Capitalism doesn’t require stupidity

Interesting news out of Milwaukee:

If you wanted to buy condoms 30 years ago, you had to bear the embarrassment of asking a pharmacist to fetch them from beneath the counter.

Now with thieves wiping out the entire stock of prophylactics in some stores, more retailers are putting them back out of reach – and, in some cases, are even locking them up.

Nothing surprising so far, at least when looking at the simple concept that stores aren’t in the business of offering five finger discounts. Until purchased, the condoms belong to them. If they want to lock them up, fine. If they want to place them on a shrine in the middle of the store with a giant spotlight, fine. Their property, their prerogative.

Of course, the nanny statists disagree:

“We are certainly concerned about the availability of condoms in stores,” said Eric Ostermann, executive director of the Wisconsin Public Health Association.

“We’d hope they would not present any obstacles to getting their product in the community,” Ostermann said.

Encouraging people to keep themselves safe is wonderful, but the puritanical, irrational fear of sex and all things regarding the body is too embedded. Wouldn’t it be better to disassociate the stigma from sex in general, making it easier to buy condoms without shame? More capitalism and less puritanism.

To be fair, Mr. Ostermann is not making an anti-capitalist, public before profit statement, but an understandable lament based on our puritanical society. Yet, someone will probably suggest legislation requiring stores to provide simple access to condoms in the public interest, without regard to likelihood of theft. Before we take that silly route, stores or some other enterprising soul could follow the suggestion of the many Fark commenters in the thread where I found the story: vending machines. Simple and effective.

Instead, we get feel-good corporate gobbledygook like this:

Other stores, such as Walgreens, mostly keep condoms in a highly visible area in the store where thieves would be more concerned about employees catching them in the act of stealing. Several Walgreens that had placed condoms behind their counters have since been instructed to return them to the sales floor, said Carol Hively, corporate spokeswoman for the pharmacy chain, based in Deerfield, Ill.

“It’s our policy not to lock up condoms,” Hively said. “Shrink can vary from store to store, but in general it is in the interest of public good and safety to keep the condoms unlocked.”

It’s in the interest of those who are responsible enough to practice safe sex and pay for that protection that they have access to condoms when they attempt to purchase them. Walgreens is free to do what it wants, but what would it rather have, a thief who returns to the store multiple times because he didn’t get infected or a paying customer who returns to the store multiple times because he didn’t get infected? The potential embarrassment of the customer should be considered, as any smart business will consider its customer’s needs and wants. But meeting customer needs at a loss is crazy.

Or, in the words of a friend of mine, buying condoms shouldn’t cause embarrassment because it’s a sign that the buyer will be having sex. Customers should be proud.