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Poll: OTC: what does it mean?
You can readily buy or order the item in question, whether locally or from some well-known online source like Ebay or Amazon --- 6 (17.65%)
You can buy the item at a physical, non-specialty store near you --- 26 (76.47%)
Other (specify in a post) --- 2 (5.88%)

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Author: Subject: OTC: what does it mean?
bbartlog
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[*] posted on 27-9-2012 at 14:32
OTC: what does it mean?


Since blogfast25 and I disagree about the proper use of the term OTC (you can see the off-topic posts in this thread: http://www.sciencemadness.org/talk/viewthread.php?tid=21562 ), I thought I'd see what the general consensus on the definition is.

I should note that 'non-specialty' in the second poll option is meant to exclude things like stores that specialize in pigments for oil paints, or the like; drugstores, hardware stores, or most anything that would have multiple franchise locations would still be OK.

[Edited on 27-9-2012 by bbartlog]




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Bot0nist
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[*] posted on 27-9-2012 at 14:44


I voted for the second choice. For me, price and hassle (declared use forms, quantity restrictions, etc) come into play for what i consider OTC more than location. Though, if a reaction can be made with mostly local sourced materials, and a few easy to get online chems then i have no problem with it being declared an "OTC" procedure.

As far as specialty stores go, a local Shermin Williams provides me with many useful solvents, but I still say they are OTC. It is all very subjective to where each person is located. Rural vs urban as well as country and state.

[Edited on 27-9-2012 by Bot0nist]




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[*] posted on 27-9-2012 at 15:04


Sounds like you agree with blogfast, but voted for my definition? Odd. Anyway, it's certainly true that the second definition makes the OTC envelope far more location dependent, which would be one reason to favor the first definition; but IMO we already have words that cover that one nicely which is why I'd sooner maintain the strict definition of OTC...



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[*] posted on 27-9-2012 at 16:31


I've voted for 'other', since neither captures the meaning as I see it.

Something is over-the-counter if you can walk in and have them pick stock from a back room and hand it to you over the counter. In modern retail, getting off the shelf yourself would also count. Now there's a chemical supplier in my area with a small showroom and a walk-in counter, and 2.5 L concentrated nitric acid is over-that-counter, but I won't count that, since it seems counter to the spirit of the poll. So what counters count? Clearly retail counters count. I would also count commercial counters as used by tradesmen, such as paint suppliers, since they are, in some sense, non-specialist consumers of chemicals. Industrial counters, though, I would not count, such as the counter of the supplier above, since counting that would meaning counting industrial users as OTC, which again seems counter to the spirit of the poll. So: retail yes, commercial yes, industrial no.

Now just because, for some accident of geography, there's not a counter near you, that should not count to count it out simply because you can't count the paces to the counter with your pace counter. So even if have to mail order it, that doesn't count against the chemical.

Though if you're in a jurisdiction that makes you count down the years 'til you get out, that counts as not going over-the-counter, but rather under it.
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[*] posted on 27-9-2012 at 16:54


:D haha, bravo. Count me amused...



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[*] posted on 27-9-2012 at 17:30


In my understanding, the original concern about OTC was that it was available without getting official permission, like OTC medication rather than prescription medication. The first poll definition would satisfy this. These substances are available to the public without having to obtain a special permit or license.

However, in these days of heightened concern about personal privacy, many people are worried about how they can obtain their chemicals of choice without arousing the interest of the alphabet soup government agencies that may ask you to prove that you are not a meth cook or terrorist. For this reason, many people prefer to have their purchaser remain off the radar. You can walk into Lowes, Home Depot, etc, plunk down cash and walk out anonymously with lots of interesting things, no questions asked. Try that on eBay or from a chemical supply house. For this reason, I think that the second poll choice better embodies what people are looking for these days when they use the term OTC.
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[*] posted on 28-9-2012 at 02:08


I agree with the latter. For me, OTC means that things can be obtained easily, but also at non-specialized shops, anonymously. Things being easy to obtain is not enough for them to be OTC. E.g. I can easily purchase many chemicals, even stuff like red P or KClO3, but these purchases are not anomymous. I have to register at a webshop for them and give a lot of information, which can be tracked down to me personally. E.g. acetone really is OTC over here. I can go to any painting shop, ask for a liter of acetone and pay with cash and walk outside with the bottle of acetone.

OTC for me also means that it is easy to find, e.g. at any hardware store, painting shop, supermarket, et.c. If a compound only can be found in some specific hardware store at one specific address, then it is not OTC to my opinion. An example for me is 96% H2SO4 and 53% HNO3. There is a kind of drugstore near where I live, which also sells materials for people who make art, or who have special hobbies. This shop sells common acids, but also some other chemicals like metal salts, a few organic solvents, H2O2 30%. All of these chemicals can be purchased in that shop, without any hassle and one can pay with cash. However, I do not consider this OTC, because that shop is quite special. In the Netherlands there are very few of this kind of shops and I am simply lucky to live so close to that shop. It makes things convenient for me, because if I want a new liter of conc. H2SO4 I just pick it up and do not have to order it online and have it shipped with hazmat fees.




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[*] posted on 28-9-2012 at 06:17


You know what it means, technically. Anything else is just variation on the intent/spirit of the dude who originated it. Best keep it simple,
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[*] posted on 28-9-2012 at 10:52


Why do you even bother with this?

My question to you is "Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?"

OTC = Over The F*cking Counter, as in,
"moderately harmful quantity may be purchased without particular legal constraints", e.g., license or prescription.

Historically, the term specifically referred to drugs and apothecaria but historical ignorance assures semantic dilution.

WTF, opium and coca decoctions used to be OTC.

If you chafe from the historical definition, "Schedule VI" is a satisfactorily obfuscatory euphemism, but "freely available" may be ever so slightly more informative.

hint: There is no Schedule VI category.

[note to self: sometimes a double espresso is better than a thesaurus]

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[*] posted on 5-10-2012 at 11:58


Quote: Originally posted by bbartlog  
that specialize in pigments for oil paints
[Edited on 27-9-2012 by bbartlog]


I disagree: in my view, any chemical that can be readily obtained either physically from any store near me (within, say, a 25-mile radius) or from a general online store such as eBay is an OTC reagent.




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[*] posted on 6-10-2012 at 04:34


For me, OTC generally means something that can be bought off the shelf in a non-specialised shop, strongly implying that it can be paid for with cash and with no questions asked (except for the occasional smart arse at the checkout who decides to try and interpret the label, coming out with a rhetorical 'not gonna blow anyone up with that are you?' hur hur hur...)

I feel the spirit of the term (importantly, as it applies to modern home chemists vs. the historic meaning for owners of pharmacies etc, as arsphenamine noted) has come to represent (primarily) anonymity of purchase, due to the recently highlighted undesired attention this hobby can draw to us.

Speciality shops blur the boundaries of this understanding of OTC, as the smaller places may be (for example) a family business seeing maybe 1 or 2 walk-in customers at a time - the owner being more suspicious of a non-regular wandering in off the street, straight for 5 kilos of a 3 hazard label product and paying in cash. In this interpretation of OTC, the bigger and more impersonal the speciality shop is, the more it falls into the domain of the term. Of course, one can always get round 'ma & pa shop' suspicions by dressing appropriately and knowing the appropriate lingo for the business, and generally coming across as someone who handles the product as part of their job - but I digress.

Certainly, I would not count purchases from ebay, amazon etc. as OTC - these falling into the category of 'Readily Available'. The purchase might not be anonymous, is unlikely to be cash, but there are no restrictions or hurdles to obtaining the material; no questions asked, and any Tom, Dick or Harry can click 'buy' and have it delivered to a home address.

On use of the term in our forum, I should think that as long as we point out in our threads where we've found for sale a particular material that we deem to be OTC then we are being sufficiently clear. Stating the name of the franchise / type of independent store/business, and brand name of product will help others who are reading the thread in attempting to repeat the work. Authors of well written scientific papers often state where they bought their reagents and specialised apparatus (albeit invariably from big supply houses), and we should aspire to do the same.




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[*] posted on 6-10-2012 at 06:45


This discussion has made apparent to me that the term "OTC" is semantically overloaded, meaning different things to different people in different circumstances. These various meanings all overlap, but are not identical. Here's a list, probably incomplete for someone.
  • Legally available. Without permit. No prohibitions or restrictions with the legal jurisdiction.
  • Readily available. If you can pay for it, you can get it.
  • Locally available. Within driving or transit distance.
  • Anonymously available. A purchase that leaves no effective evidence.
  • Available off the record. Without paper trail. A purchase that leave no recorded (paper or digital) evidence. A weaker form of anonymity.
This issue is related to a theme on this board that goes as follows: "How do I make X?" then "Just buy X.". The reverse is occasionally found: "How do I obtain X?" then "Just make X.". One of the motivations for the synthesis questions is to have the experience of performing the synthesis. Another, though, is to obtain the product of the synthesis, either because it is unavailable within the means of the amateur or because its availability violates one of the criteria listed above.

I am of the opinion that whatever the purchase criteria of amateur scientists should be respected, but also that it's incumbent upon the amateur with a question to state their criteria explicitly. (To be complete, and possibly-hopefully to forestall devolution of the discussion, I don't wish to extend such respect to non-scientists, the canonical example being the lazy drug cook.) To that end, it's clear to me that we really don't have adequate and/or consistent terminology for these criteria. The head phrases in the bullet points above represent my first-draft effort at names for them. I also recommend we simply retire the term "OTC", because it's an imprecise shorthand, somewhere between colloquial and a euphemism, that confusingly expresses what it actually desired.

I also rather like this suggestion:
Quote: Originally posted by Dave Angel  
Authors of well written scientific papers often state where they bought their reagents and specialised apparatus (albeit invariably from big supply houses), and we should aspire to do the same.
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[*] posted on 7-10-2012 at 00:45


Over The Counter. Not restricted.



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[*] posted on 7-10-2012 at 01:16


Quote: Originally posted by watson.fawkes  


I also rather like this suggestion:
Quote: Originally posted by Dave Angel  
Authors of well written scientific papers often state where they bought their reagents and specialised apparatus (albeit invariably from big supply houses), and we should aspire to do the same.


I've sort of done this here;http://www.sciencemadness.org/talk/viewthread.php?tid=21300




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