Last month I ranted about all the pieces of junk I got from corporate or vendors, and invited readers to tell me what the best and worst things they ever received were. I got a lot of responses, and the PYM staff and I discussed which were the worst and best. And the winners are:
Worst piece of swag: The mini-fridge that can’t fit a beer.
But let’s let the recipient of this piece of junk tell you about it.
gabal: My company gave away to its employees one year a mini fridge with logo on it. The idea sounds good, but that thing is so small you can’t even put a can of beer in it or anything else you might want refrigerated. It probably cost a lot more then some of the useful ones mentioned here.
Readers got a lot of junk, but this one rose to the top because of its expense. Clearly, this cost a lot of money. And it was hard to move. And it no doubt wastes a lot of power, assuming it ever gets plugged in. But maybe we’re looking at this the wrong way — maybe it’s the perfect size for storing a snowball to throw at the person who ordered it in August! As office wiseguy, I think I need one of these.
Best piece of swag: Toy cars.
karen: Little GOOD qualty hot wheels sized cars/construction equipment with company logos. Seems useless, but Men love to display and play with them … and us moms bring them home to our boys. My kids have a huge fleet & love them.
This is just like the airline that gave me model airplanes. They are fun, people always play with them, and they make you a hero with children. Who doesn’t want to be a favorite uncle or aunt?
Going through the responses, I found a few lessons kept coming up. I summarized these in 3 questions you should ask yourself before you order your next piece of swag:
#1 Will your item be mocked?
Two people had items so crazy that I asked for photos:
Ginny tells of a “mug emblazoned with P.O.S. in great big capital letters.” Of course this is comedy gold, as it allows her to say “where’s that piece of shit mug?”
Fuzz tells this tale: For Christmas, we received one-of-a-kind paperweights made from clear glass with our company branding stamped on them. The trouble is, the colors that are swirled inside the glass blob (or “rock”, as they’ve been called around the office), look rather similar to that of Spagettio’s post-vomit. So naturally when we were picking the winners, we kept saying, “what about the vomit rock?” The vomit rock. That is how this is remembered.
So what’s the lesson? Make sure your item will not become the subject of ridicule. And maybe you’re not the best judge of this, so here’s what you do: Go find the office smart-ass, and ask him how he would mock your gift. Because you don’t want to be remembered for giving out a POS or vomit rock.
#2 Are you being cheap?
Several items people mentioned were condemned because they were cheap. Cheap martini glasses that couldn’t be washed were a favorite of mine. But invariably, if you are cheap with what you give out, people will remember you for being cheap. They may even forget what the gift was.
And this is much more true when the item is supposed to be an incentive gift for top performers. When you try to reward people but are cheap, they can’t help but resent you. It would have been better to give nothing.
#3 Will your item be of any help during the zombie apocalypse?
A number of gifts that were cited had survivalist utility about them — Coleman lanterns, seat belt cutters, hand sanitizer a fleece jacket. So I began to wonder how many items could be of real help should the zombie apocalypse happen while I’m at the office. What tools would I have at my disposal as I try to flee Manhattan?
- Could the mountain of stress balls on my desk be used as projectiles to turn back the zombie tide?
- Could I fashion the travel wine opener into a shiv?
- Could I distract the zombies with the shiny fake jewels from the dollar store?
- Could that fruit basket sustain me now that there’s no one serving burgers at McDonalds?
- Could I use all the coffee mugs to fashion a wall to blockade the advancing horde?
- Would wearing this cap for a direct mail firm make me look stupid and therefore not having much brain so they think of me as more vegetable than red meat?
- Can I fill up all the water bottles with tap water before the city’s water supply becomes tainted?
These are important questions that one day we will all have to answer. Also I’d like to point out that even during the zombie apocalypse, I still can’t find a use for these 14 extra mousepads I’ve been given!