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Almost a year ago, there was an Amazing 2018 Stuff-A-Way. It encouraged charitable giving and was rewarded with swag. I even learned new ways to give to charity. :-)

Will Stack Exchange have an Amazing 2019 Stuff-A-Way?

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Unfortunately, we are no longer able to promise swag for any activities on our site. That covers spontaneous contests which aren't sponsored, as well as the swag for 100k and 250k milestones.

I've written previously about the temporary hold while we transitioned to a new swag provider. We completed that step and we have swag in stock again. However, when looking at costs, we simply cannot justify continuing to send it out.

The main hold-up here is still international shipping. It's already expensive to send a package to another country. But then you encounter other problems like the delivery service being unable to locate the address and sending it back, customs holding it for payment of some insane fee that is more than the value of the items, and in general the time staff were spending sorting all of these issues out on a per-person basis.

The amount of money we were throwing around to send someone a $15* t-shirt was a bit insane, and we cannot keep doing that. Without getting into specific financials, we can say that the hassles of international shipping were a huge financial burden and while our new swag vendor was able to drastically cut other costs, this was not one that we were able to get rid of.

* Made-up price. I don't actually know how much the t-shirts cost.

It's pretty easy for us to get stuff to people in the United States, but that wouldn't exactly be fair to all of the users everywhere else in the world. Right now, we've abandoned the idea of giving out swag until such a time that it would be feasible to run a swag store again and have more dedicated customer support staff to handle the issues that arise. I have no idea when that would be - probably not any time remotely soon. At that point, we'd send out coupon codes to just buy stuff from the store rather than processing swag requests ourselves.

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    Can the same be said about the diamond moderator hat? – Sonic the Masked Werehog Dec 28 '19 at 3:09
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    That's rather disappointing - I do get the trials and tribulations of shipping but the 100k and 250k swag care packs are something that really acknowledged users that put in a bunch of time and contributed to their respective sites :/. Likewise those spontaneous contests is the reason many of us are here - I have a threadbare SU T shirt that's almost a decade or more old. – Journeyman Geek Dec 28 '19 at 8:13
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    I've deleted a bunch of comments that were trying to make this seem like a simple issue that could easily be solved in a bunch of different ways. It's not simple and there's no easy solution. Pretending it is easy only frustrates everyone involved who tried very hard to make swag a thing again and were very disappointed it didn't work out. Let's just leave it at that and stop throwing around "but you could do this" suggestions that are not viable either. – animuson Jan 5 at 6:20
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    @animuson True that, but could not you move the comments to chat instead of deleting them? – SouravGhosh Jan 6 at 13:43
  • @animuson I got an email over a year ago upon hitting 100k rep that I'd be getting a swag box, followed by vague promises of a swag box "later once we figured things out". Is that effectively cancelled, or will people who were told they were getting this still getting this? I feel that either deserved a proactive communication. – Ryan Cavanaugh Mar 21 at 3:29
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The 2018 Stuff-A-Way was my idea. We had a warehouse full of stuff that we were paying to store and we really needed to get that stuff out into the hands of people that would actually appreciate it. While the shirts were something we could donate, the bulk of the stuff we needed to move was really only valuable to the folks that used our sites.

As such, after working with Marketing and some of the executives, we decided that the one-time cost to ship a ton of it around was justified given how much we'd save on warehousing. If you look at the announcement, we just thought it would be neat if we provided a little incentive with stuff only all of you would really appreciate to go out in the world and give in ways that would be way more impactful than a stapler or a mouse pad -- because it had you has a human connection to it.

You don't need us leading to go out and do amazing things for people who really need some help right now. The numerous great ways to give that folks wrote in response to that post don't go out of season.

I personally like the idea of having "Hygiene packs" for men and women in my bag when I know I'm likely to run into folks that could use them. Toothbrush, toothpaste, sanitary pads, antibiotic cream, wash cloth, energy bar, etc .. all in a belt bag? what a great idea!

We need to re-do how we think of swag and what we stock, and we're doing that. And as Animuson notes, paying a ton of money to send marginally-okay merchandise to a bunch of people isn't what we want that program to be about. Back when we started sending swag we had the best shirts and re-usable stickers around. Swag as a concept grew in leaps and bounds and we ended up way behind. We'll catch up when we tackle some other priorities that give us more room to do other things.

Meanwhile, you can totally:

  • Keep hygiene kits and water in your car or pack of choice, if practical, and hand them out along with a warm smile and a few minutes of conversation
  • Acquire whatever safe food handler certificate your state or municipality requires for you to work in a commercial kitchen regulated by the health department, and volunteer by preparing meals in soup / bread kitchens (these are very easy to get and only cost about $40 in most states in the US)
  • Sell anything you haven't used since 2018 on E-Bay and use the proceeds to help people that need help (this is in the spirit of the stuff-a-way)
  • Help churches and other organizations that are close to the problems communities face fund raise, even if you aren't a member of that church, or religious at all. What you're doing is just supporting the folks closest to the problem who have the information needed to make a difference.
  • ... do your own thing that helps someone.

It was neat that we came together last year as a community for this, but all the work we did back then is still just as relevant as now when it comes to ideas on how you can actually make someone else's life a little bit better.

Don't let anything hold you up if that's really what you want to do :)

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    Thanks for the insight, and yes helping others should be more common! – Luuklag Dec 30 '19 at 16:22

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