A lesson learned for New York shoplifters

ok this it was certainly an eye opener. Very few surprises even former New Yorkers, but let’s just say the city has seen better days. (1) and I avoid it whenever possible. Imagine a scene from The Walking Dead with most of them sitting around, not walking.

Yet I recently found myself in Manhattan in need of some Tylenol. With roughly 14 CVS and Walgreens stores on each block, it wasn’t hard to find, but surprisingly hard to buy. Although Tylenol is mostly useless (2) I found it locked on the shelf and had to push a button to call a store employee to unlock it. A ragged clerk answered.

Me: Who the hell would steal Tylenol?

Broken Clerk: They steal everything and resell it on the street.

Me: But it doesn’t even work!

Torn employee: (Shrugs)

Well, Tylenol is being stolen and resold to people who have headaches and don’t care if it goes away or not. I can live with that. But as a chemist, the following was unacceptable:

Looks like both those who run the store and those who steal from the store could use a little science lesson. That’s why…

Photo: Dickweed Jones Studios, NY, NY

It just doesn’t make sense for Tylenol to be locked up while its generic versions sit there in the wind. Not only are they the same drug, acetaminophen, but it’s not uncommon for brand-name manufacturers to also make the generic drug, so a store-brand bottle of a drug may be identical to the brand-name bottle right next to it, except for the pill it will look different.

Why should Tylenol be stolen while CVS’s acetaminophen is not?

I don’t know, but it’s obviously unfair that the bottle of Tylenol is safely locked away while its generic equivalent sits horribly unprotected. If that’s not a case of blatant anti-generism, I don’t know what is.

Bad science leads to bad economics

Let us consider the consequences of antigenerism. They are deep.

  1. CVS engages, perhaps unwittingly, in anti-scientific marketing. The company should implement an API (active pharmaceutical ingredient) based security protocol by locking or unlocking both bottles. In its absence, they send the message that their store brand is somehow inferior to brand Tylenol, when in fact both are equally worthless, even though Tylenol costs 21% more than its generic counterparts.
  2. Shoplifters also get tricked. Although it is much easier to walk out of the store with CVS brand acetaminophen, they, just like consumers who do not shoplift, have been brainwashed into believing the false superiority of the Johnson & Johnson product. Instead, they should stock a balanced portfolio of both over-the-counter and brand-name drugs. That’s right.
  3. Likewise, those who make up the secondary market (being polite here) and buy the stuff on the street shouldn’t overpay with 21% because of pharmaceutical naivety.
  4. Finally, it should be noted that the price of margarine has increased by 20.2% during last year. Is this just a coincidence? Um. No, it’s a conspiracy! I will consult with Marjorie Taylor Green on this matter. She seems to be a good source for fact-checking, and is supposed to be back in action after her analysis of the faux meat Peach Tree Dish.

It’s not just Tylenol

Anti-generism existed throughout the store. But at least this discrimination was applied equally to different parts of the body, upper, lower and middle…

Upper part

Brand toothpaste was similarly shut down, while CVS brand was not.

From below

The same “slippery science” was found in the personal lubricants aisle.


A draw at last!

Despite the appearance of API parity in the gastrointestinal distress corridor, it was actually an outlier. The same antigenerism was in effect for Pepcid (locked) and famotidine (the generic, unlocked). (Photo not shown.) At least CVS showed corporate social responsibility by sparing people with sphincter-tightening diarrhea the indignity of waiting for an irritated employee to uncork Imodium.

The fact that this product is unlocked is quite ironic since in 2018 the morons at the FDA were considering limiting it to sales behind the counter because something like two people on the ground are abusing it. Unsurprisingly, I let them have at it (see Working with Imodium Before the FDA Strikes).

I didn’t steal the Tylenol. But I stole a piano.

New York (Manhattan in particular) has decided that theft isn’t such a big deal, hence the locked personal belongings. I’ll leave it to sociologists and criminologists to decide whether or not this policy had anything to do with closing Tylenol. Thinking big, I decided “why not get in on the action?” Indeed, if Tylenol, handbags and sneakers are already up for grabs, why not a Steinway grand piano? I’ve always wanted one!

Fortunately, my loyal colleagues at ACSH realized that I probably wouldn’t be able to drive the Steinway (£990) by myself, so they came to my rescue with the luxury ACSH staff car! (On great teams, teammates always have their backs.)

ACSH’s luxury squad comes to the rescue! (Left, Cameron “Spit Up” English, center, Dr. Charles “Chucky D” Dinerstein, right, Tom “Slots” Golab. Photo: Petr Kratochvil, Public Domain Pictures

Things are off to a good start. They even found a parking spot right in front of the showroom!

Photo Credits; Flickr, Wikimedia Commons

And stealing the piano wasn’t so bad…

Since it wasn’t locked, we didn’t have much trouble getting out with the piano. Feel free to ask Dr. Dinerstein why there are two spines. He is the surgeon. Photos: Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons

Things are quickly deteriorating

When we got outside…

uh oo The car is stolen. Welcome to New York.


(1) The word that comes to mind rhymes with “spit bowl”. Let’s leave it at that.

(2) Tylenol alone is useless. There is some benefit when combined with NSAIDs or opioids (if you can get them).

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