Condoms: A Safety Tool That Sells Well
May 7, 1987
Editor’s Note: This article was published in the May 7, 1987 edition of the Daily Nexus as part of its “Continuing Coverage of AIDS Awareness Week.” During this decade, safe sex education became increasingly important to curtail the rising number of AIDS cases in the United States.
The Student Health Service buys them by the thousand, sometimes leaving them in a fish bowl as though they were candy at the doctor’s office.
Six-Pak Shop keeps them behind the counter and next to the register. In the last month, about 20 boxes have been sold to late night patrons.
The Country Store sees more sales around the weekends, usually to women, and rarely an embarrassed face enters the door.
Rexall Drugs has always stocked them and probably always will. Even with an addition of two new retailers, there’s been a slight jump in the number of purchases.
Condoms… Now available at two places in Isla Vista and two on campus, they appear to be coming into their own as a recognized method for increasing safety of sex.
Condoms are considered at least 90 percent effective in preventing the spread of AIDS and most sexually transmitted diseases.
“We’ve sold so much we’re ordering more,” explained Dave Scheiner, assistant manager of the Country Store, which has been stocking the protective prophylactics for about two months.
Although Scheiner will be unable to determine the exact number of sales until an inventory is conducted this summer, he guesses that 50 packages, each containing three condoms, had been sold as of last Friday.
The Country Store stocks five kinds of Trojan brand condoms and one type of LifeStyles brand. They range from the regular Trojan latex to the Trojan ribbed golden transparent with lubrication.
Prices run from $1.35 for a package of three Lifestyles ultra-thin to $2 for three of the Trojan-ENZ lubricated. The most popular has been the Trojan-ENZ lubricated, said Scheiner, who explained that no special promotions have been made for any of the devices.
The most recent entrant into the condom business is Six-Pak Shop. Apparently, what began as joke turned into a wise business move, clerk Scott Gaffney said.
A little more than a month ago, Gaffney told Six-Pak Shop co-owner Greg Davirro that he could get a “corner on the market” for late night condom purchases since the store stays open until midnight.
“I guess he took it as more than a joke,” Gaffney said after six types of Trojans appeared in the shop. So far, about 20 boxes have been sold; prices range from $1.75 to $2. “The ribbed ones are the most requested,” Gaffney said.
Davirro explained that he has heard of customers requesting condoms from his late-night clerks. Only recently has it been possible for the store to sell condoms, he added. Rexall Drugs, which has always stocked condoms, has not seen a significant increase in sales. “We’ve seen a slight rise in sales, but nothing exceptional,” said Marv Levy, a pharmacist and the store’s owner.
Rexall stocks approximately 12 different kinds of condoms from about four manufacturers. Prices go as low as $1.10 for a package of three and as high as $18 for a dozen lambskin condoms.
“Our most popular is the Trojan brand,” Levy said, specifically the Trojan-ENZ lubricated. “It may be that brand name Trojan is the most identifiable with the word condom.”
According to Levy, people aged between 18 and 24 years make up a large portion of his condom clientele. “They may be the most frequent users of condoms as an age group,” he added.
“Personally, I’m glad to see it all taking place because it’s [AIDS] such an epidemic worldwide right now. I’d hate to see it affect UC Santa Barbara in the same way,” Scheiner said.
Perhaps the largest promoter of the devices has been the UCSB Student Health Center, which gave out approximately 4,000 during four days of Condom Week. “We order by the thousand,” said Sabina White, director of the center’s health education department.
“They are given out in birth control discussion groups and in certain relationship presentations, like safe sex,” said Darlene Rhoades, an administrative assistant in health education.
Although not given out to students in general as an ongoing practice, the center has been filling a fish bowl with free condoms when supplies allow, White explained.
According to Rhoades, the health center can’t keep up with the demand, and must wait about eight weeks for delivery on each order. The center still sells the condoms, with prices for packages of 10 at $1.50.
The center pays seven cents each for non-lubricated condoms and 8.5 cents each for the lubricated with spermicide. Spermicide is said to make condoms as much as 95 percent effective.
The UCSB AIDS Task Force, which involves a number of people from the health center, has made some headway in its attempt to place condom vending machines in the men’s and women’s bathrooms on campus.
The administration needs to determine the logistics of the idea, explained Vice Chancellor of Student and Community Affairs Ed Birch. Birch agrees with the plan, but Chancellor Dan Aldrich or Vice Chancellor Robert Michaelson needs to return from different off-campus projects before action can be taken.
“One of the ideas behind the move has been to lessen the embarrassment some people feel when purchasing prophylactics over the counter,” White explained.
It’s an attitude Scheiner has seen before at the Country Store, although he doesn’t believe it is that prevalent. “One person was quite embarrassed,” he explained. “They said it was for a friend and that kind of thing.”
With the entire campus pushing for a greater consciousness about safety in sex, a number of complaints have appeared about the morality of the issue. The administration has received letters from local residents, many of whom argue that abstinence, not prophylactic protection, is the answer to the disease.
White disagrees, and explained that AIDS is not a moral issue, but a health issue that effects the entire campus population.