Walgreens has come up with a new idea in vaccinations- the flu shot gift card. Their premise for the card is that it will provide a convenient way to give the gift of vaccination to someone who might otherwise skip the flu shot. On its face, the Walgreens flu shot gift card may seem like a great new idea. In fact, other retailers who offer flu shots are jumping on the flu shot gift card bandwagon. However, there are some serious drawbacks to the cards.
The Official Walgreens Spin
The executive vice president of pharmacy for Walgreens Kermit R. Crawford explains that the company has nothing but the purest and most altruistic of motives for offering the flu shot gift card. He explains that the cards make getting a flu shot easier for those who might otherwise skip it. Crawford goes on to express Walgreens’ concern over those who don’t bother to get vaccinated. Walgreens sees the cards as one more shore in the public defense against the flu.
What is the Real Motivation Behind Flu Shot Gift Cards?
Ok, so now that we have the official Walgreens corporate explanation, let’s examine other possible motivations for Walgreens flu shot gift card. While I readily applaud any genuine effort to get more people vaccinated against the flu, I have to wonder if Walgreens is simply looking to pad its bottom line. Gift cards are a multimillion dollar business in the U.S. Extending the gift card market to vaccinations seems like an extremely profitable enterprise.
Can Flu Shot Gift Cards Improve the Vaccination Rate?
But does Walgreen’s really think that people who don’t bother to get a flu shot are going to bother to get a vaccination just because they have a gift card? Undoubtedly some will. But will the flu shot gift card solve the problems of those who don’t get flu shots? That’s a very unlikely scenario. One reason people don’t get the flu vaccine is the cost. It is a rather expensive vaccine, especially if you are on a fixed income, don’t have health insurance or have a large family to vaccinate. Does Walgreen’s think people under these circumstances will be lining up to buy a thirty dollar gift card? That seems a bit unlikely.
Unknown Restrictions of the Walgreens Flu Shot Gift Card
There is always a catch it seems with these kinds of offers and the Walgreens flu shot gift card has some doozies. One of the biggies is that there are restrictions for redeeming the card for a flu shot for those under age 18. On their website, Walgreens does not expressly spell out what these restrictions may be. Instead, they inform consumers to seek out advice from their local Walgreens. This seems like a bit of a cop out. If there are restrictions, Walgreens should list them somewhere. Depending on the word of a person at an individual location could prove unreliable. Walgreens should have a written clarification of any restrictions of the flu shot gift card. The absence of a standardized list of restrictions may be setting Walgreens customers up for a whole host of problems redeeming their flu shot gift cards.
Walgreens Flu Shot Gift Card Doesn’t Really Cover One Flu Shot
Another catch is that if the price of the flu vaccine is more than $29.99, the customer is responsible for the difference. The cost of the flu shot differs in different parts of the country. So, although Walgreens advertises that the flu shot gift card is good for one flu shot, in actuality it may not cover the entire cost of the vaccination. If the vaccine costs less than $29.99, the remaining card balance can be used to help cover the cost of a flu vaccine for another person this year or applied towards next year’s flu shot.
Balances in Limbo on Walgreens Flu Shot Gift Card
Another drawback of the card is that remaining balances cannot be used on any other merchandise or returned as cash. So, is Walgreens hedging the same bet as almost everyone who issues gift cards? Are they hoping that any “extra” leftover money left on the card will get forgotten? Gift cards also can’t be used in conjunction with any insurance. Also good to know, the Walgreen’s flu shot gift cards will expire five years after the issue date.
Is the flu shot gift card gimmick a good idea? While that remains to be seen, consumers need to keep the drawbacks in mind when purchasing this new breed of health care gift card.