I've had the non-flush, plastic toe taps put on two pairs of shoes. They do look cheap and definitely do not look as cool as the flush mounts, but I have to balance the cheapness of their looks when people can see the bottom of my shoes with the wear they save on the toe of my shoes, which is visible at all times. Might have to ask my cobbler if he does the flush kind.
As for Winston S's problems with his Strands, there are definitely some significant issues there that would certainly bug me for $300 shoes. However, I think the awesomeness of AE's 2nds program tends to cause us to forget that these shoes are designated as 2nds because they supposedly have significant defects that would prevent people from paying full price for them. Not saying Winston shouldn't return and hope for better luck next time, just that everyone should buy 2nds understanding that there's a reason that good-year welted, full-grain leather, American-made shoes are so cheap. So anyway, that's a long way of saying that I'd keep 'em if AE didn't have another pair of 2nds in my size.
You are absolutely correct, and it's a totally fair point.
For me, the medallion is something I could not live with. Little nicks and scratches, or a shoe that has shop wear, I can. Even some of the sloppiness in assembly, like when they chip the sole or the heel is not on right or something, would probably not bother me, as I'd be thinking about the next time I got them resoled anyway. But the medallion is just one those things that is too big to overlook.
But your point to keep things in perspective is a good one.