Good Luck Purchasing a Confederate Flag

June 24th 2015

Alex Mierjeski

Google announced Tuesday afternoon that it would no longer cull Confederate paraphernalia sources via its Google Shopping and Ads platforms, making it the latest large company in two days to take a stand against the availability of the flag, according to Recode.

The massive online store Amazon also announced bans Tuesday on the sale of Confederate flag and merchandise adorned with the symbol across its vast retail platform, CNN reports.

Those companies join other large retailers like eBay, Sears, Kmart, Etsy, and Walmart, which have all announced bans in recent days in response to inquiries by CNN about selling Confederate merchandise in the wake of the mass shooting at a Black church in Charleston, South Carolina last week that left nine dead. The suspect in the shooting, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, was seen in pictures online posing in front of a car with Confederate flag license plates, and expounded on his views of white primacy in an online manifesto that surfaced last weekend.

Target Corporation and Spencer Gifts also announced bans on flag and flag paraphernalia sales.

Amazon's announcement comes shortly after eBay said it would ban the sale of the flag, which according to eBay spokesperson Johnna Hoff, has "become a contemporary symbol of divisiveness and racism." The company would ban the sale of flags and "many items containing this image," Hoff told CNN.

But with waning availability, Confederate memorabilia is getting snatched up in places that still sell it. On eBay, where the symbol is singing its retail swan song, flags and patterns not already listed as "out of stock" are selling at breakneck rates; one flag listing bearing the phrase "I aint coming down" [sic] sold 167 copies in one hour, according to the listing page, and another plain Confederate flag sold 580 in one hour. One more, with the phrase "the south will rise again" had sold 36 in an hour. At least 10 separate eBay listings for "Confederate flags" reviewed by ATTN: before and shortly after 4 p.m. PST Tuesday had similar statistics.

Confederate flag on eBay

The trend occurred elsewhere, too, as other retailers announced bans Monday and Tuesday. As Business Insider reported, in the 24 hours leading up to Amazon's announcement, the company's sales of Confederate flags shot up by more than 3,000 percent, with flags accounting for most or all of the top five items on the site that experienced the biggest sales gains over that period. On Tuesday evening, at least a few flags remained for sale on Amazon, largely sold by third-party resellers, not Amazon itself.

Confederate Flag for sale on Amazon

For buyers too late to snatch up blocked goods, Amazon lists related products advertised via a pay-per-click partnership between Amazon and other business called Product Ads, which "drives qualified traffic from our site to yours through highly targeted placements," according to the website. Below one Confederate flag still for sale Tuesday afternoon were half a dozen Confederate flags and pieces of paraphernalia listed by a company called Society6, which accepts Amazon Payments, a program that allows Amazon shoppers to use their secured account to add off-site items to their shopping carts. The items listed included framed pictures of Confederate flags, flag shower curtains, and flag duvet covers. It is yet unclear how this program will be affected by the new bans, since Amazon's terms of service––which prohibit the sale of "offensive items" or "hate literature"––explicitly apply. The terms of service were last updated in March, according to the website.

ATTN: reached out to Amazon but did not hear back before publishing this story.

As major retailers prized for their convenience and affordability implement bans on Confederate item sales, many other smaller sites are likely to see an increase in sales. The change now is that buyers will not have access to the convenience of sourcing smaller companies via Google Shopping or Ads, after the company announced Tuesday afternoon that it would exclude paraphernalia from search results.

"We have decided to remove content containing the Confederate flag from Google Shopping and Ads," a company spokesperson told Recode. "We have determined that the Confederate flag violates our Ads policies, which don't allow content that's generally perceived as expressing hate toward a particular group."

A search for "confederate flag" in Google Shopping Tuesday evening yielded no results, but multiple vendors with names like proudrebel.com, and rebelstore.com came up in the search results. The website Shop.com, which is owned by the online marketing and product brokerage company Market America, also had many results for "confederate flag" from flag manufacturing companies such as Flag and Banner.

But as MarketWatch and CNN Money report, a number of manufacturers are looking inward to question their continued production of Confederate flags. The family-owned Valley Forge Flag Co., a leading U.S. manufacturer, released a statement Tuesday saying they would halt production of the flag in hopes of showing "support for those affected by the recent events in Charleston and, in some small way, help to foster racial unity and tolerance in our country," the company said.

In recent days, both big and small companies, as well as state lawmakers have moved to distance themselves from what has become a poignant and contentious topic of controversy in the wake of last week's attack on a historical Black church in Charleston, S.C. that left nine people dead.

On Wednesday, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley ordered the Confederate flag removed from the state capitol in Montgomery. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley announced Monday that she supported removing the flag from the statehouse grounds, a sentiment that was echoed by S.C. Sen. and presidential contender Lindsay Graham (R), and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.). Following Haley's announcement, Mississippi's speaker of the house Phillip Gunn (R) said it was time to remove from the Mississippi state flag the Confederate flag design, and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said Tuesday that he will seek to discontinue the use of the flag on state-sponsored license plates.