The town center neat my home has a lot to recommend it: restaurants, cafes, book stores, clothing stores, drug stores, food stores, specialty shops and more. But about 7 years ago I noticed a lot of undesirable shops moving in: namely cell phone stores. Every major carrier including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint –and even some minor players– like Clear has its own storefront. Some are remarkably big. In my view, all of them are pretty useless and detract from the vibrancy of the neighborhood. I’m hoping the day will come soon when the rationale for these stores evaporates and the stores can be put to some other use.
More recently tons of banks have been setting up shop. Also pretty useless from my standpoint –do we really need more than ATMs and the occasional safe deposit box?– but apparently they are grabbing up space as a kind of interactive billboard to fight for share of wallet among an attractive demographic.
I guess I should get used to these blights on the neighborhood because it sounds like something even worse could be on its way: retail stores to sell health insurance. As implementation of the Affordable Care Act proceeds, health insurers are looking for new ways to find retail customers and to bypass brokers. And you guessed it, they’re opening up retail stores to do so. A Kaiser Health News article has more, including a report of a Blue Cross Blue Shield store in Florida, Highmark in Pennsylvania and a 16,000 square foot UnitedHealthcare store in Queens.
So as much as I’d like to see the demise of the phone stores and banks, I really don’t want to see them replaced by the Harvard Pilgrim, Tufts, Fallon, Steward and Blue Cross Blue Shield stores. But I fear that day may be near.
Is this post curmudgeonly enough for you?February 28, 2012