Gift Bags Reveal the Dark Side of Human Nature

Photo: Thomas Northcut/Getty Images

How far are you willing to go for a freebie? Would you run across two lanes of moving traffic to get to that RiRi by Rihanna truck that’s giving out free samples of perfume? Would you endure posing for selfies with the Scream Queens promo girls to get a free beet juice? During Fashion Week, there is only one answer, and that answer is “Yes.”

At Jill Stuart, there were cheerful pink gift bags that contained little samples of Jill Stuart fragrances. They were only available to those with seats in the first and second rows; the rest of us would have to go without. As the guests started filing in, some of them carrying gift bags from earlier in the day, their eyes lit up at the promise of more free stuff.

I went to sit in a seat that was not my own but was in close observation range of Alex Pettyfer, and before my butt could touch the bench, an older woman yelled, “THAT IS MY SEAT,” and grabbed the gift bag. Beside her was a tote already stuffed with other gift bags. When I scooted over, she yelled, “THAT IS MY ASSISTANT’S SEAT,” and grabbed the second gift bag.
It occurred to me, as I observed people and their gift bags, that perhaps everything you need to know about the darkness that lives inside us all can be learned from watching people react to free stuff.

When there is a seemingly short supply, they will grab first, ask later. When there is something other people want, they will hoard it. When asked, “Hey, did you take my gift bag?” they will lie. They will steal it and they will lie.

Never satisfied, they will peer into the gift bag directly next to theirs to see if there is something better, even though their rational brain knows it’s the same perfume roller ball. When they think other people are watching, they will avert their eyes from the gift bag, but they will sneak back to grab it under the cover of post-show mayhem. And when they are confronted with gift bags they do not want, they will leave them strewn under the seats like so much roadkill, waiting for gift-bag buzzards to collect them after the show.

Why did you leave me behind? Photo: Courtesy of Allison P. Davis
Gift Bags Reveal the Dark Side of Human Nature