When Free Stuff Isn't Up to Par

A lover of all things swag discusses the appeal behind getting free stuff and consults a Highland Park expert about what goes into the perfect golf swag bag.

Golf’s not my bag baby. But the golf bag sure is.

Let me clarify. I don’t care for the golf bag that holds irons and woods, or metals, or whatever they are called these days. I am referring to the gift bags golfers receive when they participate in a charity golf outing. They’re known as “swag bags” and they are the reason I allow my husband to golf. 

Swag is free stuff, sort of like the “gift with purchase” at the cosmetic counter. For those unfamiliar with the system, it works like this: when you dole out $75 for a ¼ oz. bottle of eye serum, you get, as a prize for your clever use of money, a scale model of a lipstick and mascara brush for free. They’re addictive. If someone else gets one, you will die if you don’t have one too. 

Personally, I love swag. Ever check into a hotel as a non-wedding guest when a wedding is going on? The person in front of you checks in and receives a welcome bag from the bride and groom. The bag has ribbons and bows and is filled with treasures beyond your wildest imagination (a water bottle, two apples, a granola bar and directions to the brunch on Sunday), but since you don’t get one you experience a sudden letdown. You know what I mean, right? That’s the power of swag.

Back to the golf bag. The other day, my husband came home from a golf outing and proudly walked into the house with his arms outstretched, calling my name. Like a hunter delivering a fresh buck, he placed a virgin swag bag in front of me on the laundry room table. Grinning, he announced, “I didn’t even open it.” 

That is love. 

The anticipation was killing me. Some items you can never have enough of. For example, never too many chip clips, emery boards, or Sharpies. Some items are immediate throw-aways, like mechanical pencils, magnets and bookmarks. (Free tip for today – I use post-it notes for bookmarks.) It was a high-end golf outing, so images of windbreakers and folding umbrellas were swirling through my head. My hands were beginning to tremble. I chanted my mantra, “Please don’t be a level or golf towel, please don’t be a level or a golf towel…” Drying golf towels is noisy. The metal clip clanks around and around and I am sure it does damage to the machine. 

So I opened the bag. The first thing I pulled out was a golf towel. The golf towel was donated from my husband’s company. Please don’t tell him I complained about golf towels. I will deny it. Really they make fabulous rags. All you have to do is cut off the metal clip. I love golf towels.

Next I pulled out a giant leather bookmark. It was so thick that put into a book the book would not close. That’s when I got out the garbage can.  Pulling from the bag I discovered a spray bottle the size and shape of either breath spray or hand sanitizer. It had a company logo on it and that was all.  Should I spray it in my mouth or on my hands? Trash.  A yoyo, (bye bye) mechanical pencil, (see ya) beer cozy, (adios) two toothbrushes, (ok) tape measure (good one), re-usable water bottle, golf balls, sticky pad and several pens. 

Here was my favorite, and this one surprised me. A small (3X5) note pad and pen set made from recycled paper. And yes, I measured it with my new tape measure. I immediately put it in my car. This is an item I will use and feel good about at the same time. 

Jill Goldstein, of Highland Park based Go Promotions, said current swag best sellers include: iPad accessories like the microbuff, Uniball pens, Built NY Lunch Bags, 100 percent laminated bags, skinny lip balms, and GumVelopes.  Just so you know, I had to Google several of these items just to find out what they are and now I want all of them.

I’m well aware that participating in a charity event should be gratifying without any swag. But after years of give-aways and scores of swag bags, I’m like a Pavlovian dog, panting with excitement over what will surely be the next great free gift.  After all, now that I know what a GumVelope is, I’ve got to have one.

What’s the best swag you’ve gotten? Overall score on my husband’s golf swag bag? Not up to par.

Richard H Heineman Jr August 25, 2012 at 09:18 PM
"TANSTAAFL" is the main theme of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein 1967. This is you science fiction trivia update. If you can't afford to buy air you are shown the door. Kind of a problem when you are on the moon.
Jim August 26, 2012 at 06:22 PM
How long historically speaking will it take for humans to realize that nothing, absolutely nothing, is "FREE". How about "You get what you pay for". By the way, that applies to politicians as well. Well I guess since the average IQ is 100, 50% of folks in this country anyway ain't too bright.
D'skidoc August 27, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Historically speaking, about a millisecond before we destroy the whole planet.
D'skidoc August 27, 2012 at 02:21 AM
I'd still rather have a not too bright plumber than a politician who thinks he's smart.
Jim August 27, 2012 at 11:46 AM
AMEN to that


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