Members of the automotive journalism sphere, already world-renowned for their moral purity and incorruptible sense of ethics, have decided to share their 2016 Acura NSX press kits from the Detroit Auto Show with the rest of the world. All they have to do is pay $250 on eBay first. How generous!
At least 14 kits from the NSX's reveal have popped up on eBay in the days following the end of the show's media preview. The kits include a little silver NSX paperweight car, a USB thumb drive with press releases and photos, and a sleek black case. I have to admit it's a nice little keepsake from the auto show, and had I been in Detroit I would have wanted one too.
Acura gave these things away for free to the journalists, bloggers, "influencers," and industry folks who attended the show. They also punched people's badges to make sure they only got one. According to a recent Bloomberg article, one that also lamented the death of swag at auto shows and press drives, Acura ran up 2,000 of the kits and kept 500 for "company insiders."
So it follows that at least some of the people selling these are automotive writers. For what it's worth, a lot of publications — including the one you are reading — forbid their employees from profiting off free stuff like this. Some do it in secret, and some have no such restrictions.
This is also something of a longstanding tradition among auto-hacks. After the 2013 Detroit show, some people were selling their Corvette Stingray press kits on eBay for as much as $300. More from that Bloomberg story:
I've never sold freebies on EBay or anywhere else. But I couldn't help checking. My 1997 press kit for the Dodge Durango SUV, which was stuffed in an imitation Wheaties box, complete with actual cereal, is being offered for $129. A duplicate of my 2001 kit for the PT Cruiser, with three toy cars in a cardboard garage, is available for $70 to buy it now. A friend confided today he sold his NSX model for $130.
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But at the end of the day, whether you're a journalist or not, aren't you kind of an asshole if you make money off a gift you got for free?
Yes. Yes you are.
At least one press day attendee had a change of heart after we pointed this out, to her credit:
The selling of free swag is hardly the worst of the many questionable ethical practices in this industry, but it certainly doesn't make anyone look good.