Monday, July 27, 2009

The Thing About The Swag @ BlogHer

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.

17 comments:

Melisa with one S said...

Yes, yes, yes.

Amen.

Momo Fali said...

This is perfect. I love you. Even if you did snore in my ear.

Caffeine Court said...

Hi! I have never been to BlogHer, but I'm going next year.

Tell me PLEASE who these A-List Bloggers are.

I'm out of the loop and dying to know.

Amy said...

Caffeine Court - it is entirely too high school to get into and name names, but you will know them when you see them.

I am NOT an A-List Blogger. In the blogosphere, I'm Kathy Griffin's assistant's babysitter's dog-walker. I think I'm on the Q-List, actually. A-List Bloggers print my blog and use it to clean their ears.

Mom101 said...

I wish you had linked to me because it would be clear to your readers then that you entirely took the line about A list celebs out of context.

What I did say is that there are some blogs out there creating the misperception that if you want to be a so-called A list bloggger (which is entirely arbitrary to begin with) you need to court marketers and PR with the aim of getting more and better stuff. I think this is in part the bad council that leads to some odd behavior around free products.

My point was that no, this is not what it means to be an A-list blogger. I don't think the best bloggers are determined by the quality of stuff that they get but by the influence and readership that they have. This has nothing to do with swag bags. At all. In fact I hardly wrote about swag bags on my post.

I run a blog on which I give away free products every day. I have no problem at all with free products. I do have a problem with people acting like animals in order to score some.

If you have another perspective than that that you'd like to share respectfully, as others did on my post, I am always open to it.

Amy said...

Mom-101 - in your post you said, "That said, none of this not the fault of the marketers. Or the marketing. Or the giveaway blogs. It's the fault of blog posts that offer up ten tips on becoming an A-list blogger while defining A-list as someone who gets free stuff. People are starting to blog with entirely the wrong motives, then wondering why they're disgruntled and burnt out and shaking their fists at public relations. Or why everyone is pissed at them when they elbow a baby in the head to snatch a free tote bag with a corporate logo on it.

"Let me just say there's a reason A-list celebrities aren't the ones lining up for free swag at the Golden Globes Boom Boom Room every year. It's not Angelina Jolie, it's Mrs. Scott Baio."

Which I interpreted as, "The TRULY A-list bloggers, the 'real' bloggers, are above the swag thing. And people are trying to be A-list, or like the A-list, by grabbing at swag and doing giveaways, but that's not what the truly A-listers are all about."

You'll notice that several of the "A-List" girls are doing their post about how tacky the little people are for taking home swag, today. I'm going to rise above by not naming names.

After all the kerfuffle over swag, I've decided not to do the giveaway I'd planned for the stuff I can't use, and just give it all to my sister (who will love it and appreciate it) instead. I don't want to be called a poser.

This whole thing is complete high school league bullshit, and if calling it "bullshit" isn't respectful enough for you, I'll just keep it on my own blog. Feel free to comment here, if you'd like.

Mom101 said...

Well I have clarified it. That should be enough. A great blogger isn't defined by what she gets but what she gives.

And I stand by my assertion that you can have some common decency and say thank you and please and not elbow babies in the head on the way to get your free detergent. If you want to call bullshit on that, so be it.

Amy said...

Mom-101 - I agree with you. Did you miss the paragraph where I said "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 also stand by MY assessment that the motives of the baby elbower and the arm bruiser may have been misinterpreted (I know if I were either person I would be mortified to see myself strewn over the 'net as the What Not To Do of BlogHer '09). We can't know what actually happened - neither woman is ever going to admit that it was her.

We can all just encourage one another to be polite and graceful, and not wear tipsy shoes, which is what I think both you and I are trying to do.

I'm going to go read your clarification, and please know that my frustration at this issue isn't 100% directed at you. I've been reading posts about this ALL DAY, and they're making me question whether or not I even want to be a part of BlogHer '10 - and that's after I told Jori that I'd love to work more closely with them for next year. It's coloring my whole perspective on what actually happened, and that's sad.

MK said...

Hi

I was so thrilled to read your blog that your children have watched our DVD 5 times! I'm Stephanie the co-creator of Prima Princessa Presents Swan Lake, and my fellow stay at home mompreneur Mary Kate and I were so happy to see your blog!! Our hope is to inspire kids everywhere to get up off the couch and dance and twirl and have so much fun that they don't even realize they are learning all about classical music and ballet! And yes Prima Princessa Presents The Nutcracker is coming soon at www.PrimaPrincessa.com, and will be for sale next month in plenty of time for Christmas! We have so much fun creating these ballet shows, and nothing brings me more pleasure than when I hear unsolicited compliments about tutu-clad kids joyfully dancing along with to DVD!

Thanks!

Steph

MK said...

Hi

I was so thrilled to read your blog that your children have watched our DVD 5 times! I'm Stephanie the co-creator of Prima Princessa Presents Swan Lake, and my fellow stay at home mompreneur Mary Kate and I were so happy to see your blog!! Our hope is to inspire kids everywhere to get up off the couch and dance and twirl and have so much fun that they don't even realize they are learning all about classical music and ballet! And yes Prima Princessa Presents The Nutcracker is coming soon at www.PrimaPrincessa.com, and will be for sale next month in plenty of time for Christmas! We have so much fun creating these ballet shows, and nothing brings me more pleasure than when I hear unsolicited compliments about tutu-clad kids joyfully dancing along with to DVD!

Thanks!

Steph

Kori said...

I spent a lot of time being envious because I WASN'T going, nad the more I read the posts from people who have gone, the less likely it is that I would go even IF I had the money. Becuase this kind of stuff? Reminds me of high school, and how it really is about who you know and what you look like-and it sounds like the majority of the women there were drunken hootches who have WAY too much time and money on their hands. This was probably the most honest post I have seen about it, and just reaffirms that not only would I never BE on the "A-List," I sure wouldn't WANT to be. : )

Kori said...

And sorry for the miss-spellings. : )

Enquiring Minds said...

Who doesn't love free stuff?? And a bit of panic in a crowd about missing out (or perhaps about being in a crowd), I think it's just part of human nature.

Speaking for myself as someone who loves free stuff and hates crowds!

Mrs4444 said...

Another excellent post, Amy. I've added you to my reader and look forward to reading more.

BTW-I loved the lipgloss (but pink's my color :) I'm also loving the Suave, which pleasantly surprises me. Working on that post.

Also, I've sent emails to everyone (I had a card for) thanking them again for sponsoring various events. It felt great; it was a privlege being there, ya know? :)

Amanda said...

you're so cute! i wish i would have been there. :( thinking about next year but have no idea how i'll afford to go - is the actual event free or do you have to pay for admission? and how much is that? i'd love to make a vacay out of it since it's in nyc!! feel free to email me because i have a few questions about attending :) thanks!

Amy said...

Amanda - I couldn't find an email address for you. Email me at prbabies@gmail.com if you're interested.

ElisaC said...

Well, after using a laundry stain remover product this weekend only because I got a sample at BlogHer and discovering that it *worked* (and wondering what kind of bias I have held in my heart against laundry stain remover products lo these 45 years) I too was going to write a post about swag, and why companies do it, and why it's a fine thing. but maybe I'll just link to this post.

I have seen some genuine concerns stated, and I appreciate that, and we've tried to solicit constructive feedback over on BlogHer.

But I've also seen people enjoying blowing the negative out of proportion, seemingly for the fun of it, and I've sniffed that air of elitism you mentioned. And to quote Hall & Oates: I can't go for that.

Excellent post.