Friday, April 28, 2017

Flagging Sales

We received an invitation to a military ball. 

For any civilian, this is a big deal.  A really, BIG deal. This is the military at their best – dress uniforms, spit and polish, tablecloths and napkins. Not many outside of the uniformed fold have any reason to be there. You want to do it up right.

So, the Missus gets a new dress. I buy a new suit, one that works with a black tie and cummerbund, and a new pleated shirt. Cufflinks are excavated from the back of the sock drawer. Dress shoes are located, dusted and polished.

All is in order, until a military friend says, “You’ll be wearing your American flag lapel pin, right?” Of course I would, if I had one. Truth is, I haven’t worn anything with a lapel on it since sometime in the last century. So no, no flag pin. “You’ll have to get one. It’s not optional.”

Sure. Fine. Okay. No need to insult our hosts. I’ll pick one up today, at the gas station, or the corner convenience store. Or the party supply store. Or the hardware store. Or perhaps the Dollar Store. Maybe that other dollar store? No, the pharmacy, they’ll have one. Or the other, competing pharmacy up the road. The one across town surely carries these things. For god’s sake, they used to be on display cards at every cash register in creation. You couldn't throw a rock, or swing a dead cat without hitting one, or two, or ten. Where are they all now?

Wal-Mart, maybe? Target? Hobby Lobby? Are you serious? Nobody can sell me a lousy American flag pin? The guy at the Toy & Hobby store should have bags of ‘em, I thought. No, but if I found more than I needed, he’d like to buy one from me.

It is a gala, after all. 
High-end sparkle is 
entirely in order.

Wow. I knew that these signature patriotic symbols were more than popular in this flag-waving, I’m-a-better-American-than-you society we live in, but I never dreamed they would be so universally desirable that every one of the businesses in my neighborhood could be sold out. So I asked, “When do you expect to get more in stock?”

We don’t. Ever? Never. In fact, none of the people I talked to could remember when they last had one for sale. Most said they’d never carried them. No, they had no idea where I might find one. Have I tried looking online?

I had in fact looked online. That’s how I knew they were supposed to be sold at Wal-Mart, only my store somehow wasn’t on the special ‘flag pin’ list. Lowes had a nice Stars & Stripes pinwheel for the yard, but no flag pins. Would I like one of those? At this point I was actually thinking about it.

Surely the flag store downtown would have them. That’s the store that opened years ago because the owner wanted to buy a flag to fly outside his house, and couldn't find anyone who was selling them. Their web site said they carried the pins, so I called to see if they had one I could stop by and purchase in person. No. They closed their brick and mortar store a while ago, in favor of an exclusive online presence. They’d be happy to send one to me right away, though, for the retail price plus a standard shipping fee, which frankly was equal to the cost of a dozen pins from another online source. And that one offered free shipping.

No, I still figured I could buy one in person, at retail, in my own community. Time to lean on the right wing.

I called the police uniform shop. Nope, no pins. The gun repair shop. Nothing. The tactical firearms store, the one that hosts republican politicians for town hall meetings. Three tries, all during business hours, and they didn't even pick up their phone.

Of course it was imported. 
Why would I expect it to be 
made in America?

Back to the computer, to cast a wider net on the… net. Got the Missus to search at the same time, and discovered that we could get one directly from the White House Gift Shop. It comes in a box with the presidential seal on the inside, in a box with the presidential seal on the outside, for only $24.95, plus shipping and handling. That's a lot more than I wanted to pay for boxes.

After another half hour of being channeled back to the same pages over and over, we finally gave up and placed an order for a cheap enamel pin.

Thank you! Your item will be delivered a day after you leave for your gala event. Unless you wish to add an additional $20 for expedited shipping…

No, thank you, we would not. Twenty-five bucks for a two-dollar pin? We can get that deal from the White House. There had to be a better way – but the clock was ticking, and we had few options.

Cancelling that order, we dove back into the search, this time switching the query around from ‘American Flag Lapel Pin’, to ‘Lapel Pin American Flag’. And it worked!

“This classic American flag pin is fashioned out of silver-tone metal, genuine mother-of-pearl, and red and blue enamel. Imported.”

Of course it was imported. Why would I expect it to be made in America?


No. Way. (But it is nice and sparkle-y, with all that mother of pearl. And their store is just a mile away, so no shipping charge. Hmmm…)

No. No! Before I pay thirty bucks for a damn flag pin, I’m going to call every truck stop within twenty miles of this studio. They HAVE to have bona fide American flag pins, along with all the Harley and Hard Rock Café and Peterbilt pins they sell to truckers to stick on the fronts of their cowboy hats. I travel the roads. I know what I’m talking about. I’ll spend thirty bucks in gas to drive to a major Interstate crossing and pick one of those suckers up myself, if they’ll just tell me which direction to point my van.

They don’t. No one has flag pins.

I give up, and give in. Over at the upscale mall, I plunk down $29.50, plus tax, for a pin made of genuine mother of pearl, and blue and red enamel. 

And why not? It is a gala, after all.
High-end sparkle is entirely in order. 

No doubt the Missus and I will both be flooded with online ads for weeks from every company that has ever sold, or plans to sell, an American flag lapel pin.

Bring it.

I’m an American, dammit, and I have a flag to prove it.

No comments:

Post a Comment