20 most worthless pieces of junk: #13 -- Consumer/trade show swag

swagThere's something about attending a convention or trade show that turns innocent folks into potential packrats. Mention a free giveaway over at Booth XYZ, and folks will scurry over to get their hands hot little hands on....keychains, mousepads, paperweights, and other items that seem nifty at the time, but often end up buried in a junk drawer. I mean, how many letter openers, rulers, calendars, and giant paper clips do you need?

Granted, you can score some cool stuff in America's exhibit halls, like T-shirts, ball caps, mugs, pens, and even briefcases. (At my last garage sale I sold off three of those convention show briefcases that had never been used.) I've gotten pedometers, mini-calculators, stress balls, and business card holders from companies that ranged from media giants to the dude who runs a local bathroom renovation company. Most of those items went unused because they didn't work for long or I already had a better model. However, I'm still holding onto a shoe horn I picked up at some local trade show in the hope that it will come in handy someday.

After years of traipsing through convention halls and hauling around bags of trade-show loot, I finally got hip to avoiding many of the giveaways to spare my back and avoid bringing home more useless junk. Now if I attend one of these shows, I only go for the good stuff, such as free magazines or books I actually want to read and business cards or brochures of people I actually plan to do business with. Also, I still can't resist a free coffee mug or T-shirt, because you just can't have too many of those.

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