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So I was standing in the checkout line at the local Wal-Mart the other day, running the gauntlet of my son’s strident pleas for yet one more toy car. I looked to my right, and, sitting atop the candy and toys they leave there to ambush unsuspecting parents, I saw it.

It was a stroke of marketing genius. That, or a sign of the decline and fall of Western civilization as we know it. Or maybe both.

I still can’t decide.

I’m speaking, of course, of the Hannah Montana® Disco Ball Lollipop Cover, a small, sparkly disco ball straight out of Saturday Night Fever, only about the size of a ping pong ball. Unlike the movie version, though, this little bauble opens and closes, and, thanks to a little hole cut in the bottom, is perfect for placing a fresh, or more likely used, lollipop.

It’s a cheap little contraption, really. More of a novelty item than anything else. It’s extremely lightweight (read: flimsy) and would likely break apart in no more than a week or two. The fact that it was selling for $3.50 a piece I attributed to the fact that the Hannah Montana’s face adorned the display rack. I’ve seen this woman-child everywhere recently, but know nothing about her except for the fact that she bears some sort of relationship to Billy Ray Cyrus, of “Achy Breaky Heart” fame (shudder).

Anyway, I would have given this trinket no further thought except for one simple fact. Some little genius had decided to attach the disco ball to a key fob, so that you could put it on your key chain and take it with you wherever you go.

This got my brain going.

Take away the kitschy “Hannah Montana” angle. Get rid of the disco ball glitter, and make it out of something a little more durable. Preferably with a latch to keep young prying fingers away. Make it in tasteful designer colors to go well with any minivan or Volvo’s color scheme. Manufacture it for 50 cents, 75 tops, and sell it for the same $3.50 the cheaper version brings.

And there you have it. A gift appealing to any parent of a lollipop aficionado.

I happen to be just such a parent, and I can tell you from personal experience that there is a “Lollipop Dilemma” to match even the most brutal “Prisoner’s Dilemma” I have ever seen. Here it is.

Take your average two-year old. Give him a lollipop. Doesn’t matter what kind, so long as it’s not the “three licks and it’s done” kind they give you at the bank. Blow Pop. Tootsie Roll Pop. Whatever.

It always goes the same way. Kid starts licking away at the lollipop. Kid gets tired of licking lollipop or something comes up requiring kid to stop licking lollipop.

Kid hands you the lollipop.

What do you do with the sticky ball at the end of a fuzzy stick?

Do you throw it away? No, because then you have no answer to the inevitable question to follow, two hours later, of “Where’s my lollipop?”

Do you put it back in its wrapper? Only if you’re incredibly anal retentive and saved the wrapper in the first place. If not, you’re just plain out of luck.

But if you happened to have a reusable lollipop cover dangling from the end of your key chain, you’d be ready for just such an emergency, whenever it occurred. Now, I realize this isn’t a high glamour item, and it’s certainly aimed at a small, niche market. But there have to be enough parents of little lollipop kids out there to make a go of this.

So what do you say? Any investors?

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