Contemplating the high cost that sometimes comes with paying the lowest price


Wittenauer Pharmacy in Poland Village has closed. This has probably gone unnoticed by many readers, but not by my family. When we moved to the Youngstown area, we wanted somewhere that had amenities within walking distance: stores, parks, libraries. The options were few, since the center of commerce seems to revolve around Route 224 in Boardman. Even if one did live nearby, the commercial strip completely lacks pedestrian access in the form of sidewalks, crosswalks, or crossing signals.

We found a home in Poland where we could walk to a 250-acre forest, a library and stores, including Wittenauer. With my newborn, I walked down to Wittenauer often to fill prescriptions and buy sundry items. They knew me by name, and they always made a pleasant fuss over the baby. I looked for excuses to stop in. The best part was that I never had to get there by car.

In my book, there’s nothing more annoying at the end of the workday than to have to run errands in my car on the way home. The traffic, the constant in and out of the car, the parking, are all unpleasant aspects. Whenever possible, I come home and do necessary errands on foot. Not only do I get some exercise, but I take my time and explore different routes, I encounter neighbors and friendly dogs. I can let my mind wander where it will without thinking about the road, traffic, parking, or having to repeatedly extract my son from the car seat.

I understand that I could do all of my pharmacy shopping somewhere else, at the grocery store, say, or at one of the large pharmacy chains. Chances are I might save money on non-prescription items, since large chains can achieve greater economies of scale. But the money I’d save is not worth the hassle of another car trip to an anonymous big chain store that is too large to navigate through. Perhaps I should care more about always getting the best price.

I know that businesses need to care about it in order to survive. Large chains usually weigh upon local government for tax breaks for a number of years in order to move to a site (in exchange for the jobs and commerce they are sure to bring). In doing so, they do not contribute to costs for road upkeep brought by increased traffic or for flood control brought by the large paved parking lots and rooftops (impervious surfaces that increase rainwater runoff). Local residents and taxpayers (including small businesses without the muscle to demand tax breaks) bear the brunt of these costs.

But this isn’t how we tend to think of things. Just as the businesses do, individuals tend to think about the simple bottom line: where can I get it the cheapest?

My family, however, will be mourning the loss of Wittenauer even while different registers ring up our “great deals.”