No: this isn’t a new rehashing of whether we think a CVS store fits in with our notion of Ptown as a quaint seaside village. It’s not an argument for or against the utility of brands and one-stop-shopping and convenience. This editorial is about survival.
Because the playing field is changing.
In fact, this editorial really isn’t about CVS at all. It’s about Amazon, which has been quietly accumulating pharmaceutical licenses—in 12 states to date, licenses that will enable it to add both pharma products and medical devices to its already-dominant repertoire of products.
Analyst David Maris has pointed out that the new domain AmazonRX.com redirects to the Amazon homepage, and adds, “We find it easy to envision that, if it entered pharmacy, Amazon could offer unique value to some customers, such as the easier ability to manage prescriptions and perhaps discounts, such as free generics to Prime users. Overall, we think that even though Amazon has not stated a goal to be in pharmacy, history has shown it is better to consider Amazon’s disruptive potential beforehand rather than afterward.”
I’d be hypocritical if I went on a rant against Amazon: I buy from the company, I’m a Prime member for its streaming video services, and most of my own books are sold through Amazon. Living on the Outer Cape, it’s difficult to not purchase from Amazon, as the inconveniences of distance and price are factors we all have to juggle. Most of us try to balance those factors with as much local shopping and entertainment patronage as we can manage, but there are limits.
So maybe we don’t get a generic CVS cluttering up our landscape. Maybe we just start getting all our drugs through the mail instead. And what will that look like?
The reality is that Outer Cape Health Services, in Provincetown at least, is funded largely by its pharmacy. If that pharmacy goes away, what happens to the health services this community counts on? Where will we find doctors? Since Brian O’Malley’s retirement, there aren’t a lot of other options in town. Who among us has the resources to go elsewhere for our healthcare?
Seriously: Amazon’s a far more dangerous alternative than CVS. The convenience of getting one’s prescription filled in the same place where it’s written pales in comparison to the convenience of having said prescription delivered to one’s door.
And this is how small towns die. One institution, one venue at a time. Make no mistake: Amazon as pharmacy will not employ anyone from Provincetown. Amazon as pharmacy will not pay taxes in town. Amazon as pharmacy will not provide the social interaction of daily errands outside of one’s home.
I don’t really want a CVS in Provincetown, either. I’m happy getting my scripts filled at Outer Cape. But the bigger picture is more ominous than we’re realizing, and as Maris says, “history has shown it is better to consider Amazon’s disruptive potential beforehand rather than afterward.” We’re at a point where we can see it coming, see what’s happening, and do something about it, like finding ways to make our community resources Amazon-proof.
It’s not a question of whether CVS can fit into the landscape; that’s irrelevant. It’s not about what looks good; we can deal with that, make it into Ye Olde CVS, whatever. We’re an artists’ colony; we’re good at making things beautiful.
Let’s go beyond form and look at function. What is it that we can’t we live without? A decent place to live with care that’s available to everybody, not just those who own cars? A community approach to healthcare and wellness? We need to look ahead—not one year, but 10 years and 20 years—and determine what’s really important to us now, and what will continue to be important to us then.
For Provincetown to survive as a viable year-round community, we have to look deeper, ask the more difficult questions, and find better answers than ones that are only cosmetic. That’s what community is about. That’s what we should be about.