Let Us Know What Kind of Free Stuff You Really Want

radio cartoonWhen we ask people to contribute to our public-radio Freakonomics podcast, our sponsor station WNYC offers some of the standard public-radio gifts: a Freakonomics t-shirt, a coffee mug, copies of our books, etc. I am curious what sort of gifts people really want. The radio station tells us that people love love love tote bags, but as someone who almost never carries a tote bag, I am skeptical. But I am also happy to be proven wrong. So please let us know via the poll below, and also write in answers in the comments. Thanks.

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A Dubner bobblehead.

Mary Jane

Mug but only if they're contigos!


I love tote bags when they're large and low slung enough (and preferably canvas) to haul groceries in. I think it's also a good way to promote things you believe in, since it's essentially walking ad space and can make for a great conversation piece. I take my favorite bags out with me constantly!


The keys to effective swag:

1. Something that I might actually need/use. Otherwise, even if it sounds fun at the moment, it will soon find its way into the trash.

2. Something that will be visible to the my social group. Social proof is the best way to get word of mouth. Even if I use it every day, that only binds me to Freakonomics. Bind my friends too.

3. Something unique. I might need a coffee mug, but I already have 10 swag coffee mugs, so yours is likely to sit in the back of the cabinet.


Ear buds, bottle openers, hand sanitizer, chapstick, chip clips, travel coffee mugs are useful freebies.

I have actually started refusing the free t-shirt because they just end up taking up space in my dresser.


My favorite public radio gift (WBEZ in Chicago) actually *was* a tote bag, but it was a nylon one that folded into a tiny attached pouch and had a carabiner clip on it, which made it useful because it could fit in a pocket. I love the idea of reusable shopping bags, but remembering to bring them with me is a challenge. The nylon one in the pouch fits in pocket or clips to a key chain. I've been looking for more of these bags ever since.


Coozies without any links to websites or phone numbers. Just a nice, clean logo (that goes for anything, though).


Something nice, classy and useful. I am thinking of a desk organizer like (http://photo.walgreens.com/walgreens/pdpgifts/type=desktop_organizer?tab=photo_office_DesktopOrganizer) or a more cost-effective variant of it. Another thought is a daily calendar filled with Freakonomics fun fact/puzzle.

Another variant of tote bag is the reusable shopping bag. I actually use reusable shopping bags and you will get good exposure from various Freakonomers shopping in grocery stores, book stores, farmers markets, etc. :)

Katie Conforti

Posters are my number one, but I am running out of room. Patches, buttons, stickers for small donations


Gift bags are a continuation of the "cheap plastic crap" consumerist mentality, why perpetuate that industry? Why give a gift bag at all? If you need to give "something", figure out something useful and visible. My threshold for that is higher than most, but I'm sure you guys can figure it out!


I feel that if something is important enough to donate to, I don't want something "free" in return. Don't get me wrong, I love T shirts and tote bags as much as the next guy, but I think my entire donation should go to the organization. The way I look at it, it the "free" stuff cuts into the donation.


I have to agree with Marc--I am initially dazzled by any free stuff but when I come to my senses, I throw most of it away. And that includes tote bags. I have a very sturdy canvas LLBean one that I use for regular toting and nothing else. I don't even take reusable totes to the grocery store because I need the plastic bags for dog-walking.

I chose the USB drive but I can't recall a time when I've actually transferred audio that way. What about an iTunes gift-card-type thing with a code for podcast downloads?


Your next book would be good for me. You are writing another book, right? RIGHT?!?!?


Awkward family-style photo of the authors in a tacky frame. I will gladly answer my curious coworkers as to who they are, and why they're worth decorating on my desk.


T-shirts are usually the wrong size (too big, too small or some off-brand who's medium would actually fit someone who needs XXL); mugs are overdone, but a travel mug could be useful; I have never carried a tote bag nor do I plan to and a surgical mask is just plain weird.

The flash drive might be OK, but I can already download the episodes I want.

Truth be told, I don't really care what the gift is, but the hat is the one I might actually use.

Michelle E. Gonzales

A blank flash drive, key chain, or cell phone cover.

Steve Nations

I'm with Sue on this -- I don't really want anything. But if I did want something it would be recognition, not swag. My name on this blog, for example.

LVS Consulting

BOOKS!!! Signed by the author!

caleb b

Signed copy of the original book.


A copy of your book!

Something useful or something entertaining.

Tote bag is okay -- but I think many are particular about their types