The lost art of swagging and bartering


My career, before starting with AEG as a partner, was advertising sales in the golf industry. It was great; I would travel from city to city with my partner Eric Tivoli selling ads, golfing, and looking for fun. Selling advertising to golf courses and golf shops was interesting. A lot of time these shops would not want to spend the dollars. Lucky for us, my partner Eric, who was an ad salesman long before I met him, understood the power of bartering and ultimately the value of golf rounds and golf equipment to people in the real world. We would try to sell our ads for money, if that did not work we would try to do a partial sale and trade deal for golf equipment or free rounds of golf. A free round of golf was nothing to the golf pros, but it had real $$ value outside in the real world. We never paid for anything when we traveled: Hotels, Rental Cars, Airline Tickets, or even food.  We would either trade ads for those things we needed or we would find the golfers working at those businesses and “perk” them with the items for which we had previously traded, like free rounds of golf, shoes, equipment, clubs, etc. I believe we could have lived cash free without ever exchanging a single dollar if we needed.  

When I first joined the gaming industry, at the end of every show, other industry professionals and volunteers would come around to the booth with games from their booths looking to make a trade. As owner of AEG, I was an easy mark and I would trade for anything, but my staff and volunteers had specific games they were looking for and they would find someone from those companies that wanted our games. Those swag trades had value to both sides and people would leave shows not only with games they got for working the booth but also games they wanted from other companies.

Over the years the swaging tradition started to break down. Too many people were coming around looking for trades and, also, a lot of people would hang out on Sunday looking for free stuff knowing some companies did not want to send home opened cases of product.  Now, many companies do not swag as a general rule; it is sad to see that tradition lost.  

The core truth about swagging and bartering is that you must look for a situation where both parties want or need what the other party is trading. The process falls apart if one side “wins” the deal and the people with the best stuff are always trading down.  

My advice, if you are looking to swag now, is set up the swag deal early in the show. Drop by the booth on a Friday and tell them what you have for trade. Find out if there is anyone at the booth looking for a deal. Always say. “If you have any left in stock at the end of the show.” Value YOUR item appropriately. A hot list game is more valuable than a closeout from 2 years ago. Finally don’t expect a deal. Maybe the boss said no deals or your game is not their cup of tea.  

The way I see it, we are all gamers and working hard to demo games and run our booths.  Taking home a game from a booth you did not work at is a gaming industry bonus we should try to bring back.  

NOTE: Since I am not at Gen Con this year I apologize to my friends who now have swag hounds showing up tomorrow.  🙂  


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