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My Friend Duke

No, not the Duke who abdicated in England. Not John Wayne. Not some snob on Downton Abby. This fella is Duke Habernickel and he’s president and CEO of a company called Haband. It was founded by his father “M.” and John Anderson ‘way back when they literally pedaled neckties in New York from their bicycles. HAB-AND. Get it? These one-by-one sales led to expansion to today’s over five million mail order customers. And they no longer sell neckties.

I heard about Haband from my closest friend from childhood. He bought his slacks, shirts, shoes, socks, jackets almost exclusively from Haband. Although he was worth some destination in seven-figure land, he was - well, let’s say he was thrifty, all the way to his death a couple years ago. Because not only did the company offer low, low prices via their individual sheet, unbound catalog, if you placed an order, you’d get a free gift—sometimes more than one. He could not refuse. I could not refuse.

I have been buying from them for many years. I get my jeans and slacks from them because I can get all elastic waistbands, which conform to my full elastic waistline, aided by fully elastic belts. A lot of the clothing offered looks like it was acquired from a 1950s warehouse: much seems aimed at the Florida pre-death retirees. But it sells.

After years of patronage, my lackadaisical buying habits—maybe a couple hundred a year max—were suddenly recognized as a valuable asset to the company. Because one day, emblazoned on the envelope was, in large letters, a message telling me that it was Bob Spiwak Day at Haband.


I was honoree of my own “Day,” and inside the envelope was a certificate attesting to the fact. It pronounced recognition for my years of patronage, and how deserving I was of the accolade. Every employee would know my name. It was signed by Duke “On this Day....”

There is a dark side to this, and I don’t mean my new Haband Black Jeans.

I think Gloria is jealous of Duke. She is wary of my looking forward to the catalogs that are coming at an ever-faster rate. Haband now sells womens clothing and other things as well. I always ask her if she would like various items from the collection of loose pages, things like no-grease skillets, air purifiers, cologne and shampoos that smell like Chanel No. 5, but are only $9.95 each (if you buy two.) She demurs, usually pleasantly, but there have been times when I detected a muted snarl. That’s OK, because the letter is signed, “Your Friend, Duke.” How many people does she know who has a friend who is president and CEO of a five-million-customer dynasty?

Granted, he never calls, but he does write, more than any of my children.

Duke seems enamored of watches, or else he owns a watch factory because “Genuine Japanese Quartz Movement” watches seem to dominate the freebies you get “with any order from the catalog” regardless of price. Desk sets are a frequent free offering, and lately, there have been monetary sweepstakes to win if you place an order.

Today’s mail, Nov. 14, tells me I am one of Duke’s top customers, and “An Official Haband Advisor.” If I participate in the Haband 2013 Customer Survey he’ll send me a Genuine Stradivario (tm) accessory collection. A $79.99 value free gift. This includes a Luxury Sports Watch, and Executive Status Ball Point Pen and—best of all—a “Swiss Style” Pocket Tool that exudes a knife, bottle opener, corkscrew nail file and can opener. This set is just what I need to survive after breaking my ankle coming down from Maple Pass.

I will participate in the survey, and even order some items: Out of guilt, not necessity. If Duke is generous enough to send me a free Stratavario watch, I will acknowledge his kindness.

What else are friends for?


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