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April 11, 2006

Push for assistance

When I went food shopping with my older son last year, I think it was the first time he had seen the self-service lanes at the Giant. When you scan an item, a female voice says, "$1.69" or whatever the price is. My son observed that the voice was very loud. I said, "Yes, and it's a good thing it's just announcing the prices and not the things you buy. 'Loaf of bread. Loaf of bread. CONDOMS!!!!'"

Well, it seems that CVS has set up a system like the one I was joking about. At some CVS stores, the condoms are locked in a case where there's a button that reads "push for assistance."

Keith Eby had a somewhat similar experience. A day after the 37-year-old health-care consultant found the condoms locked up at his neighborhood CVS at Logan Circle, he tried the CVS on M Street in Georgetown, near his office. Same problem.

"I don't get embarrassed easily, but even I couldn't imagine ringing a buzzer and having everyone in the store know I was purchasing condoms," said Eby.
And it's not just CVS:
CVS, the leading drugstore chain in the Washington area, is not alone. Some Safeway and Giant stores in the District also lock up condoms, as do most Shopper's Food & Pharmacy Warehouse stores in the nearby suburbs. (Two chains that don't lock them up, no matter where their stores are located, are Rite-Aid and Eckerd.)
Remember the Woody Allen movie "Bananas"? The Woody Allen character is in a bookstore and wants to buy a porn magazine. He's embarrassed, so he buys Time, Newsweek, and other mainstream magazines and slides the porn magazine into the pile. At the checkout, the cashier says: "Fifty, a dollar, dollar and a quarter..." and he yells to the back: "Hey, Ralph, how much is a copy of Orgasm?" When the guy doesn't hear him, he shouts: "Orgasm. This man wants to buy a copy. How much is it?"