A lot of people with too much free time are spending a lot of time bitching about the swag (or, more specifically, the "Swag Hags" at BlogHer). I have a few things to say about that.
#1 - One blogger, who I am going to do the courtesy of not linking to, said that you never see "A-List" celebrities grabbing at swag - it's more the Mrs. Scott Baios than the Angelina Jolies who behave that way. Likewise, she thinks A-List bloggers are "above" such behavior.
To this, I say "bullshit." The "A-List Bloggers" didn't have to grab for swag because they had it set aside for them. I personally was turned away from the Social Luxe party (even though I had RSVP'd) and I mistakenly wandered into the room where the bags were being held and I saw the names of all the "A-Listers" on reserved bags with my own eyes. It's really easy to "rise above" when your pals are saving the swag for you, isn't it? At least let's be honest about it, rather than bitching about the behavior of some while we greedily hoard our prizes in private.
There is nothing wrong with setting aside gifts for "A-Listers" or Speakers or people with pink hair or shiny shoes or whoever the hell you want, but it is disingenuous to say, "The Big Names would never behave that way." They got theirs, too.
#2 - The swag makes a lot of difference to some people. I personally know one woman who got a backpack in a swag suite, who said that she was grateful because now her son will have a new backpack for school. She came on a scholarship and had minimal travel costs, so let's not get all judgey about her being there in the first place - or I will rain wrath on your head and call you elitists. So no, a tube of lipstick or a bottle of detergent might not make a difference to most of the girls at BlogHer, but it made a real difference to some. To make them feel badly for taking advantage of an opportunity to get some nice things to try for themselves and their families is really, really low.
#3 - Do you girls also look down your noses at people at the County Fair who take the free samples, or the free popcorn, or the brochures about new siding or windows? Isn't that part of what the fair is for? Do you spit in supermarket samples when no one is looking?
I tried several products that I had never had before at BlogHer - Pepsi's flavored water (not a fan, I like water-flavored water, but I'm happy to have tried it), Quaker Tortillaz (they're not Doritos, but they're healthier, and I might buy them again in the future), ELF Cosmetics (the color of lipgloss was tragic for my coloring - I need to find someone who leans toward the orange-reds instead of the blue-reds to give it to, but I'm looking forward to trying the eyeshadow), several types of lotion from Eucerin that I hadn't seen locally... And getting us to try new things is kind of the whole point of those companies being there!
You have no idea, no earthly idea, how much your ticket would've cost if it were an unsponsored event. I've seen professional conferences where the tickets cost THOUSANDS of dollars. It's not uncommon for a professional conference in my husband's field (engineering) to cost two or three grand for a weekend, travel expenses not included. Do you have any idea how much it must have cost to rent out virtually the ENTIRE Sheraton for three days? The staff? The food? The booze? The cleanup? The space in a prime urban location?
BlogHer, the organization, knows that few people would be able to attend if it weren't for the sponsors who eat a great deal of the cost, in hopes that we'll go home and eat their Ragu. So quit being bitchy about it, already. It's ungrateful. You should be thanking PepsiCo, Walmart, etc. for subsidizing the cost of your good time, because that's exactly what they did - and they gave you free drinks and snacks and lipstick to boot!
#4 - Yes, it is regrettable that someone got bruised, and someone's baby got bumped, when someone got a little over-enthusiastic. But you know what? Those parties were really crowded, and it's entirely possible, maybe even likely, that it was an accident that had nothing to do with the pursuit of swag. We don't know the motivation of the bumper or the bruiser, so while it's easy to assume that it was swag, maybe she was wearing tipsy shoes and got bumped from behind, and grabbed that now-bruised arm to keep herself from falling? Maybe the person who bumped the baby feels really, really badly today. Let's not make her the focus of the post BlogHer breakdown, ok?
#5 - I won a bunch of stuff at BlogHer - I just found out that I won one of four prizes from SpringPad - not sure which yet. I won a set of Michelin tires when I spun a wheel. I won the Johnson & Johnson Sweepstakes before the conference, to the tune of $1200 and a Flip camera. I won a giveaway from @fruitlady for a cushion for my chair. I was able to be part of the GM carpool, thanks to my roommate. I was there on a scholarship because I liveblogged (and I worked my ass off doing it!).
I am very very lucky, and I'm very grateful to all of these sponsors for the prizes they gave away. If you can afford to turn your nose up at $1200, to rise above a free set of tires, to say, "No thanks," to a $250 booster seat or a Jet Blue gift certificate, well, bully for you. Enjoy polishing your trust fund and your heirloom crystal "vahse." Some of us would have had to scrimp and save if it hadn't been for the prizes and scholarships and help that we won, and we're grateful, and we're a heck of a lot more likely to buy products from brands in the future who were good to us. And that was why they did it! It's a win-win situation.
A sweet girl whose name I've lost walked up to me and gave me a HairZing at the conference. I wore it twice while I was there, and plan to wear it a lot in the future. I may even buy more, to match other outfits, because it's so cute and comfortable and easy to wear. I won their prize, they've won my business. I never would've tried the seat cushion thing, either, if @fruitlady hadn't given it to me. I do have back pain, though, and I expect the cushion will help. One of the bags had a Prima Princessa ballet video in it that my kids have already watched 5 times. I'm definitely going to go see if they have any other titles that my kids would enjoy (looks like I can get them The Nutcracker for Christmas - cool!). There alone are three brands I never would've tried if not for the swag at BlogHer, that I'm much more likely to buy or recommend in the future.
Prior to the conference I saw pictures of a blogger wearing her Lane Bryant-sponsored dress, and I actually went shopping there, it was so cute. That's why these big companies do it!
That's what swag means - it's a business relationship - Sealed With A Gift. If you don't need free things, or don't want them, then good for you. Please leave them for those of us who understand the transactional relationship between companies and consumers, who are willing to try new things and talk or write about them or buy them again if we like them, and who are not ungrateful, catty women with too much free time.
And those of us who did take them should do so graciously, with a smile and a thank you. We should spend some of our time listening to the vendors (I talked to the Bounce guy for a good 10 or 15 minutes, and I stopped back by the Michelin booth twice, and the J&J booth even though I'd already met them at the party, just to say "Thanks" again). We should talk to the vendors, even if they aren't giving things away, because they have paid to be there - so we don't have to (or at least, we don't have to pay as much). We should be kind and gentle and try not to hurt each other, of course, of course, but we should do that everyday, anyway.
I'm finished reading the post-BlogHer armchair quarterbacking now. I'm going to take my kids to the park, instead. I suggest that others do the same, it's a much more productive use of all this energy.