I tried to dress myself head-to-toe in free swag at San Francisco's Dreamforce

SFGATE’s roving Dreamforce editor Joshua Bote bit off more than he could chew with corporate swag

Photo of Joshua Bote
The entryway to Dreamforce National Park

The entryway to Dreamforce National Park

Amanda Bartlett, SFGATE

For all of Salesforce's messaging about environmental stewardship — which resulted in their decision to nix free swag, including the famed Dreamforce backpack — there is still a veritable glut of company merchandise to be had at Dreamforce, the tech conference taking over downtown San Francisco this week.

On Wednesday, the mega conference-slash-music festival-slash-corporate summer camp's second day, I was weary from the stimulus overload and the line-waiting. So I embarked on a little game: Could I dress myself, head-to-toe, in free Dreamforce swag??

A piece of obvious wisdom: Corporate conferences and networking events are incredible sources of swag you will wear once then leave in the unholy recesses of your closet. To compensate for the hefty price tag and the brain drain of having to shake hands and network with dozens of strangers a day, you get the promise of a free treat. It's a Pavlovian mode of interaction: shake hand, get prize.

Nowhere is this more evident than Dreamforce, where the entire ground floor of the Moscone Center (or in Salesforce speak, the campground) is just oozing with free s—t.

Among the prizes at your disposal, beyond the usual totes and water bottles: caricature drawings, milk frothers and countless photo ops. I got a bottle of face wash just for standing in the audience of some L'Oreal-sponsored game show. There's also the many, many lotteries. Among the ones I saw on Wednesday: AirPods and AirPod Maxes, Nike Jordans, a guitar signed by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, drones, a Segway and?a Theragun massager. (A few cars were on display, but it was unclear whether they were up for grabs.)

So I figured, it shouldn't be too hard to be decked out in company logos from my head to my feet.?

Some ground rules for this little experiment: no duplicates (I don't need 10 T-shirts from various startups) and no totes (as a blue check piece of garbage, I already have too many).?

It went exceedingly well. At first. Upon entering the campground, the TikTok booth was handing out free baseball caps. I shook a hand and got my blue hat. Then, venturing in, I met a nice man from a company named Coveo — he complimented my pants, we bantered and he gave me two pairs of striped socks. So far, so good.?

I got a bit greedy. Some people at a booth were getting hoodies. I wanted a hoodie, so there I went. A nice man, telling me about a company called LeanData, burst my bubble, telling me that the hoodies were exclusively for customers. (He assured me he also could not snag one, even as an employee.) My consolation prize: a green T-shirt.

That was within the span of 20 minutes. Then, the challenges started emerging. In a sea of tees, totes and free cups of coffee, there were no pants. No company would plop down thousands of dollars for any bottoms, be it nylon shorts or sweatpants. Even Salesforce, at its Dreamforce-branded "Dreamstore" did not sell any trousers or shorts.?

Even Dreamstore, which sells Salesforce onesies and plushies, did not have any pants.

Even Dreamstore, which sells Salesforce onesies and plushies, did not have any pants.

Joshua Bote/SFGATE

As for the shoes, at least two companies were offering swagged-out sneakers in a raffle. I signed up for one of them, courtesy of Five9. (As of writing, I did not win.)

Beyond the challenge of getting my lower half dressed, there was another, more ethical snag: I grew weary of connecting under the guise of getting merch. How people can smile and network for three days straight, when I could barely swing it for an hour, is beyond me.?I felt a bit bad for all the salespeople, presenting their pitches to someone who was only interested in the treat they had to offer. It must be grueling to always be connecting, rubbing your hands raw with handshakes. There's also the larger malaise of an event like this: No amount of swag can fill the existential hole of sitting through sessions about how to optimize your use of a corporate software.

A TikTok hat, a LeanData T-shirt and Coveo socks were all I could muster.

A TikTok hat, a LeanData T-shirt and Coveo socks were all I could muster.

Joshua Bote/SFGATE

My merch conman days, for now, are over. But if anyone has a pair of pants to give me, I'll (very, incredibly begrudgingly) shake hands and hear out your company pitch.