April 2004 (v6 i5)
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Pregnancy tests and consumer culture
Why do these things go on sale?
by Todd Nienkerk, Editor-in-Chief

A few weeks ago, I was perusing the Sunday paper’s inserts, looking for deals on stuff I don’t need and can’t afford. The electronic outlets were my first priority, of course, but after scrutinizing the Best Buy and Circuit City inserts half a dozen times — Deuce Bigalow was only $6.99 at Fry’s that weekend! — I was running out of quality consumer material. Like a junkie licking the spoon, I soon found myself comparison-shopping Snickers bar 10-packs and Dawn dish detergent from the most perplexing of all stores: discount pharmacy chains.

In Texas and the Midwest, they’re called Eckerd’s and Walgreen’s; up north, they go by CVS Pharmacy; out west, Osco Drugs. They’re pretty awful places: second-hand supermarket music crackles from the tinny PA system, they carry two isles worth of seasonal junk — who really needs (or wants) an Easter Bunny that plays bad oldies covers when you squeeze its paw? — and yet they never really have what you’re looking for.

Reading one of the local pharmacy’s inserts, I noticed something strange: between a coupon for a personal hair trimmer and a propane camping lantern, they were advertising a sale on pregnancy tests.

I repeat: pregnancy tests were marked down for a limited time only.

When I see something that I like on sale, I’m more likely to buy it because I’d be spending less money, and it’s not unusual for me to wait for an item to drop in price. But what woman thinks, “Gee, I could be a mother-to-be, but… $9.99 for a pregnancy test? What do you think I am — made of money? I’d rather wait a few weeks and find out the old-fashioned way. You know, from angels.”

Do women run to the local Eckerd’s after seeing an ad for discounted pregnancy tests? Do they stock up on them, squirreling them away like nuts for the winter? A deal’s a deal, I suppose, and you never know when you’re going to need a pregnancy test. Better have a few of ‘em lying around just in case you feel a twinge of maternity rippling through your loins.

This raises another interesting set of questions: do women shop around for pregnancy tests? Do women buy the more expensive name-brand tests, or do they opt for the cheaper off-brands? Does HEB offer a Hill Country Fare brand pregnancy test? Does Sam’s Club sell Sam’s Choice tests, and if so, do they sell them by the gross?

Does the typical scared-shitless pregnant woman quietly ruminate in the isles, considering the pros and cons of peeing in a cup versus peeing on a stick? Is it similar to the dilemma faced by countless men: Latex or polyurethane? Thin or Ultra-Thin? Magnum or Horse-Cock?

Everyone appreciates a good bargain, but who shops around for pregnancy tests? Whose taste is so discriminating as to fancy the plus/minus indicator over the one-line/two-line system? It’s like browsing for enemas: just grab one and get out — You’re going to wind up squatting over a toilet regardless.

Our consumer culture raises another interesting question: if you drop ten or fifteen bucks and find out you’re not pregnant, does it feel like a waste of money? Is it like buying food that goes bad before you get around to eating it? I’d want my money back.
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