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An overhead shot of hundreds of fashion and beauty products.

Filed under:

We Received $95,000 Worth of Free Stuff in Six Months

Here it is.

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

For six months, Racked’s 27-person staff collected everything it was gifted by brands. Everyone on the team was charged with hanging on to every item they were sent or given at a press event, along with its original packaging, which we kept in our fashion closet and later in a 5-by-10-foot storage unit in New Jersey.

We logged what we got on a spreadsheet, including a description of each item, its retail price, who sent it, when it arrived, and whether we ultimately wrote about it or posted it on social media. After gathering and cleaning up this data, we now hope to provide readers with an accurate, thorough snapshot of what brands send a relatively small publication on a routine basis. We publish a lot of brand profiles and shopping roundups, and in certain instances, gifts are the reason we are aware of these companies and well-acquainted with their collections.

We relied on simple internet searches to determine the retail value of each item, and where there was variation in an item’s price, we chose the lowest one. Any items that we couldn’t find a price for — especially the custom gifts, like the portrait of our beauty editor as a mermaid — we marked “price unavailable.” (These were still counted in the tallies of how many gifts we received and whether we covered them or posted about them on social media.) We did this because we wanted our final retail value count to be as certain and uninflated as possible, with the understanding that the actual value of the products may well be higher than what we can report.

Here’s what we found.

Brands sent 2,894 products and gifts to Racked staffers over the course of six months. We received another 85 items at events, including instances where the gift was the event, like tickets to a Broadway show or a yoga class.<br>Total retail value of thes
We received 2,350 beauty products from over 400 brands and 80 PR firms. <br>They cost at least $64,057.<br>That’s more than the average Racked employee makes in the same amount of time.<br>
We got 312 fashion items (clothing, accessories, and shoes) from over 150 brands and at least 40 PR firms.<br>Their total retail value was at least $22,504.
Most expensive item: Veronica Beard boots ($675)<br>Least expensive item: Himalaya Botanique Whitening Complete Care toothpaste ($.75)
We covered or have plans to cover 69 of the 2,350 beauty items we received, or nearly 3%.<br>We covered or have plans to cover 21 of the 312 fashion items we received, or almost 7%.<br>Racked staffers posted about 32 beauty items and 21 fashion items on s
All told, we covered 96 of the 2,979 items we received by mail and at events, or just over 3%.<br>During the same six month period, Racked published 1,010 written articles and 129 videos.

These were the types of clothing items Racked received most often.

These were the types of clothing items Racked received most often. Each category’s average retail value represents the items that we could price.<br>47 pairs of shoes (total value: $5,327)<br>39 shirts (total value: $2,085)<br>38 bags (total value: $2,035

Here’s a sampling of the 203 miscellaneous non-food, non-beauty, non-wearable items we received.

Illustrations of all of the items we received, listed below.

That’s 65 sticky hands, 6 crystals, 18 water bottles, 18 candles, six pillowcases (and one pillow), 13 pet products, 17 kitchen items, one 23andMe genetic test, one whistle, one “Click and Grow Smart Garden” with a moisture meter, one potted plant, one air plant, one pack of condoms, one drawing of our beauty editor as a mermaid, one Hollywood star plaque honoring our beauty editor, one mailbox, one pineapple-shaped lamp, one fidget spinner, one sage and lighter set, one Osokins Plays Chopin record, one pack of CVS premium bandages, one swim cap, one Withings wireless blood pressure monitor, and one bong, which has not been used... yet.

Racked staffers ultimately put 10 of these items on social media and wrote about five of them: a Diptyque car diffuser, a Goop candle, a BKR water bottle, a Reef water bottle, and a rainbow-hued Edie Parker iPhone case.

Beauty products represent the largest proportion of our swag both by volume and by total retail value. The following categories were the biggest contributors to our beauty tally.

Beauty products represent the largest proportion of our swag, by volume and by total retail value. These categories were the biggest contributors to our beauty tally.<br>1,120 cosmetics products, a total retail value of $24,410.<br>556 skincare products,

Thanks to this project, Racked’s imaginary makeup bag is now filled with:

93 eyeshadows<br>81 liquid lipsticks<br>222 traditional lipsticks<br>75 hair and makeup brushes<br>71 brow products<br>45 eyeliners<br>45 lip glosses<br>34 blushes<br>30 mascaras<br>22 contour products<br>16 bronzers
We got 63 deliveries containing food and beverages. 24 of them were sweets, including two “Baked Bouquet” cupcake arrangements, one RuPaul-branded chocolate bar, and a packet of freeze-dried astronaut ice cream. <br>To offset that sugar load, we also got
We received 23 gift cards, for a total value of $2,196.

Events and experiences are a form of swag, albeit an ephemeral one. Racked staffers took publicists up on their offers of the following.

7 exercise classes. <br>4 manicures.<br>2 tickets to War Paint on Broadway.<br>1 flower arranging class.<br>1 haircut.<br>1 Yankees game.<br>1 overnight at the One Hotel Brooklyn.

Racked staffers were also asked to record offers to receive material goods and to attend trips and events that they got from brands and publicists. Here are a few, in their own words.

“An offer to stay at a luxury hotel in the city where I already live for a ‘taste’ of a partnership with a department store.”<br>“A trip to Fort Lauderdale to experience its ‘underground culture.’”<br>“A 90-minute golf lesson at Chelsea Piers.”<br>“A case

The items we received were bundled in a variety of materials, including:

Bubble wrap, styrofoam, cardboard boxes, ice packs, paper bags, ribbons, packing confetti, packing peanuts, cooler bags, plastic bags, tissue paper, shrink wrapped baskets, fake spray paint cans, manila envelopes, padded envelopes, plastic pouches, duffel
Including its original packaging, the swag we received weighed 1,182 pounds. (That’s about as heavy as a polar bear.)<br>The packaging alone weighed 309 pounds. (That’s about as heavy as a Pacific white sided dolphin.)<br>We tried our best to recycle it.
A pile of packaging materials.

You may be wondering what’s going to happen to all this stuff now. After this project wraps up, we’ll be selling as much of it as we can to Vox Media employees (at a discount) and donating the proceeds to Dress for Success.

Editor: Meredith Haggerty

Copy editor and fact checker: Laura Gurfein

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