Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Another hidden cost in the war on drugs, wasting time buying cold medicine

The other night I went to the store and on my list of things to buy was some cold and sinus medicine. I went to the store alone because my wife was sick (hence the need for the medication). At the store you had to pick up a little card with a picture of the product you want to buy on it and bring to the pharmacy counter. I was lucky that the pharmacy was open as it was getting late. So I take the card up to the counter and the guy working there was on the phone, he never even acknowledged I was there. After a couple of minutes one of the workers in the back came up and helped me. She could not ring up the medicine on one of the cash registers because it didn't have a computer attached to it so she could put my name in some database to make sure I was not buying too much cold medication. So we went to the one register with the computer and she requested my drivers license and that I fill out a form. I complied with this this only because I love my wife and did not want to disappoint her by coming back empty handed. So then after all of the paperwork was filled out in order to buy the medication we had to move to a different cash register to ring up the medication, which I paid for separately. Only then was I able to go about my business and finish my grocery shopping.

I know that every libertarian hates the fact that it has become such a pain in the ass to simply buy cold medicine, but this encounter made me wonder about the hidden costs of such transactions. I wasted more than 5 minutes, so did the person working the pharmacy, who knows how long the person on the other end of the computer that my name was entered into spends analyzing peoples cold medicine buying habits. I am not sure how many of these “behind the counter” drugs are sold every year but I would guess probably 200 million boxes a year are sold in the United States alone, If every one of these purchases adds an extra 2 minutes to a shopping experience and requires 2 minutes of a pharmacy techs time, plus whatever time the bureaucrats spend maintaining this pathetic system. You are talking about millions of dollars wasted in lost productivity, and the vast majority of it hurts everyday people and not the bureaucrats who implemented this policy. It is just another cost of this war on drugs not tallied in any official cost estimate put out by the government.

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