Monday, June 8, 2009

Toiletries Unite!

I consider myself to be a connoisseur of drugstores. Some girls know fashion or decor. I know toiletries. I can spend an hour in a drug store in contemplative bliss, reviewing all the products that can make my skin dewier, legs softer and teeth whiter. It's my own cocoon of personal-improvement. All I have to do is reach for a product on the shelf, place it in my plastic shopping basket and I'm that much closer to being more moisturized, less stinky, better makeuped.

Of course, living in New York, I'm cursed with the drugstore wasteland that is DuaneReade. It's one of those crappy institutions that's part of the unwritten tradeoff for living here. You want to order sushi at 3 a.m.? Fine. But you have to get your toiletries at DuaneReade. Want a certain type of cream--maybe a nice aloe-cucumber blend? Too damn bad. You'd take whatever Russian Cold-War era selection DuaneReade offers.

At some point some years back, competitor chains--CVS and Walgreens--caught wind of the dearth of Manhattan toiletry competition and they moved in with their well-lit, amply stocked stores. They offered choice--even food. It was cause for celebration. Since then, I've been known to disappear into the welcoming aisles of these stores for an alarming amount of time, emerging with all manner of candies, lotions and makeup.

So you can understand my horror when I popped by a relatively new Walgreens on the Upper East Side last weekend, eager to get my drugstore on, and found the toiletries locked up. That's right, under guard. Lock and key. Surely this must be a joke, I thought as I strolled through the aisles in disbelief. All varieties of Degree deodorant and Head & Shoulders shampoo were jailed behind thick lucite doors, secured with brass locks. Ditto for the EPT pregnancy tests, the Children's Motrin and its kiddie medicinal neighbors. I walked by entire stretches of toiletry shelves that were secured like they were part of a precious art exhibit or something. It was unreal. It couldn't get any worse in drugstoreland. It was then that I saw it: the imprisoned Extra bubblegum.

Now, this particular Walgreens is across the street from a swanky new building, the Lucidia, where condo prices are said to start at $2 million. (I say "said to start at $2 million" because this is one of those exclusive residential fortresses that doesn't advertise prices.) I'm sure you see the screaming societal message here. Upper East Siders are so cash-strapped and hygienically challenged that they've taken to stuffing their Louis Vuitton carryalls with whatever their manicured hands can grab. It's sad, really. These are tortured people, to be sure. But has anyone considered the plight of the Upper East Side toiletries that are, at this very moment, being held against their will? Was it because of their demands for a free press? Democratic elections? I can't be sure. But I do know this: We cannot lock up the brands of antiperspirants and shampoos that we don't agree with. We must free these poor plastic containers of personal-improvement product from their captivity! Join me in this most important of campaigns. This oppressive Upper East Side Walgreens regime must be toppled!


  1. I thought when we moved to Baltimore this lock-and-key thing would be better...but since we're in the city, everything you actually want to purchase is locked up! Loved reading this; it made me miss NYC.

  2. Has anyone blogged on the merits of going product-less? I mean not buying product after product after product...Ooo this one with make me gentile...How about 24 hours or no product. No face washing. Nothing. Like a high colonic for your face. Just an option.

  3. My drugstore in Fairfield, CT, is much more gentile. They allow you to flip open their thick plexiglass case, but a loud screeching alarm goes off to warn everyone in the store to look your way and confirm that the product you are grabbing goes into your basket and not your handbag. But surely we must ask ourselves why these retailers find it necessary to implement these costly and irritating measures. Surely we all know the answer.