Once again, this comes under the heading of “How dumb do they think we are?” Just how much crap are we supposed to believe, and how impressed and blown away are we supposed to be by it all?
To what am I referring? Swag bags. No, not the goodies you get for participating in a 5K when they give you a t-shirt, a key chain, maybe a trail mix bar, a bottle of water, and some promotional material from the organization for which you’re walking or running. Oh no, not that. I’m speaking of the swag bags that were recently given out to the nominees for the Academy Awards this year. Yes, for nearly 20 years, the 25 nominees for best actor, actress, and director receive a free commercial cornucopia of products and vouchers for exotic trips and services from brands hoping for some celebrity media exposure. We are supposed to be bowled over by this, and then run right out and buy the same stuff.
Like a 24-karat vape pen, which they were gifted with this year. There’s an item that’s been on my bucket list for a while and retails for about $120. Not bad. The spoiled, entitled celebs who are overpaid for everything they do also got health and wellness products. I’m good with that, but, wait ... concierge vitamin therapy for hangovers? That, my friends, represents a personal visit to your home with IV therapy to cure your sore little head and upset little tum-tum because you were naughty last night. Retail price is a mere $875 per visit! Whatever happened to tomato juice and an aspirin? Based on a 64-ounce bottle of Campbell’s, it works out to about 37 cents per 8 oz. glass.
Know what else is in the bag? A sleep-tracker headband. Averaging approximately $400 per, its purpose is to track your sleep patterns and provide meditation and white noise. I have a better solution. Send the kids next door to play video games, turn off the TV, and shut your eyes.
How are your arms these days? I know I’m getting kind of personal here, but when you wave goodbye, do your arms keep waving long after the person departed? Well, this year’s swag bags included liposuction sessions for “celebrity arms.” Average price of this little nugget: $5,000 per session. Wear long sleeves.
The pièce de résistance, however, in this year’s goody bag was a free two-night stay at Sweden’s secluded Pater Noster Hotel, a former lighthouse converted to a nine-room hotel. To get to this luxe getaway you have to negotiate some of the world’s most feared waters as you enter this archipelago that is windblown, barren, and exposed. That’s why experienced seafarers long ago named it Pater Noster (Translation from the Latin: our father) because the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer was necessary to reaching it.
The price right now for a double room is a mere 10,000 Swedish krona, which in American dollars is $1,200 per person per night. Somehow I think Brad Pitt could afford that. Even though she didn’t win, I wonder if Viola Davis will be taking advantage of that item in the swag bag, coming from dirt-poor beginnings in Central Falls?
The total this year of the swag bag contents came in at about $205,000. While receiving a gift bag like that sounds wonderful, it comes with a hidden cost. The contents are taxable! To avoid the tax obligation, recipients can refuse the bag, donate all or some of the contents, or even sell some items. Think Anthony Hopkins is going to have a yard sale any time soon?
According to my accountant, for any gift from a business that’s valued at $600 or more, you’re supposed to get a 1099-MISC. So if I’ve got that correct, if you have a gift valued at $100,000, and you’re in a 33% tax bracket, that’s costing the celeb $33,000.
The stars are under no obligation to accept the gift bag or promote the items therein. George Clooney once donated his entire swag bag to the United Way, which auctioned it off, while others simply refuse to take it. Good on ’em!
As for me, I’m a cheap date. I’d love a swag bag filled with potato chips, a bottle or two of Prosecco, some Sharpies, and a gift certificate for a few fudgsicles.
My tax bill for 2020 was high enough.
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 19 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 401-539-7762.