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Since I’m one of the last few hundred smokers left on earth, and I still use a Zippo lighter, as I have since 1964. As a matter of fact, it’s the reason I smoke, the sound and smell of a Zippo is beyond compare. I have a collection of Zippo’s, more than a hundred I’ve acquired over the years.

The first of the two things they require, are flints (or stones as they are called in the Philippines). The flint situation I remedied a few years ago on a trip to Guam. I stopped by the Navy Exchange there and purchased over a thousand of them. I found that the local stones were only good for a few days before they dissolved in to a mush when they came into contact with lighter fluid. Not a big selling point!

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The saga of the flints began, when I arrived at the airport in Guam for my return to the Philippines, and during the baggage x-ray search they found them, I’m questioned as to why I had all the flints in my check in bag. I explained the reason as I stated above. The not smiling man from the Department of Homeland Security asked to speak to me back in their office. “Sir, do you know that flints are very dangerous?” he stated. I said, “Yes, if you strike them against steel in the presents of a combustible material such as lighter fluid they are.” But as I had no lighter fluid in my check in baggage I fail to see the harm. A phone call was placed to the U.S. for an official ruling on this matter, the flints continued with me home to the Philippines, after being officially deemed safe. When I landed in Manila I took it upon myself to declare the large amount of flints I had. The customs guy told me I was wise to bring them as they were hard to find locally. So much for flints being dangerous in the Philippines.

The second item required for a Zippo lighter is the fluid, which is naphtha based and fires up easily when the flint contacts the friction wheel. This design has been around since 1932 and has lasted through the test of time.

So what’s the problem? The problem is the Philippines, has been inundated with knock off Zippo lighter fluid, from some un-named country (can you guess), in a can that would fool the president of Zippo Corp. normally one would fill his/her lighter once a week, and enjoy trouble free operation. But the knock off fuel requires a daily filling.

I returned to the store and explained to them, that there was a problem with their stock. No argument from the store manager, he’d received many complaints from his other customers, and was well aware of the situation. Here came the shock, nothing was being done about it. And he planned to sell out what he had in the store before he reordered from a new distributor. I asked if it mattered that he was knowingly selling a bad product to his customers, and he seemed not to care. He had 3 cases left and didn’t want to lose money.

Using logic in an illogical situation, I pointed out that if he could have that attitude with one product, than he had that attitude with every product, and I asked why I would buy anything from his store. As all items in his store were now suspect.

I estimated the value of his remaining stock to be around P 4,284.00. Every two weeks I spend around P9, 000.00 in his store. Or approximately P 200,000.00 per year and his cashiers all verified this claim; this did not bother him a wit.

I explained that when I was done e-mailing and texting all my friends, his loss would be in the millions of Pesos per year.

As everything in his store, is available at five other stores on the Subic Freeport. Again he didn’t care, he felt he had won, and was sticking to his plan. He was just way too smart for me. He’s quite the brain trust. I said goodbye to the store workers as I left. Let’s hope the new owner will have better business sense. I don’t think for a second, that I or my friends will be the reason his store shuts down. He’s so smart, he’ll do that himself. The other stores on the Freeport have good Zippo fluid, it’s easy to tell, just smell it, and you’ll know. BTW: I never once asked for a refund, as pigs will fly sooner than that would ever happen, all I wanted was to buy some real Zippo Fluid.

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Paul Thompson

Paul Thompson; has resided in the Philippines since 1993, living close to Subic Bay. I’m married to a wonderful girl named Maria (AKA Mayang).Who is from Gordon Heights in Olongapo where she grew up with her Mom & Dad and seven siblings Our two daughters are both grown up and have left the nest, the eldest married to a wonderful guy named Chris, and they have blessed us with our granddaughter Heather Colleen Our youngest daughter and her husband Cecil have blessed us with a grandson named. Jayden Logan. I’m a retired U.S. NAVY Senior Chief after 22 years of active duty. After retirement from the Navy I lived for 7 years in Puerto Rico as a Night Club owner. Then Hurricane Hugo told me to find a new line of work, I was hired by Military Sealift Command and went back to sea in Asia as a Merchant Seaman for 10 years. After 30 plus years at sea I buried my anchor on a mountain in the Philippines and am now residing in Dinalupihan (or DinBat for short), Roosevelt, Bataan where we built our home. And last but not least, anything I writes will be pure "Tongue in Cheek "If anybody is offended, I'll lose no sleep over it, but here's a quick Mea Culpa in advance!

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Dave Starr
11 years ago

Boy you hit the nail on the head there, Paul. That’s one of the biggest differences in business/commerce I have found here in the Philippines. This is, more than anywhere else I have lived, is the land of buy beware, with a vengeance. A business will sell you virtually anything and virtually never return your money no matter how faulty the product or how unhappy the customer. Happy customer? What on earth would that be? Out of stock on that item, sir. I should do some video clips and write a blog post abut the TV commercials as well. Vitamins… Read more »

chris
chris
11 years ago

Hi paul i can relate to your to your zippo i have only a few but i rekon they are the safest and greatest lighter ever ,using one at the moment black with a priates scull and crossed sabres on it ,used em when i was in the army brass of course the biggest problem i had is the spot weld breaking on the lid could have sent em back to the states but the postgae is a killer that unmistakable click as the lid comes open and shut many have tried to copy but none have acheived ,nothing like… Read more »

Randy W.
Randy W.
11 years ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

Paul
Your Zippo story reminded me when I was in the Marine Corps in the late 70’s-early 80’s. When we would go on a Mediterraean Sea Cruise and stop in Italy you could trade a zippo lighter for just about anything you wanted. They were very valuable in Italy at that time. You live in Bataan right? My girlfriend lives in Pixar, Bataan near Balanga City and will be joining her there when i retire. Thanks so much for the story and keep up the good work.

brian
brian
11 years ago

…almost makes me want to take up smoking…..

Mars Z.
Mars Z.
11 years ago

Hi Paul, your article reminds me of one aircraft carrier who has the nickname, “USS Zippo, lights first time, every time” due to a lot of fires on board. Forgot the name, I think it’s the one John McCain was on during the ‘Nam war. Been perusing and cleaning my Father-In Laws house and found several Zippo from ’50s, cleaned it up and it fired. Also found old flints that still usable.

Will be driving in a few minutes to Savannah from VA. Later after 8 hours of drive.

Mars

Mars Z.
Mars Z.
11 years ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

Hi Shipmate, got here in one piece. Covered a lot of hectares doing 110-120 KM/hr. Left 1000 and arrv 1830. Anyway, is Ronson or Ronsonol lighter fluid made by Zippo? There’s a few cans lying around here in the house and in the workshop.

Paul, thanks for the tip about the code in the bottom of the lighter. When I get back up to VA, I will check some of those. I also have a few from my ship and other units.

Watching MNF right now. Thanks.

Mars

Mars Z.
Mars Z.
11 years ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

Ha Ha. Almost the same place for me. @ Orangeburg 1-26/95, station in Charleston but had Va tags driving from Atlanta. Had a 1973 Mach 1 Mustang with 350 Cubic Inch Cleveland Engine, told the Trooper might not be able to court, he had me paid cash -$20.00, ticket did not even show up on my record. They had that old trip wire strung along the road to measure your speed and a chase cars about half mile ahead, usually at night. lol.

Mars Z.
Mars Z.
11 years ago
Reply to  Mars Z.

correction: Paul, that’s 351 Cleveland Engine, not 350.

Mars

Jakeb
11 years ago

Yes, this man was only concerned about the here and now. I just don’t understand how a business with this type of attitude stays in business, but somehow many of them do. I guess some customers forgive and forget. I forgive but don’t forget and do my trading at other establishments. If a business does not want my money, I make sure they don’t get it, sure don’t want to disappoint them.

Great article and nice collection of Zippos you have there.

John in Austria
11 years ago

Hi Paul,

Too bad, I gave up smoking more than 20 years ago, but still remember the Zippo click. I say too bad as I had a couple of nice Canadian Coast Guard emblazoned Zippos that I could have donated to your collection, but they are back in Canada somewheres. And yes, the lackadaisical attitude of some Philippine businesses will make any man’s hair turn grey!

Bob New York
Bob New York
11 years ago

Back in the 90’s I was able to bring a can or two of Zippo Lighter fluid to my friends in the UK. The no name brand stuff commonly sold there was just about useless and authentic Zippo fluid cost a small fortune there. Well, that was in the days before Homeland Security and all of the other safe guards we have had to go along with in recent years. I am glad at least the real thing is available there Paul, if you can distinguish it at the point of purchase from the bootleg variety. I guess store proprietors… Read more »

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

Paul..I remember years ago having a few zippo lighters and if remember correct the flints seemed to last for some time, I even remember using rubbing alcohol or isopropyl, but..that was kind of a no..no..because it is very hard to see the flame when you light up alcohol!,so 1000 of them flints. if they are good ones and you said they were, should last you for ever….Now you need 5 gallons of the real fluid and your set to go for ever…that should light up more than 1000 +cartons of smokes..

Rob
Rob
11 years ago
Reply to  Dan

Coleman camping fuel makes a good substitute for lighter fuel. (naptha)

Dan
Dan
11 years ago
Reply to  Rob

Rob..seems like I may have tried that at one time in my life…..

Ron LaFleur
Ron LaFleur
11 years ago

Interesting story about “Zippo” lighters. I have a couple in storage some where and when I find them I will send them to you. One is a commerative from Pearl Harbor commemorating the 50th anniversary of the end of WWII. The other is one that was supposedly Marine Corps issued during the Korean War. I can’t verify if that is true but it looks the part. I think they will both make fine addtions to your collection. Now I just need to go digging for them. From what I read on these blogs and web magazines business acumen is not… Read more »

AlexB
AlexB
11 years ago

Hi Paul,

As one of the few, brave ones left around, I stick to the disposable ones. But, yes, I have come across students here from Japan and Eastern Europe who would look for a real genuine Zippo in stores. To some it’s not only a reliable lighter but also status symbol. Sort of like faded real Levi Strauss jeans.

Alex

Dan
Dan
11 years ago
Reply to  AlexB

Ya Alex…I can remember if you had the zippo lighter mark on your jean pocket…the impring it would leave after awhile…you thought it was cool…..maybe now days you see the round rind in the hind pocket of those that carry the round can of chew in the hind pocket on their jeans…funny how some things are status symbols….

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