1. Hi, I’m Caroline and like any millennial New Yorker, I order food on Seamless way more often than I should.
Don’t get me wrong, I can cook a mean bolognese — but on nights when I’m too tired to cook or working late, I opt for Seamless. (See evidence of me scarfing down veggie pad thai on one of those nights, above.)
For those unfamiliar with this phenomenon, Seamless, which is owned by GrubHub, is an online delivery service that lets you order food from a ton of nearby restaurants, either on its website or app.
2. And in some cities, like New York, Seamless even delivers from local bodegas, where you can order grocery items like cereal or toilet paper when you’re too lazy to leave your apartment.
As the GIF above explains, a bodega is a cross between a deli and a supermarket in one tiny shop — and there’s usually a cat in there too (don’t hate on the cats). They’re everywhere in the city, and they’re usually open 24/7. Most New Yorkers remain loyal to one bodega and claim the sandwiches are Michelin star–worthy, but basically any bodega can suit your needs (whether those needs are paper towels, tortilla chips, beer, etc.).
So the fact that our treasured bodegas deliver on Seamless is so convenient it’s scary, especially if you’re on the app while intoxicated (think: seven packs of Haribo gummy bears and beef jerky at 4 a.m.).
4. And as I scrolled through the list of grocery items, something caught my eye in the “New Products” section…
One of these things is not like the others…
6. FYI: Plan B One-Step, also known as the morning-after pill, is a brand of emergency contraception that can be used to prevent pregnancy up to 72 hours after unprotected sex.
Plan B One-Step is a single pill with a high dose of levonorgestrel, the same progestin hormone used in many birth control pills and the IUD. It mainly works by preventing ovulation, but it may also work by preventing the fertilization of an egg or preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. But it won’t end an existing pregnancy. It can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex, but it’s more effective the sooner you take it.
“Plan B One-Step is available nationwide over the counter at over 38,000 retail stores including most pharmacy and grocery stores,” Michelle Larkin, associate director of communications at Teva Pharmaceuticals, told BuzzFeed Health via email. “No prescription is required and there is no age restriction to purchase Plan B.” (Previously, you needed to be 18 and then 16 to purchase it with proof of age.)
7. It turns out there are actually three bodegas in New York City that deliver Plan B through Seamless, and they all sell it for $69.99 — about $20 more than the retail price at most drugstores like CVS or Walgreens.
Other bodegas might sell the morning-after pill in store, but after doing a citywide search on Seamless, these were the only three that listed it in their inventories:
- East Village Farm & Grocery
- Corner Grocer
- Greenstar Foods
“The price of Plan B One-Step to wholesale and retail outlets has not increased since 2008,” said Larkin. “But retailers set their own price and thus the price may vary across retailers.” Good to know.
8. So, while $69 is pretty steep, it also buys you a convenient, discrete delivery.
Although Plan B is sold without a prescription over the counter, many stores still keep it physically behind the counter to prevent theft, since it’s pretty expensive. So this means you still have to ask for it, and that extra layer of human interaction can be really inconvenient and awkward for some people, especially in more conservative regions where there might be a taboo or stigma.
And when you’re worried about being at risk for unintended pregnancy, the last thing you want to deal with is some judgmental cashier.
9. But, OK, still: Is ordering Plan B on Seamless really as easy as getting pad thai?
I decided to go on a mission. I personally had no need for Plan B, but as a health journalist, the idea of ordering birth control via Seamless was too good of a pitch to pass up.
After doing some research, I learned that all three of bodegas selling Plan B on Seamless delivered to my office in Manhattan and two of them delivered to my apartment in Brooklyn.
10. So on Saturday morning, I ordered a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich with a side of Plan B. And Gatorade.
Conveniently, I had actually been out the night before and had a few too many whiskeys, so the idea of ordering breakfast in bed was a no-brainer.
I got a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich with avocado and a blue Gatorade (the best kind) along with my Plan B. Once I clicked Place order, all I had to do was read the morning news and wait.
11. I was shocked at how easy the whole process was. In 30 minutes, I had the morning-after pill delivered to my door.
I had expected there to be some level of awkwardness when the delivery guy handed me my breakfast sandwich and contraceptives, but it wasn’t weird at all. He was completely normal and nice. I don’t think he even knew what was in the bag.
12. I also got Plan B delivered to my office from the two remaining bodegas.
I even got a free drink with both deliveries since I spent more than $50 each time. The ginger ale would have been oddly appropriate if I did need to take Plan B, as one of the side effects is nausea.
The first order came in under 20 minutes, and they even left the delivery at the security desk in our lobby. The next one was about 20 minutes late, but the delivery guy was nice and totally normal. All in all, it was a pretty easy, discreet experience.
13. When I called the bodegas, all three owners said they started carrying Plan B in their stores after customers asked for it, and that the in-store inventories are automatically reflected on Seamless.
“We want to give our customers all the options they want, so after some customers asked for it, we started stocking it in the store,” one bodega owner told BuzzFeed Health. This seemed to be a trend among all three stores, with each of them trying to suit the needs of their regular customers and surrounding neighborhood. One bodega started stocking Plan B as early as April 2016, and the two others started about two months ago.
Once they order an item to their store and update their inventory, the owners said it becomes automatically available on Seamless for delivery. “Anything we carry in the store we sell on Seamless as well,” one bodega owner said.
14. The owners explained that Plan B costs more at the bodegas because it’s more expensive for them to buy, unlike big chain drugstores who can purchase the drug cheaper when buying wholesale.
They told me that the drug costs the same whether you buy it in the store or through Seamless, as the products and prices are transferred to the app directly from their inventory. So there’s no “marking up” on Seamless, they said.
“It is a very expensive product for us to stock,” one bodega owner said. Since they serve a much smaller number of customers than big chain stores, buying a large quantity at a wholesale price doesn’t make much sense, especially since it has to be thrown out if it doesn’t sell before it expires.
15. Despite the cost, they said Plan B has been a popular Seamless delivery. “It’s about necessity… if the drugstore is too far away or closes at midnight or runs out of Plan B, we can still deliver the product to you,” one owner said.
Especially given the time-sensitive nature of the product, I found that getting it delivered to my door would have saved me a ton of time and hassle if this were truly an emergency. And bodegas in New York City (like the one pictured above) tend to stay open no matter what, even if it’s a literal blizzard outside.
“It’s more popular online than it is in store, which is interesting because we started stocking it for our customers who asked for it in person, but we make many deliveries,” one owner said.
16. “It gives customers the choice to order it discreetly, which is important because, while some women have no issue asking for it in person, some may feel embarrassed or even shameful for different reasons,” another bodega owner said.
It makes sense that this might give customers an “added layer of anonymity,” as one bodega owner called it, to a transaction that can otherwise be a bit uncomfortable.
For what it’s worth, I also searched for Plan B in any of the other cities where Seamless operates, and found it available in Washington, DC, Chicago, and Austin. Interestingly, all of these cities offered it from the same chain store, called GoPuff, an online delivery service that stocks popular snacks and other grocery items at a centrally located operation center in a city.
17. So, in conclusion: if you’re willing to pay an extra $20, ordering Plan B on Seamless is convenient, discreet, and (mostly) ensures zero awkward employee interactions or surprise run-ins with neighbors or friends.
Of course, all of this is only possible if you live somewhere that a) uses Seamless, and b) has grocery stores or bodegas that both deliver and stock Plan B. I can confirm that it really was as easy as ordering pad thai.
And while this level of accessibility might be great for some NYC residents, many of us already have the luxury of finding emergency contraception pretty easily in nearby pharmacies. This kind of app-to-door delivery would be even more exciting if it helped to serve a community with limited access to contraception. So, all technical details and cost aside, this seems like a really cool trend and an interesting glimpse into what contraceptive access might look like in the future.
18. Watch the video here:
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