Sunday, August 16, 2009

Swag, Thievery, and Hooligans

Here's where I come back to the swag. I'm a sweeper. This means that sometimes I win things like a t-shirt with a movie's name on it. Some people say things like "You won a T-shirt? Big deal!" For me that t-shirt is cool.

I've never had a lot of money. Any little niceties I've ever had came because I was involved with sweeping. Some people laugh and roll their eyes but I am always thrilled when I receive my next CD or t-shirt. I am so grateful to all the companies I have ever won things from that I write them hand written thank you letters. I tend to be brand loyal to companies who sponsor sweeps.

The whole concept that I would receive "SWAG" here really didn't factor in my wanting to attend and I totally imagined that it would be in the form of T-shirts, mouse pads, pencils, pens, etc. I was so amazed when I dumped my first one out that it was like Christmas.

You have to understand that right now my husband does not have a job so I kind of looked at this trip to BlogHer as my birthday gift even though it was something I won from Kraft. When I saw the stuff in my first swagbag I honestly felt like this truly was the best birthday I'd ever had. I had gone to wondering how my birthday was going to shake out to wow I can't believe this.

Some girls have beautiful Sweet Sixteen parties. For some girls their 13th birthday is filled with pink balloons and cake with pink flowers. We were too poor for all that. When I was 21 I was a single mom working two jobs and I was thrilled to get my birthday off but I couldn't afford to do anything special for that day. This was to be my 50th birthday. My next big birthday wasn't going to be until I was 75. Two years ago my husband and I talked about going on a cruise or going to Hawaii which had been my life's dream. All the world was our oyster.

When Darryl lost his job everything changed. I just felt it was my lot in life to NEVER have one of those "WOW CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS?" Birthday party. Now here I was in Chicago, in a beautiful hotel, and the fact that someone handed me bag that included an Kodak HD Video cam and a $50 Pro Flowers gift card blew me away.

All the flashing of cameras and the massages, tattoos, and the parties were really all heady stuff. It didn't make me drunk with power but it did make me very appreciative. I took business cards and I would write hand written thank you cards to the people I met who supplied me with all this stuff. I had brought a box of thank you cards to thank all the people I met at Kraft but once I did that I began writing the other letters in earnest.

I never pushed anyone, never shoved anyone, never pouted whined, cried, or anything else because I "missed out" on a lot of the swag I heard about from others. Oh there's that I wish I'd known about that moment but other than that when I talk about swag it was all fun for me. I never knew that people would go CRAZY over this stuff but then again I suppose I should have known.

I remember hearing a story a couple of years ago about some giveaway that was supposed to happen in Central park. I want to say a certain number of people were going to get $50 or maybe $100 but it was only for the first X number of people. It was a radio stunt that went awry. People lined up 10 deep and when the giveaway began people were thrown to the ground and injured. When I heard about that it reminded me of what my Dad used to always say about large groups. "Stay Away."

It appears that some of the "ladies" elbowed bloggers or babies to get ahead in the line. There were reports of hand shaped bruises on Mommy Need's Coffee's arm. Reports of stolen swag were also circling. I'm serious. People were stealing from elevator carts and even stole from other people.

I was shocked. I first learned of this at BowlHer (that's another story) and it just sounded so incredible.

I also learned of an incident where there was a blackmail attempt for CROCS. Heck I got a pair of Crocs but they didn't have my size so I'll either give them away on my blog or I will give them to one of my students. Some of them do not have money for new clothes or shoes and I have certainly been there. I think they'd just love that.

The attitude of entitlement was pervasive among some rather than adopting an attitude of gratitude. I realize I have a case of low self-esteem but some people need to get over themselves.

I'll give you an example, I overheard one woman speaking with another about how she was "supposed to get a NEW dishwasher but it was taking so long so they contacted her and asked if she wanted to wait for a date in the future for that dishwasher or if she'd be willing to do a product review about detergent and receive a new front loading washer and dryer."

She didn't say it like "Oh I can't believe this. I'm just so very excited." She said it as though she felt she deserved the washer and dryer and they should give her those as well as the dishwasher because she actually had to wait to receive the dishwasher.

MY GOD!!!!! When when I was raising little ones I was working two jobs and still eligible for food stamps. I used to have to take the two of them to the laundry mat where we sat reading books in the hot building so that no one would steal our clothes. I'd have been thrilled if someone had offered to feed some coins into the dryer for me so that I could have bought the boys some fries at McDonalds or a soda.

I'm the only one in the house working right now and I'm taking care of my elderly father-in-law to boot. I am using some of my resources to buy school supplies for my students because many of them are in worse shape. Many of them are in homes with no adult working. Gosh I wish the back pack fairy would fall from the sky and give me some back packs for some of my students. As it is I bought two out of my own pocket and the one I received from Lands End also went to a student. I would have hugged any vendor who handed me a box of 50 pencils because that's about how many kids who will be stopping by my class when they take those high stakes tests telling me they forgot their pencil. I received lots of flash drives with product information that I uploaded to my computer then erased the information. Guess who is getting them? Not me. Some teachers are requiring kids to buy these and I only have one left. So excuse me for not feeling this woman's pain.

I almost jumped in to say something along the lines of "Are you kidding me?" Then I realized that I was the one eavesdropping so I really didn't have much room to talk.

The second day I was at BlogHer I saw woman open one of the many reusable grocery bags and began throwing bottle after bottle of Samples of the All Detergent. I was given two, sure I'd like more but you know what? If I took more then others wouldn't get any. They obviously only gave me two because they'd figured that was the fair number so that everyone would get some. They never said, hey help yourself there little lady. If they did I might have filled a bag and dropped them off at our local food pantry. After all the plant where my husband worked has closed down and he's far from being the only one effected by it. We are lucky because I am a teacher so we aren't dependent on the food pantry but some people are.

So do I feel a bit guilty about the swag? No why would I? I didn't obtain it in a dishonest fashion. I didn't demand anything. Do I feel like I was a swag hag? No because much of what I did get I shared with others and I actually wrote emails and thank you cards to many of the companies that provided these things to me. I have already begun writing reviews about some of the products like Swiffer, like Lands End, like Kraft, like McDonalds, like Ragu, and then I've emailed the rep to let them know how much I appreciated it as well as letting my readers know that I received these things FREE.

I think there are people who were conflicted with all the swag put those doubts aside and acted like a spoiled child. Some people felt that the swag demeaned there craft (more about that) yet they accepted the swag "against their better judgement." (more on that later).

I didn't feel guilty about the swag because the companies wanted to put these products in our hands in hopes that we would talk about them. It is a business transaction that they did to promote goodwill. I don't feel sullied by it. My blog is about saving money at the store so in and of its very nature it is commercial. I am not honing my craft while writing the next great novel, pushing an agenda, or trumpeting my baby's latest accomplishment. I'm just telling people how to save money. I'm telling people about where to get free or reduced priced medication or health care. Companies are looking to spend their advertising money wisely and they know that blogging is the new revolution.

Then again if I had pushed babies, stolen swag, and acted like the world revolved around me I'd be so very embarrassed.

No comments: