Trinkets and Trash: A Thrift Shop Swagventure

The below is a special guest post by our intern, Maggie Simms.

In the two months I have been interning with Prosperity Candle, I have learned a lot and been exposed to many new ideas. However, one topic that arises more than others is the hotly debated issue of “bad swag.” And no, that does not refer to the kind the Justin Bieber aggressively flaunts, although I think he could learn some things as well. The bad swag I hear all about is the type that companies give out as corporate gifts.

While it might seem harmless that a company gives its employees, clients, guests etc. unflattering T-shirts in gaudy company colors, the real crime here is the missed opportunity! Why spend more, when you can spend better? Not only can you give things people want, but this is a great opportunity to give socially responsible gifts that give back and give you a brand boost! Instead, most of this $17 billion industry ends up in the garbage.

As a fun office challenge, my supervisor had the bright (candle pun intended!) idea of seeing how much of this bad swag we could find that people had disposed of. Inspired by the fact that our office is in the Boston Globe, we thought it would be interesting to do some investigative journalism to build a very tangible example of just how much is wasted.

Although previous company experiences showed people desperately wanting to trash their swag, I had no intention of dumpster diving. My plan focused instead on exploring local thrift shops, where in the immortal words of Macklemore, “One man’s trash, that’s another man’s come up.”

What was supposed to be something of a Where’s Waldo challenge turned out to be more like a game of I-Spy with a three-year-old…“I spy everything in this room.”

I wish I could give exact numbers of just how many T-shirts I found, but I lost count before I even made it through the orange section. There was an abundance of cups, bags, mirrors, teddy bears, and even a rather lonely looking ashtray. I finally understood how detrimental this bad swag was! I wondered why all companies hadn’t taken a step back to rethink their gifting options.

My friend and I ended up spending the day wandering through thrift stores, and it became a competition as to who could obtain the most bad swag in the shortest amount of time.

Although a seemingly cheesy way to spend an afternoon, it turned out to be a blast, but most of all incredibly eye-opening. I encourage any reader to try this activity next time they plan to shop at a thrift store.

Feel free to follow these quick and easy steps to complete Maggie’s Bad Swag Challenge:

  1. Find a friend (or a few).
  2. Look up where the local thrift shops are (perhaps while listening to a version of Macklemore’s Thrift Shop on your iPod).
  3. Once there, fan out through the store to see who can find the most swag in the given amount of time.
  4. Compare to determine who found the gaudiest, most interesting, or worst item of bad swag.
  5. Take a picture of the “winner” to send to us! We’re starting to collect the worst offenders to feature in a “Bad Swag Hall of Shame” campaign and would love to include your finds!

Not only will you have fun on this Swagventure, but it will open your eyes to just how much is wasted! These items have become so commonplace, that they almost go unnoticed. But when you take the time to actually look, it becomes impossible not to see it.

We look forward to seeing what bad swag you can find!

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