Until quite recently, The Houston Press and a six-pack of beer weren't the only things not available at a local Randall's. In the heat of the night, your remarkable store wouldn't sell you a pack of condoms.
"I don't think the corporation has a condom policy," said a Randall's employee. "[The condoms] are right out there on the shelves for anyone to get."
Well, not exactly.
After 9 p.m. at the Randall's on Weslayan and Bissonnet, the condoms were kept in the pharmacy -- under lock, key and alarm. While eleven of the 50 Houston-area Randall's remain open 24 hours, all of the chain's pharmacies close by 9 p.m, Monday through Saturday, and by 7 p.m. Sunday. According to a Randall's shelf-stocker, it is "impossible to get anything out of the pharmacy" at night, and only the store's day manager and head pharmacist have the key to the pharmacy's alarm-protected gate.
Randall's officials insisted that their positioning of the prophylactics is not based on ideology -- they instead claim theft protection as their motive. Said Randall's spokesman Gary Crawford, "Entire pegs [of condom packages] were being emptied."
But Gary Huddleston, a spokesman for Randall's rival Kroger, found that hard to believe: "We haven't had any more of a [theft] problem with [condoms] than with anything else." Kroger's condom stock is readily accessible 24 hours a day in 51 of its 56 stores, Huddleston says.
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A Randall's pharmacist told the Press that, as a result of three or four angry phone calls a month, the company has decided to alter its policy. Well, sort of. The condoms are still locked in the pharmacy, but night managers have supposedly been provided with a hook-like retriever so they can fish out a package. Other stores, the source claims, might hang a package or two of a cheaper brand of condoms -- Gold Circle, most likely -- outside of the pharmacy.
In fact, when asked on a recent evening if there was IanyI way to get a pack of top-of-the-line Trojans, front-end manager James Ingram said, "You can reach through [the gate] and grab 'em. Don't worry, you won't set the alarm off unless you shake it."
The alarm did not go off. But the condoms remained out of reach.
Frustrated, we went back to Ingram, who, shrugging his shoulders, asked: "Is Walgreen's closed?"
Following Press inquiries, a small selection of condoms magically appeared at the Weslayan Randalls, located on two new peg racks outside the pharmacy.