Shop Around

Note that this article starts as though it belongs in the Musician section, invoking the name of the original Motown star, Smokey Robinson. Then I talk about home repairs, so it ought to be in the Homeowner section. Teaser, it really does belong right here in this, the Physical section. Read on.


In the late 1960s, “Shop Around” became the first hit single for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and Motown’s first million seller. All these years later, it still seems like good advice.


When I moved into my current house back in 1981, I quickly realized that the fireplace had a huge crack in it, causing smoke to fill the living room from behind the mantle. Historically, my mindset had been that prices for repairs of this kind would be market-driven, and thus comparable. No real need to shop around. I called a place with a large ad in the yellow pages that had been around for several years. They wouldn’t be in business if they overcharged. They quoted me $2,200 for the rebuild.


I thought this was far more than warranted and started looking around. Another ad led to a bid of I think $1,200. That was more like it. Then I answered a posting on my local hardware store’s bulletin board, a woman, licensed, good references, who bid $700. I took her offer. Forty-one years later, I’m still happy with her work, done for less than a third of the original bid.


Not long ago, I started looking at getting an electrical outlet installed on my porch. I found an outfit who I’d seen around the neighborhood. They asked me to send a few photos of my porch and one of the main circuit-breaker leading into the house. They gave me two estimates, one to install the outlet, and another to replace the main which, so they said, was a known fire hazard. Forget the porch, they wanted over ten-grand to replace the main. I wasn’t expecting that.


I went up on the internet and quickly found, however, that the breaker was indeed defective, and there were millions out there, including mine. It had worked flawlessly since I’d bought the place, but such is the nature of things. When they fail, they do so without warning and I realized I had to do something. But ten-thousand dollars? Again, free markets and all. I geared myself for the hit, although I couldn’t conceive of why the hardware or the labor would be so pricey. 


The good news was that my next-door neighbor is a contractor and, though his forte is not electrical, has had need of electricians. He indeed had one to recommend. Things progressed more quickly than I expected, and soon I had the main breaker replaced for $3,200, again, less than a third of the first bid.


Then I had my recent issue with A-fib. I emerged from the ER with a confirmed diagnosis and two new prescriptions. The next morning, I was at CVS getting them filled. The first was Metoprolol, which I’d never heard of, a generic for Lopressor which I’d never heard of either. It cost me about seven dollars for a thirty-day supply. No big deal. The second was Eliquis, which I had heard of. My thirty-day supply came to $339. After insurance. Wait, what??? I did the math. That would be, like, $4,000 a year!

The Physical Shin

Last update: November 5, 2022

The John Shinnick Website

This cost me WHAT???

THAT was a big deal.


The shock wasn’t wearing off. In about a week, I had an appointment with my new cardiologist, the latest ologist in my growing collection. He recommended that I look around but that he had no recommendations. A trip to the internet was not encouraging. There appeared to be nothing significantly cheaper. Then it dawned on me, I was already getting one prescription, Tamsulosin, through OptumRx, a mail-order outfit somehow affiliated with AARP, who handles my Medicare drug plan. I called and found their price was $114 for a 90-day supply. About one-ninth what CVS was charging.


Perhaps the new legislation that dealt with Medicare’s ability to negotiate prices had taken effect in the interim, but I doubt it. I need to check back with CVS to see if their price has dropped accordingly. But I also think back to a similar situation I’d had with a prescription I’d had before with two wildly different charges depending on where I bought it. This didn’t seem like a good way to deal with something as vital as this. Free markets just don’t seem to work here for whatever reason. Blame it on “Big Pharma” or blame it on my faulty insurance options, or the broken American health care system, it doesn’t really matter.


What matters is that it looks like I won’t have the massive hit I was expecting and can afford the electrical outlet on my porch, whenever we can get that scheduled. Smokey Robinson was right. “My momma told me – you better shop around.”

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