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How Walmart Intimidates People to Not Buy Plan B

"I can't give you that, SIR!"

Plan B is emergency contraception. It has fewer side effects than many of the over-the-the counter pills that are sold at Walmart and it is supposed to be available to anyone who is seventeen or older without a prescription. The only catch is that drug stores keep Plan B behind the pharmacy counter. I suppose this is meant to discourage or humiliate the person who needs emergency contraception by forcing them to wait in line and then ask for it in front of other customers.

Last week, in preparation for taping my YouTube video on condoms, I went to Walmart to get a box of Plan B so I could include it in the video. Why Plan B if my video was on condoms? Because it's important for people to have a backup plan in case the condom breaks, slips off or doesn't get used.

Surprise, surprise, surprise! When it was my turn at the pharmacy counter I was greeted by an efficient-looking middle-aged woman in a white coat. Her welcoming smile turned into a school-teacher look of disapproval when she heard that I wanted to buy Plan B.

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"I can't give you that, SIR!"

"And why not?"

"Because I KNOW you're NOT going to use it yourself, and I don't know who you might give it to."

What bothered me most was an awareness that if I had been a normal guy who wasn't a sex educator and who was trying to buy Plan B for his wife or girlfriend, this authoritative-looking woman in the white coat would have intimidated the heck out of him. He probably would have apologized and sheepishly left the building empty handed.

The response I gave was "If I were a woman, how could you be sure I wouldn't give the Plan B to someone else?"

This threw her for a loop. "Well, I guess I wouldn't know, but I do know for certain that you won't be taking this!"

Logic was clearly not going to deter this member of Walmart's self-appointed morality police.

I then calmly asked her to read the box, where she could see that a prescription is not required for Plan B for anyone age 17 or over, and that she could no more deny me a box of Plan B than she could deny me a bottle of aspirin. And to not miss the obvious, I explained why Plan B does not cause an abortion.

The authoritative Walmart clerk held her ground, still determined to foil me from committing whatever atrocity I might commit if I left the store with a box of Plan B. So I said, "Let's see what your pharmacists have to say."

Certain she would receive back-up from the people who actually earned their white coats, she was clearly taken aback when the pharmacist told her that any person over the age of 18 could buy Plan B regardless of the sex. (I decided to cut my losses and not inform him the legal age for Plan B without a prescription was 17.)

What's really troubling about this is that customers who walk up to the Pharmacy window at Walmart don't get to talk to a pharmacist. Like me, they are subjected to an official-looking clerk who can rule based on her own personal beliefs and misinformation. Unlike me, few customers know the law and few would know to dig in and hold their ground.

In how many other drug stores across the country is this happening?

My next job after posting this is to write to the people at Walmart headquarters. I'll let you know their response.

 

Paul Joannides, Psy.D., is a research psychoanalyst, author of Guide To Getting It On, and a speaker on college campuses. more...

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