A reader wrote to say he bets Google gives us a lot of money to write about them. From time to time we get other notes of this type, so we thought we might as well come clean.

beany-baby-rhinoGoogle gave us a T-Shirt once. Joy wears it sometimes. And Microsoft gave us a small electric clock a few years ago, and later a Frisbee with their logo on it. The second hand fell off the clock and so did the cover that holds the battery in place. The Frisbee still works, though. We fixed the clock’s battery holder with some tape.

 ViewSonic, the computer monitor company, sent us a Beanie Baby that looked like their demo screen picture of three parrots. We didn’t write about them so we never got anything else. We also got a Beanie Baby rhinoceros from Boomerang Software. We didn’t write about them either but they survived that shock all right and they’re still around. This was all back when Beanie Babies were big.

 PopCap games sent us a little plastic ball that lit up when you bounced it. Our one-year-old grandson liked it a lot. Fortunately, it was just big enough that he couldn’t swallow it. Apple sent us a plastic paper clip holder shaped like an Apple. It was clear plastic and looked pretty cool. We never heard from them again. A lot of companies send us Post-It notes and memo pads with their logos; banks do this too. Most of them come from companies we haven’t written about in years. Of course we never write about the banks.

 The best thing we ever got was a huge chocolate cake from Hewlett Packard. It came in a cardboard box big enough to hold one of their computers. Unfortunately the UPS delivery guy put it on the bottom of his truck, with a lot of other stuff on top. So the cake was only an inch thick when we opened it up. We never got anything else from H-P, so we guess they were pretty mad because we didn’t send them a thank-you note for the squashed cake.

 That’s about it on the big payoff stuff. Companies don’t seem to give out ash trays anymore, a sign of the times. Oh, we forgot the ballpoint pens. Sometimes we get a free ballpoint pen; banks give those out too.

 Still, the list wouldn’t be complete without the money offers. Cash, we mean. A Canadian company offered me $2,500 if he would give their product a nice write-up in the column. But he was feeling churlish that morning and said no. They never talked to us again either. Then a guy from Seattle called to promote his product and early on asked if coverage would be “pay for play.” I’m pretty thick and said “what is ‘pay for play?’” Realizing he was dealing with an idiot, the guy hung up.

 Many years ago Microsoft sent us a bucket with a squeegee in it. No explanation. I called up their P-R gal, though and said “I guess this means Microsoft does Windows.” She said: “Wow, you’re the only person who got it.” We figured she was kidding, but she assured she wasn’t. Makes it kind of discouraging to think about all the reporters who didn’t get it. Anyway, we figured it out, but Microsoft’s first Windows operating system didn’t appear for three or four years later. By then, we couldn’t remember what we did with the bucket and the squeegee.

Well, it’s all pretty exciting, and we especially liked the little plastic ball with the light inside that flashed when you bounced it.

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