The Rite Aid Corp. drugstore chain paid $325,000 for Fantle's prescription files when the Landover-based company decided to close down. But Fantle's competitors won't swallow that pill -- they're going after Fantle's customers anyway. "We expected it, but we think we will keep a bulk of patients," said Suzanne Mead, a spokeswoman for Pennsylvania-based Rite Aid.

The Alexandria-based Peoples Drug Stores Inc., recently acquired by a New York-based company that also owns the powerful CVS drugstore chain, has been particularly aggressive in trolling for former Fantle's customers, using newspaper and radio ads and offering small monetary inducements. Rite Aid is countering by contacting Fantle's customers and asking them to try its stores near the Fantle's locations. It launched an advertising blitz and set up a toll-free telephone service for customers, Mead said.

The final choice, of course, belongs to the customers. And officials at Giant Food Inc., thought to be running neck and neck with Peoples for drugstore dominance here, said they are not doing anything special to woo them. "We've gotten a significant amount of their old customers, without hype," Giant spokesman Barry Scher said.