Walgreens Privacy Protection

It’s a little too easy sometimes to ridicule negative design patterns. They’re fun to spot and it’s satisfying to roll our eyes in self-righteousness now and then, but positive design patterns are worth celebrating with at least as much gusto.

The Walgreens convenience store in my neighborhood does something worthy of praise. On the way out of the store there’s a trash can on the sidewalk where people routinely dispose of their receipts. One after another. Walgreens finally decided to place a notice on the trash can to warn against identity theft.

Attention Pharmacy Patients: Please do not dispose of your prescription information in this container! This will help ensure your privacy is protected. Thank you! Walgreens.

This isn’t far-fetched. In San Francisco you’ll frequently see people rummaging through trash cans all around the city. Mostly looking for bottles and cans to recycle, but identity theft isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.

It turns out that this particular bin belongs to Walgreens; they bring it inside at night. The notices were more impressive to me when I thought the company was instead taking responsibility for nearby municipal trash cans. Paying attention to the customer journey beyond the store. Still, it’s a nice gesture.

Of course, you might also step back and ask whether the receipts themselves could be redesigned to pose less of a liability.

I didn’t realize until I stopped to photograph the trash can for this post, but plenty of people seem to ignore the notices (one on each side). About half a dozen customers tossed their receipts into the trash while I was focusing my camera.

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