Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Buying Condoms

The perceived subtext of purchasing condoms changes drastically depending on where you are in life. I would argue that one of the most awkward demographics is a conspicuously married man shopping by himself. Since most married couples have already adopted a comprehensive birth control strategy that rarely relies on latex prophylactics, the assumption is that the man is either having an affair or he doesn’t trust his wife’s participation in the aforementioned strategy.

Neither applies in my case (and yes I realize that is exactly what I would say if it did) but for medical reasons we have had to temporarily rely on more than my ill-timed jokes and career path to prevent the untimely birth of another child. So, one evening I found myself at a Dollar General attempting to procure a latex insurance policy.

Unable to locate any on the shelves, I assumed that they were kept behind the register along with tobacco and the archaic portable CD players they insist upon stocking. I approached the young woman at the cash register and asked if they had any condoms as I didn’t see any on the shelves. She frowned momentarily before squatting behind the counter. Amid the sound of shuffling boxes, her disembodied voice informed me that she thought she had found something.

Standing back up, she began to present me with a neon-yellow box with what appeared to be a cartoon character on the front. Now at this point I had already made up my mind that I was not leaving with a box of Clover Valley Ultra-Thins; but as luck would have it, I was never given the chance. Just as she was about to hand me the package, a look of recognition came over her and, as she placed the condoms back below the counter, gravely announced, “you don’t want these.” “If I were you” she continued in earnest, “I would go to a Walgreens and get something name brand.”

Fearing a backstory would follow, I quickly made my way toward the exit and thanked her for the heartfelt recommendation.

Not long after that, I found myself at my local Walgreens and was able to locate the condoms. They were ominously situated on the diaper and baby food aisle. I can only assume that this was intentional so that if I was tempted to balk at the price of a box of Trojans I could be reminded of how expensive the alternative was. It just so happened that there was a sale on the “value pack” and I fancy myself an optimist, so a few minutes later I found myself standing in line with enough man-gloves to outfit a Navy frigate.

At long last, it was my turn to check out. After trading pleasantries with the cashier, I swiped my card and along with my receipt she handed me a coupon. This, in and of itself, was not unusual. What did startle me was that the coupon was for $8 off my next purchase of Enfamil baby formula. A smile began to form at the edges of her mouth as she tore the coupon from the printer and handed it to me. Our interaction ended thusly:

“Baby formula? Really!?“

“Just in case they don’t work!” she replied a little too chipper.

Needless to say, this didn’t instill much confidence in my selection since these coupons are generated by a software algorithm that predicts what would be (statistically speaking) your most likely subsequent purchase. Just a suggestion Walgreens: If you wish to continue to charge almost $1 per condom, perhaps a coupon for Reddi-wip and an e-cigarette would be more reassuring to your customer base.

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