It used to be t-shirts.

You know, people were always giving you t-shirts. If you work in the media biz and go to even a few conferences, chances are you have a whole bunch of t-shirts you got for free. If you’re The Beat, you long ago stopped taking t-shirts that only come in large, double large and triple large. We can only work out so often, and we’re a little long in the tooth for the t-shirt as a dress with leggings look, especially when the t-shirt has a picture of The Punisher on it.

Recently, everyone started making t-shirts in women’s sizes. So we started taking those. Now we have more t-shirts than we know what to do with or have room for. We own like 6 or 7 black baby doll t-shirts, all with attractive and sporty logos on them. But that is more than we’ll need in a lifetime. So when some one offers us a t-shirt, we just say no. Except once in awhile we do take one, because it’s the only polite thing to do. And even those are stacking up.

At any rate, it seems companies figured out that everyone had enough t-shirts because now they are making tote bags. Tote bags and even satchels. We had a bit of a closet clean up here at SBM this weekend, and were aghast at the number of tote bags we now own. We’re not talking shopping bags, we’re talking sturdy, cloth-handled vinyl totes that are really useful. Some of them are even stylish.

But we just don’t need them.

Now, we do like our Viz bags. Those are super useful. One functions as a gym bag (just enough room for an oversized t-shirt and padlock), one goes back and forth to the office, and one is for…well overflow.

But it didn’t stop there. We probably found 20 tote bags, computer cases, back packs and satchels crammed into the broom closet. (We also found a shopping back with Clive Owen on it that Disney gave away to promote KING ARTHUR. We threw it out.) Some of them are incredibly handy and not shameful for a grown woman to walk around with. But, unless they are in an unusual color or have a LOT of pockets or have a matching make-up bag AND planner…we’re going to have to say no from here on. We are not going to need another tote bag until 2008, at the very soonest.

200608280336In the meantime, we’d like to suggest a NEW giveaway for companies, especially comic book companies. We’ve always been partial to the small 5-function utility knife. It comes with tweezers and a toothpick, for crying out loud! And check it out, the t-shirt costs $2.50 to make, the 5-function utility knife barely over a dollar! And they are incredibly useful around the house and for opening packages; trust us, we know. And, we repeat…toothpick! Of course, with all the trouble flying and terrorism and all, maybe carrying around a tote bag full of five-function utility knives is not such a good idea.

200608280321Okay, then, can we suggest going back to THE MUG as a promo item? Once again, it costs less than a T-shirt or a tote. And it’s smaller. We even have a collection of vintage promo mugs going back 20 years, when someone gave us our first “You’re a great secretary!” mug. You can’t part with an item like that. We have a nice peg board above the sink — a new mug can easily be added there without causing a storage crisis.

OR, may we suggest “stress relief” promo items. Everyone will get good use from those. Here’s one we like:

“Stress Ball – Construction Cone
Reward “constructive ideas” with this bright orange cone.”

That’s the very meaning of incentive!

If you’re going to go for a high ticket promo piece, check out the computer gear now available to be imprinted with your logo.
Mini-Flash drives and network finders! Come on! People will be lining up.

In conclusion, no more t-shirts or totes. We’re done with those for now. Maybe in a few years it will be okay, but we just don’t need any more for now. We’re full up.


Just to see if anyone is still reading this, we’ll be on vacation in the land of dial-up starting tomorrow and for the rest of the week. Tons of bloggers are taking the week off, and we won’t be going that far, but we’re going to be easing up on the link-blogging and perhaps tackling some weightier subjects with some essays that we’ve long been pondering. There may be some “classic ” material as well. It’s known a “recharging” and it’s badly needed.


  1. I go to a lot of large meetings for work and I think the best giveaways have three things: They’re small, unbreakable, an they actually serve a purpose. These things have to be carted home, so the small and unbreakable part are really important if you’re flying. Also, if they’re useless items, I won’t even pick them up. Too much hassle for something that will be relegated to storage, or worse, stay in my junk drawer for a few years.

  2. No knives! No one will be able to fly them home!

    Other good promo items: mouse pads, anti-static monitor dust brushes, keyrings, caps, company-branded bottled water (great talking points at an event!), post-it pads, luggage tags (one of my favorites!), pens… the list goes on and on!

    Oh, and don’t throw out those t-shirts and tote bags! Give them to shelters! (although the last thing anyone wants to see is a homeless person in a Punisher t-shirt…)

  3. As a tech columnist, I was both delighted and frustrated recently when Nike sent me a pair of their magical iPod shoes (the ones that contain an enchanted bean in the left sole that talks to your iPod and tells you how far you’ve run). Delighted, because hey…free sneakers.

    Frustrated because with the arrival of this item I am now only one item short of being able to dress myself from head to toe with nothing but free promotional items. Hat, tee shirt, work shirt, jacket, wristwatch, shoes — I think it’s only fair that I buy my own underwear — but in nearly twenty years of professional writing, nobody has ever sent me a free pair of pants.

    Which is baffling, because it’s the one sort of promo item that would truly stand out in my morning mail.

    I can live the “free sportwear from head to toe” dream on a technicality: ten years ago, I went to a trade-show party with a beach theme and came home with a free beach towel. But I can hardly go out to the store wearing it. Society accords much leeway to the freelance journalist, but nonetheless there are still some limits.

  4. Ah. Andy, I’ll do you one better! I once got a pair of waffle knit work out shorts from Flip Records…and in fact wore them for years, until I outgrew them.

    I’ve never gotten shoes, alas.

  5. Actually, my favorite shirt in the world is a promo item…it had a conference logo sewn above the pocket, but it was the perfect casual shirt. Comfortable, hard-wearing, just the right touch of style about it, and the fit and tailoring was perfect.

    I liked it so much that I Googled the label to see if I could buy some more, sans logo. Hopes were dashed when I discovered that it was produced exclusively for a big custom-embroidery company and was only sold in lots of 1000. But after a big fanboyish letter they agreed to sell me ten of them in assorted colors.

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