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An anatomy is a store that sells atoms.

Some anatomies sell only “grab bags” of atoms. (Note: They frequently aren’t literally bags and owners tend to get very upset if you grab them and leave without paying.) In these sorts of stores, the proprietor makes no promises as to what types of atoms are in the atom holder. The container is typically a cardboard or metal box, a bottle, or a tin can, but you might also find some more novel packaging, such as fur-covered skin wrapped around living creatures shaped like common gutter rats. In cheaper anatomies, which are typically located in a rough part of town, the atom packet is often just a paper or plastic bag with an unidentifiable substance inside.

In these “grab bag” anatomies, you get what you get and you must accept whatever you get. Most of them enforce a strict “no returns” policy. However, exchanges are easy. What’s more, as long as you are willing to take advantage of the store’s fully self-serve option, without requiring any customer service, exchanges can be performed anywhere, not solely in the store where you bought your atoms (subject to the condition that you are not allowed to take any atoms that are already considered to be the property of someone else unless you have the permission of the rightful owner.)

If you use the fully self-serve option, most grab bag anatomies do not charge for exchanges, however there is typically a fee if you need any support or service from the anatomy’s staff. Exchanges are also subject to the “you get what you get” policy and the types of atoms you receive in return may not be the same as the original atoms.

Unlike grab bag anatomies, “high-end” anatomies sell containers of specific types of atoms. Typical packages might include oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, helium or argon atoms. Some of this sort of anatomy also sell custom atom blends, such as tiny sampler bottles containing mixtures of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen (possibly with some impurities in the mix) in liquid form. A thimble-sized bottle of this two-to-one hydrogen-to-oxygen mixture typically sells for at least $5.95 in high-end anatomies—but beware.

If you’re not careful, a few of these allegedly high-end anatomies might try to rip you off. Some of the less reputable among them sell bottles labeled as, for example, “oxygen,” but, rather than holding pure oxygen, they actually contain impure amalgams that may not be much more than 20 or 21 percent oxygen atoms—if that. If you’re not careful, the rest can be mostly nitrogen atoms, possibly with some argon and carbon atoms mixed in.

If you spend only, say, $7.95 for a tiny bottle of “oxygen” atoms sold in an anatomy, you’ll almost certainly get one of these impure mixtures instead. Plan to spend at least $58.95 for a container that is probably even smaller, but is more likely to contain pure oxygen atoms. (Any container holding less than 15% by volume of other atoms is considered to be “pure” whatever atoms the label says it holds.)

Most anatomy owners started as other retailers, but they opened anatomies when they found them to be more lucrative. For example, it is common to find anatomy proprietors who began their retailing empires with stores that sold Pet Rocks, Mexican jumping beans, and Sea-Monkeys. They then switched out of those products when the markets for them dwindled and the store owners recognized that selling atoms could be more profitable due to the higher demand. Low raw-material costs is another positive contributor to profitability, particularly if the shop owner isn’t particularly fussy about the purity of his or her atom stocks.

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