The Craziest Swag Guests Have Ever Received

Frequent eventgoers share the strangest gifts—from a branded potato peeler and mini vacuums to a rock and a brick—they have ever been given.

By Jim Shi February 17, 2014, 7:15 AM EST

Illustration: Joey Bouchard/BizBash

Planners and event attendees alike agree that when it comes to swag, there should be an immediate link between the goodie bag and the event itself. But organizers can often fall into the trap of inundating guests with unnecessary flyers, bulky paper materials, or items that are just plain awkward to carry. And then there are event hosts that look to offer something unusual (and thus more memorable), a tactic that runs the risk of disappointing or confusing attendees.

We asked some frequent event guests to recall the most unforgettable swag they've ever received from an event.

“At the European launch of a long-forgotten Mercedes-Benz model, I was given a large icebox that plugged into the cigarette lighter. I was really impressed, until I realized that it would be impossible to get it home as it was huge and had no packaging.”
Jean Jennings, president and editor in chief, Automobile Magazine

“Chrome Hearts is a brand I love and it was great to open a Christmas present from such a luxurious brand … only it turned out to be a luxe branded potato peeler and a bag of potatoes. But, believe it or not, I still use that peeler to this day!”
Isabel Dupré, stylist

“I once was gifted The Sex Position Coloring Book. I never covered it, but it certainly had those in the office scanning the book for copies of their own. Needless to say, we all walked away learning something new.”
Jeff Carvalho, partner and editor, High Snobiety and Selectism

“In 2012, at the end of Target’s 50th anniversary party, I received a heavy gift bag and initially felt like Charlie Brown on Halloween—‘I got a rock’—because I discovered there was a solid brick inside. But then I appreciated the meaning behind the gift (it was a memento from Target’s first store). And then I realized it was a great workout opportunity. Every girl needs to tone her arms!”
Liz Lange, fashion designer

“After Marc Jacobs kept everyone waiting more than two hours for his show back in 2007, his PR team, as a sign of caring and sharing, sent me a diamond alligator band timepiece as a ‘sorry’ for the delay. I know how many big editors there were [in attendance that night] so this was quite an expensive apology. But apology accepted!”
Sasha Charnin Morrison, fashion director, Us Weekly

“Years ago, I attended a party for a new Martha Stewart Omnimedia publication (a chi-chi foodie mag, if I recall). As we left we were handed a big canvas bag that included the inaugural issue along with a few trinkets and the kicker: a small six-inch copper frying pan. It got quite a few looks on the subway ride home, and it made me laugh to think that I was walking around New York City with a frying pan, but it's come in handy more than a few times since. I still use it weekly.”
Abby Bassett, senior producer, CNNMoney

“At a Friends of the High Line dinner, [I received] a piece of one of the rails that had been removed from the site when the railroad track was transformed into a park. It's the most fabulous—and fabulously effective—paperweight I've ever owned.”
Bronson van Wyck, president, Van Wyck & Van Wyck

“A large rock. A friend who is into this sort of thing said it's a ‘rose quartz crystal,’ and it's supposed to attract love, but it is nevertheless a large rock that someone handed me in a very fancy box with no explanation.”
Kate Winick, social media editor, Elle

“Last year Jeep put product information on USB thumb drives inside a heavy steel, waterproof, First Aid box, which also contained a mini flashlight, bandana, hand sanitizer, and Band-Aids. This ‘All Purpose Media Kit’ must have weighed seven pounds, which made getting it home a delight. I distributed the contents at the office, filled the case with real First Aid supplies and it now resides under the sink in my master bathroom.”
Ed Loh, editor in chief, Motor Trend

“Perhaps a plastic rain bonnet from Hermès? Who knew they even made them? It wasn't what you might have hoped would come out of the famous orange box.”
Linda Fargo, senior vice president of fashion office and store presentation, Bergdorf Goodman

“I once received from Degree Deodorant a gym locker—a full-sized legit locker you’d see in a college gym—filled with their products.”
Nic Screws, senior fashion market editor, Esquire

“I once got a tissue box cover in the shape of the Easter Island head statue Moai that, when placed over a Kleenex box, allowed tissues to be pulled out through it's nose.”
Jason Sarlanis, senior vice president of unscripted development, Ryan Seacrest Productions

“My favorite gift bags are the ones at the Race to Erase MS and the Carousel of Hope, hosted by Nancy and her mom, Barbara Davis, respectively. They are notorious for being so heavy one has to stumble to the valet toting suitcases containing things like vacuum cleaners (amazing in Beverly Hills because, really, who in this town has ever operated one themselves?), hair dryers, and assorted other small appliances and self-help best sellers. They are seriously hilarious and people elbow each other out of the way after standing in a massive line to get swag I am sure they end up giving away. By the way, I love my mini vacuum and use it to this day. I believe I also got much joy from a toaster.”
Maria Arena Bell, president, Vitameatavegamin Productions; chair emeritus, Museum of Contemporary Art

“I once received a crazy steering wheel cover in leopard. I still have it because it was so bizarre. I’ve never used it as I’m not too keen on covering my steering wheel in leopard, but I guess they should have included some furry dice, too.”
Leslie Stevens, partner, LaForce & Stevens

“I think the strangest gift I ever got was a Blackberry at one of its events. It was locked and only on one network, which meant if you didn't have an account on AT&T you couldn't use it. I think it led to a lot of regifting. It went from ‘this is awesome’ to ‘I wonder if so and so would like this,’ and look at where Blackberry is today.”
Eric Villency, C.E.O., Villency Design Group

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