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As much as I admire most of Stephanie Mencimer’s work, in “Mom and Flop” (12/26/97) I think she missed the point. In the 30 years I’ve lived in Washington, I’ve watched big chains drive independent stores and local chains out of the hardware business (Hechingers, now ironically itself under pressure from Home Depot), the stationery business (Staples and Office Depot wiping out Ginn’s), and the drugstore business (the three chains are now effectively down to one, CVS, with some token representation by Rite Aid). In each case, the transformation was accompanied by a deterioration in the pleasantness and competence of customer service. In each case, once the winning chain reached monopoly status, customer service took a further nose dive. It is no longer possible to shop at a hardware store or stationery store where the staff knows where to find the item you need, or how to figure out what item is best suited to your purposes.

I’m not arguing that chains should be run out of the city—only that they not be allowed to run everyone else out through monopoly practices. In the particular case of MacArthur Drugs, I’ve always found their stock plentiful, their staff helpful, and their store far more user-friendly than CVS. If others prefer CVS, fine—just don’t run the MacArthur Drugses out of town!

Spring Valley