The customer uploaded three receipts to Facebook, showing how she was charged almost double for the same three products at two small pharmacies compared to the budget chain.
"Now, why would I shop at a pharmacy that isn't Chemist Warehouse?" she asked. "Three scripts exactly the same, one month apart. You're welcome."
The accompanying photos showed the Queenslander was charged $51.77 for her prescription medication at a pharmacy near Rockhampton, $50.15 at a different local pharmacy, but just $26.28 at a nearby Chemist Warehouse.
The post sparked debate over the convenience and price versus dealing with tried and trusted healthcare workers.
"It's not just about the price. You get what you pay for and it's not so much a saving if you lose in other important ways," one shopper responded.
"I am frugal about everything but have been with the same pharmacist for years and she knows us, our history, everything," she continued. "Customer service is lacking at Chemist Warehouse and there is no 'bedside manner' whatsoever. To me, it feels more like a factory-style of pharmaceutical care. Also, my son has complex special needs and, more than anything, I need someone I can trust."
Another added: "I stick to our nearby family-owned pharmacy for prescriptions. They know me, I trust them and they are always helpful. And they are close to home and also deliver for free if I need it."
One more said: "Unfortunately Chemist Warehouse are killing off all the small and very needed pharmacies... but I feel your pain! I had $8.50 difference on one item — both independently owned."
However, one customer said she saved $60 a month by switching to Chemist Warehouse, saying people could order medicines through an app, which sent reorder reminders and kept track of when new scripts were needed.
A premium on trust
Consumer expert Jana Bowden said some Aussie shoppers were willing to spend more when it came to their health.
"Consumers have become increasingly health-and-wellness-focused since the pandemic, and pharmacy is now a top-of-mind retail category," Bowden told Yahoo Finance.
"In fact, EY reports that 56 per cent of consumers have become more proactive with their health over the past few years. According to the NAB Health Insights report, seven in 10 Aussies visit a pharmacy each year, which is up there with GP visit data (eight in 10).
"Chemists became the primary point of contact for consumers at a time of heightened need. That has worked well for businesses as many consumers now see their chemist not as a convenient, product-based, one-stop shop, but rather as a source of expertise, reassurance, and reliability."
Bowden added that customers appreciated a more personalised service and that this helped build trust, enabling smaller pharmacies "a buffer within which to charge a price premium", which consumers were often happy to pay.
"Some consumers like feeling known ... rather than being treated like a walking dollar sign. In a business where consumers don't always know what they need, and where expert and empathetic advice is required, trust plays a critical role in consumer decision making," he said.
Bargain shoppers drive market
"The flip side of the coin is that we are in the steely grips of a cost of living crisis and consumers are more price savvy than ever before," Bowden explained. "Everything is going up from utilities to groceries to everyday essentials.
"More than half of Australians say they are struggling financially. Consumers are shopping harder for deals, discounts and price drops. That's where the big volume discount chemists win. They are better placed to buy in bulk with volume discounts which means that they are in turn better placed to pass that benefit on to the consumer.
"At the end of the day there will always be a consumer segment that knows exactly what it wants, where it can get it and what price it can get it for — that consumer isn't in it for the relationship, they're in it for the deal."