[video credit="Mary Helene Hall" align="left"][/video]
Over winter break, a new vending machine sprung up in Tarver Library.
The machine, which is located on the 24-hour floor, is a Pharmabox, and it contains items ranging from over-the-counter medications, sunscreen, batteries and vitamins, as well as sexual health, feminine hygiene, eye care and dental health products.
Auxiliary Services is responsible for bringing Pharmabox to Mercer. Associate Vice President for Auxiliary Services Ken Boyer said that he first learned of the product at the National Association of Auxiliary Services Officers in October.
“Pharmabox was actually debuting their product to the university markets at that conference,” he said, “and we began conversations mid-to-late October.”
Boyer said that the Pharmabox was installed in response to results from a student survey that suggested a need to be able to purchase health products 24/7. The products in Mercer’s machine are part of “a package that was suggested based on surveys that Pharmabox has done with university and college students around the country,” Boyer said.
Pharmabox vending machines are located in public locations such as airports and malls across the country, but Mercer is the first university campus with one in the state of Georgia. Since Mercer’s installation, Boyer said that other schools around the state have begun to look into getting their own.
“Georgia Tech most recently came and looked at our Pharmabox here at Mercer and is looking at putting one on the west side of their campus,” he said.
Many students were surprised when they returned to campus after the break and found the Pharmabox with no explanation until a formal announcement was emailed to students on Jan. 17. For students who are unable to leave campus easily, the Pharmabox’s proximity is a plus.
“I thought it was interesting. I thought it was neat. There's a lot of things that think that we'd have to go to Walmart to get or go off-campus, and it's right here,” said Taj Patterson, a sophomore majoring in business management.
There are some items in the Pharmabox that were unexpected to some. For instance, a wireless speaker is available for purchase.
“The speaker kind of surprises me because it seems like everything else is more of need-based, and a speaker doesn't seem like it's needed, but everything else seems very pretty practical and useful,” Patterson said.
Logan Scott, a freshman music and biology major, said she did not expect the presence of the morning-after pill.“I was a little surprised whenever I saw like Plan B and stuff like that in there,” Scott said. “But like, we're on a college campus so, stuff happens. Makes sense.”
Many of the products that are available in the Pharmabox can also be purchased at the Provisions on Demand locations on campus. The medication at the PODs come in smaller quantities, though. For example, Tylenol Extra Strength is available at both locations, but the Pharmabox sells 24 caplets for $6.75 and the University Center POD sells four for $2.59.
The PODs’ products cater to on-the-go needs, but the Pharmabox offers a wide variety of health and beauty necessities. The University Center POD carries two variations of Advil, whereas the Pharmabox offers eight.
Mercer is not profiting from the Pharmabox, Boyer said. Instead, anything that it earns goes straight to Pharmabox.
“It's just like you (are) going off-campus to buy your stuff. It's a convenience item,” Boyer said. “I do understand the prices might be a little bit higher, and you're paying for convenience.”
Currently, Pharmabox accepts all major credit cards, Apple Pay and Google Pay. Bear Bucks as a form of payment is coming soon.
Mary Helene Hall is a junior majoring in journalism. She is a Presidential Media Change Maker Scholar who has worked consistently for The Cluster throughout her time at Mercer. Mary Helene has received accolades for her work from National Public Radio, Discord, the Georgia College Press Association, and more. When she’s not working on a story, you can catch her reading a good book or enjoying the outdoors on Mercer’s campus.