 1 item (can’t even remember what it was now), but came out with a receipt that had to be 3 feet long! And none of them were useful coupons either.

    Looks like some cool stuff they’re working on!

  2. I love this recap! I am a huge CVS lover.. and fill all my prescriptions there. I guess it started when my brother worked there. Anyway, I wish I knew about the prescription bonus! I just had 3 refilled.. definitely starting that, now! That is so generous that they gave you ipads! Sooo fun!

  3. okay, wow! What an awesome experience to have been invited to! And I have to be honest here – I once got an extra care card but the phone number was somehow wrong and I never called to fix it and then lost the card. I shop there ALL the time and still haven’t gotten a new one… Guess I’ll be doing that now!

  4. Sounds like an amazing time and congrats on the partnership! I am a huge fan of CVS, like you after Whole Foods (and Trader Joe’s) it was where I spent the most money while living in the U.S. I miss it! I am so glad you mentioned that they are working to improve the receipts… they are sooo crazy long but I do love the coupons the extra care program is incredible. We don’t have anything like that in Canada.

  5. So happy to see that CVS is doing some creative things to get the word out about all it offers! I’ve always been a huge fan, and now that we live less than 3 minutes from one, it’s my “go-to” place for everything! The coupons CVS gives to frequent shoppers are super generous, and the send-to-card option is really convenient! Another thing about CVS brand products — Many of the items are comparable to big brands. The CVS protein powder for example has similar nutritional content to EAS, and it’s about half the price.

  6. You are so spoiled! 😉 We’re CVS fans in our house! I have another pharmacy literally RIGHT NEXT to my office, but I’ll drive to the next town to go to CVS. lol Never really thought about the long receipts!

  7. I love CVS and absolutely have an ExtraCare card! I have been surprised by the length of my receipts. I’m looking forward to the shorter receipts and personalized coupons! What a great event to be a part of.

  8. My parents live in Michigan and we shop at CVS/Pharmacy almost every time we go there. I’m not sure if my Mom has an ExtraCare card. I’ll have to find out! I do know that I love shopping there though. I can’t believe they gave you an iPad Mini! How cool is that!?

  9. Hmmm. Just food for thought. This sort of like drug reps bringing lunches to various clinics and I know and understand the outrage. Expensive prescriptions for people can’t afford both food and medications every month. Plus wages and employee insurance. I have no clue what CVS does on part of wages and insurance, but again it’s good food for thought.

  10. Shop at CVS weekly. I like the coupon center, but I wish there was a way to just print the ones I want to use instead of 10′ of paper for one useful coupon.

  11. What a neat experience!
    I live very close to a CVS and that’s my go-to pharmacy. I’ve gotten to know all of the pharmacists and they are so helpful and friendly.
    The receipts are crazy but it’s a brilliant move by the company…how can you not go back and shop when you’ve got a coupon for $3, $5, etc off a purchase?

  12. I’m like you…I LOVE CVS! I will purposely look for an excuse to shop there!! 🙂 My only wish…it was a bigger store!! 🙂
    Looks like you had a great time!!

  13. What an awesome experience! Seeing the holiday celebration just put me in the best mood 🙂 I shop at CVS occassionally, but this post/knoing how much they appreciate their customers makes me want to give them more of my business.

  14. I absolutly love CVS and their extra care buck deals. I just shopped there last night and got my husband folgers coffee 2/$5 cost me 2/50¢. What a great deal. Coupons + ECB’s equal huge savings. I love the long receipts its telling me how much more I can save at the store. I love using their extra coupons and combining them with manufacturer coupons for even better deals. CVS is probably my most favorite store.

  15. LOVE Salma Hayek Nuance products! They smell great and work very well. I especially like the deep conditioner for when my hair feels especially dried out. I put on the Nuance deep conditioner for 20 minutes and when I wash it out, my hair is incredibly soft and like new. Glad that they highlighted these products for you since it’s probably not something people expect to find there.

  16. I love the makeup section at CVS. And I love to look through the isles with the random things like beach toys and such. I’ve definitely done some damage in CVS. I’m not a fan of the long receipts, but I figure if I actually used my extra care points they wouldn’t be as long…

  17. I love CVS, I hate the long receipts, but I love that you can swipe your card at the kiosk in the front to see if there are any additional coupons. I actually started using Nuance after I saw Salma on a show talking about how you don’t have to pay a crap ton of money for good skincare products and I actually really like it.

    Side note: Those sea salt chocolate need to be a part of my Wednesday…STAT..LOL

  18. Thanks for all the information. I love CVS and Walgreens stores. I can spend hours looking around and shopping. I live in the country so the closest ones are 30 miles away! Sort of a good thing or I would be there daily!

  19. I’m psyched that they’ve started carrying more upscale nail polish brands like Essie – and that they’ve dedicated lots of space to nail care. My only critique is that I wish CVS/pharmacy stores would, across the board, put a bit more effort into displaying seasonal and new polish colors. I get so excited when I see displays of fresh product and am often disappointed when a color I’m seeking either is out of stock or isn’t displayed at all. CVS is def my go-to nail color spot!

  20. I wish we still had CVS here! We used to have one on just about every street corner across from a Walgreens or other pharmacy. We still have Walgreens, but no CVS and from this post and the comments I wish we did! Now the closest one is about 35-45 minutes away 🙁

    Kroger offers the “load your coupons to your card” or Meijer has mPerks (no card, just input your number and you get the coupons you’ve chosen at the register) and I love both of those. I always print the coupons for Target and then don’t use some of them and feel bad for wasting the paper. I wish more companies let you add your coupons to your card. :-/

  21. I used to go to CVS all the time. It was waay back in my health journey when I was working on giving up fast food lunches. Basically every day that I brown bagged instead of eating fast food I would go to CVS and reward myself with something in the price range of fast food lunch: lipstick, lotion, nail polish etc.
    I’ve moved since then and there isn’t even a CVS in my town now- bah!

  22. That looks like such a fun experience! I love CVS. My Weekly Ad sounds pretty cool. I almost always buy all of my beauty products there, so that would definitely be helpful to me. Btw, that Christmas themed breakfast is adorable! Now I want Christmas here haha!

  23. What a neat experience. I think it’s great that you get invited to these things, but I don’t understand what this has to do with CNC. I really like your posts about crossfit, running, nutrition, etc–which is why I read your blog and why I love it so much. This post is like reading an advertisement for CVS and really disappointed me.

    1. Thanks for the feedback! CNC is about my life and all things that go into it, which includes saving money, beauty products, and other things that embody CVS. I’m sorry you don’t enjoy reading about those things, but I just wanted to let you know where I am coming from with this new partnership.

  24. I have been on the hunt for those caramels every since you blogged about them a week or so ago. I have been to 3 different CVS stores in my area and cannot find them. 🙁

  25. I’m just going to toss it out there: I’ve been reading your blog for years but it feels like every other post is a promotion for something and it’s not appealing to me as a reader. Maybe it works for others but I can only read so many recaps of drug stores, trips to resorts, etc., before I might as well just flip through any other ad-heavy media. I started reading for the glimpses into your life and while you clearly have built a business by doing things like writing about a drug store, it’s not what drew me to your site.

    1. Thanks for the feedback and posting your first comment on CNC. This blog is my job, and I need to build relationships with brands and make an income or CNC wouldn’t exist at all. I hope you understand.

  26. I am not an ExtraCare card user however after reading your post I’m more interested! What a cool experience to share with all of us! All the food you had looked amazing as well! CVS seems like a really cool company and I can’t wait to read more posts about your future partnership!

  27. I LOVE my CVS extra care card and use it weekly. I’m a huge sale shopper and stock up on items. I didn’t know about the prescription program rewards though. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. Signing up today! Your blog is so informative – thanks for all the hard work you put into it. Keep it up!

  28. It seems like more and more of your posts are focused around companies/brands that sponsor you or otherwise give you free merchandise, trips, access to people, commissions, etc. Do you feel these posts are still ethical? Where would you draw the line at accepting payment for posts?

    1. What do you mean by ethical? I was paid $0.00 to write this post and working with companies is part of CNC, which is my job and livelihood.

      In response to your second question, why does it upset you when I make money from my job?

      1. @Tina: @Tina: i don’t think an ipad mini costs “$0.00” 🙂 the point is you were compensated for writing this post in a number of ways (it wasn’t in the form of an actual check – but you obviously received a number of incentives for writing this). as someone who has read (and enjoyed!) your blog for years, i think the reason people get upset is that this feels very much like a post you agreed to write simply because you got something in return – you could have just as easily been asked by any other drugstore (walgreens, rite-aid, etc) and written the exact same post. and yes, that is an issue of integrity. does that make sense? at any other job, an individual would not be able to receive incentives or compensation in any form if they endorsed or supported a brand/product/theory/belief that wasn’t in line with the mission/values/objectives of their organization. i imagine you’ll probably delete this comment – but i hope you don’t as i think this is important food for thought.

        1. My point was more I didn’t have to write that post. I was under no obligation from CVS and simply wanted to share my experience and the great money-saving tips I learned about during the trip. If you don’t think those things fit in with CNC, then you don’t know this blog very well. Thanks for the feedback.

          1. @Tina: yes – but you’re also saying that you “need” opportunities like this so that you can make a living. so that is a very obvious conflict of interest. generally, this is the challenge/criticism of most bloggers that now blog full-time. back when you were blogging for fun (and not as your full-time job), we would have never seen a sponsored post – and, yes, i think most of your loyal long-time readers (myself included) can honestly say that we enjoyed your blog far more then. but it’s up to me to choose to read or not read! so, feel free to take all of this with a grain of salt! 😉 also, i really appreciate your willing to have a conversation about this – just thought you should know!

        2. @a:

          I agree with this and also want to add that writing these free marketing pieces for companies diminishes the authentic voice and feel of this blog. I think a lot of bloggers struggle with this issue and some are better at managing partnership opportunities than others. I think we should all give props to Tina for turning her blog into her livelihood–that takes an immense amount of dedication, drive and time. The appeal of CNC is that we all like Tina as a person and enjoy following her adventures. What can be so off putting about something like a CVS partnership is that perhaps Tina’s genuine voice gets lost in an attempt to just regurgitate whatever marketing crap was disseminated at the event she attended. Is CVS such a great company by the way? In case anyone is interested, here are just some of the controversies in which they’ve been involved:

          –CVS paid a $38.5 million dollar settlement for deceptive business practices
          –CVS paid over $77 million in fines for failing to properly control substances used to make meth
          –In 2013, CVS introduced a program that rewarded customers up to $50 per year in ExtraCare Bucks in exchange for filling their prescriptions. In order to enroll in the program, customers had to sign a HIPAA waiver acknowledging, “my health information may potentially be re-disclosed and thus is no longer protected by the federal Privacy Rule.” Stores had to fulfill a quota of a number of customers in the program each week. Walgreens and Rite Aid also offer rewards for filling prescriptions, although they do not require a signed HIPAA waiver.

        3. @a: a, I’m genuinely curious: would you read this blog if you had to pay for it? Blogging takes time and effort and as a result of ads/sponsored posts, we get to read free content. The alternative is paying to read it. (Unless you think people should work for free.) Is seeing ads enough of an ethical concern that you’d be willing to pay for content? I’m not trying to be bitchy, I’m genuinely concerned as this is something many digital publications are struggling with, as lots of people complain about ads but then don’t want to give up their free content.

          1. @Rachel Wilkerson: i think what it comes down to (and this is perhaps a philosophical difference) is whether “blogging” is actually a full-time job that “needs” to be subsidized via sponsors. most people who blog, are comfortably able to do so as a hobby and in their spare time. there are a few bloggers who have managed to turn their blog into a full-time career via the addition of sponsors – but that, truly, is a luxury and i have yet to see an example of a full-time blogger that handles this issue well. this is particularly an issue for me when they are bloggers without real credentials (e.g. non-RDs giving out nutrition advice; or, “lifestyle” bloggers who simply regurgitate high quality content from other sources). i don’t mind (in fact i highly support) ads and sponsors on websites that provide high quality and well-researched content – written by people who have credentials! for example, i happily pay for my new york times subscription. but, that is not the case here (nor in that the case of most other blogs that are now “full-time” endeavors). i’m not saying tina doesn’t work hard – but if she is going to make money off of her blog, a little more authenticity (say – being a bit more discriminating in the choice of sponsor) would go a long way with long-time readers.

          2. @Rachel Wilkerson: also, and again, thank you tina for being so gracious with this forum and for allowing us the space to have this conversation. i realize my comments have been very blunt. it’s easy for me to sit here and criticize! i may not agree with everything you do, but i am and continue to be impressed that you are doing your thing!

  29. I’ve never been much of a CVS shopper – even though they are located right next door to my local Publix (Florida supermarket)…but after seeing how well they treated you and the other guest bloggers, I will definitely be using them instead of Walgreen’s in the future. I love that they strive to improve – offer what seems like great discounts – and they value customer feedback.

    Pretty sad to say that I didn’t know much about the company until this post…and they are literally around the corner from my house. Thanks for the insight! 🙂

  30. I’ve never really been a CVS pharmacy fan, but if I’m being honest — this post has made me want to at least check them out! Seems like I may have no idea what’s going on there!

  31. Not only do I love CVS, but whenever I can’t find my teenager daughter, I text her and ask, “are you at CVS again?” She has an obsession 🙂

  32. I have to use CVS for my prescriptions because my company has a contract with them. I like the fact that I get extra bucks for getting my prescriptions filled there but the only time I shop there for anything is when I have a coupon. They are way overpriced compared to other stores.

  33. Tina- I just want to say that although this particular post wasn’t specifically interesting to me, I have learned a ton through your different partnerships (loved the Silk one and the Cabo trip) and I appreciate that you share the information. Also, I’m so sick of seeing people complain about how your blog is changed- I am proud that you have been successful enough that these companies seek you out. The people complaining need to step back and realize that, like you said, this is your job and you should be proud of your success. Its like when people complain that their favorite small band “got big”. Would they rather them be unsuccessful and fade into non-existence??
    Overall, you do you!! 🙂

    1. @Jessica: I totally agree! I can’t believe some of the rude things people say. I’ve been reading your blog for 3 years and love to see the new partnerships you have. Not to mention, your blog has always been about all things healthy living and embracing New England, right where CVS started, so this new partnership makes perfect sense to me. Keep on doing what you do best Tina!

  34. I love that cvs lets you stack coupons and also love the new fill 10 scripts get $5 back since I have crohns and neuropathic pain I fill a lot!

  35. My husband and I used to shop at CVS all the time until they wouldn’t pay us our “extra bucks” which we were due a lot. They refused to answer our numerous e-mails and phone calls as well. Wish they were a better company.

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