From hemorrhoid cream to vibrators, purchases of suggestive and even humiliating products turn everyday ordeals into much more.
Pharmacy technician Amber Praznick has encountered her fair share of embarrassed customers in her 14 years of experience. These shoppers tend to be most mortified by buying items like enemas, suppositories, pregnancy tests and condoms.
“I’ve seen customers walk up to [a pregnancy test], then walk off, kind of circle around, then grab it, kind of stand there and act confused,” Praznick said. “You can tell they don’t want to take it up to check out in front of everyone.”
Walgreens cashier Sally Mack has also experienced some awkward purchases, like ringing up a “personal massager.” She said she doesn’t mind scanning such products, but she can always tell how embarrassed the customers are.
“They definitely don’t make eye contact,” Mack said. “Or they’ll make up an excuse, like it’s for a bachelorette party.”
Praznick said she tries to converse with uneasy customers in private if they have questions and shares personal and relatable stories in order to ease the situation.
“We’ve all been there; we’ve all had to get hemorrhoid cream at some point,” Praznick said. “I try to talk to them about how it’s common and lots of other people need those products.”
However, sometimes the tables turn. Praznick said she has experienced her own embarrassing situations. Sometimes customers discuss their ailments in far too much detail and may even go a step further.
“I’ve had situations where people try to describe a rash or something, and they’ve actually dropped their drawers to show it to me,” Praznick said.
Jessica White, a junior integrated studies major from St. George, said her most uncomfortable purchase involved a pharmacist announcing that he had her birth control ready rather loudly while a man stood behind her.
White said she mostly felt embarrassed because, while she took birth control for acne purposes, she knew the stranger behind her probably assumed she was sexually active.
“I just felt really awkward to know that the guy was probably thinking I was having sex,” White said. “He didn’t know the whole story.”
Coden Jensen, a sophomore biology major from St. George, said he has experienced a twinge of discomfort from buying foot deodorizer to freshen his climbing shoes.
“They probably think I’m growing some gnarly foot fungus,” Jensen said.
Jensen said at times he wants to explain himself, but he decides not to.
“You don’t need to explain anything to this person that you’re probably never going to see again,” Jensen said. “It’s healthy to be OK with someone else thinking something about you that’s not true.”
Miryka Meyer, a junior health science major from Kaysville, said she notices strange looks whenever she buys tampons, especially from male cashiers. She said she’s usually not embarrassed if she checks out with a female cashier.
White said she thinks embarrassment is conditional depending on who sees what she buys. For example, White explained why it’s more embarrassing having a man ring up tampons than a woman.
“Guys don’t want to think about it,” White said. “In their minds we don’t have periods.”
Jensen said he thinks such embarrassment is unnecessary.
“[A cashier] checks that kind of stuff out multiple times an hour, so they probably really don’t care at all,” Jensen said. “If it’s at a store it’s meant to be bought, right?”
Meyer said self-checkout is convenient, but she won’t go out of her way to avoid checking out with a cashier.
“It’s only embarrassing if you make it embarrassing,” Meyer said.