Last week I mentioned my trip to the HP Store at the recent HP Technology Forum. The HP Merchandise store sold branded items — most priced under $50 — to tout Hewlett-Packard and especially the HP Certified Professional status of the wearer or bearer. Things like a simple USB laptop light ($6), or the handsome $155 Barrington Captain's Bag, shown below.
This outreach is part of what a trade conference is all about, why you travel and put up with the flight delays,107-degree heat and lines at the airport taxi stands (25 minutes on a Monday afternoon, I kid you not). You want to touch that bag to take home a badge honoring and bragging about the HP certification you have earned.
But HP is not in the bag business. It's in the service sector, selling what it sells at the HP Merchandise Store. Where in the world does all this stuff come from? It didn't seem expensive (well, maybe the Captain's bag). So where did HP go to get what it sold in Las Vegas. My current Amex statement revealed all. Everything is outsourced these days, especially marketing.
The goods in the Merchandise Store come from the warehouse shelves of Schroepfer Wessels Jolesch, a Plano, Texas-based merchandise marketing company. The charge for $15.09 in my participatory journalism budget said "SWJ LLC," so a-hunting I went to see what that string of letters meant.
It's pretty amazing to see the vast array of gimcracks and genuine goods on offer at SWJ, or "Swidge," as the company likes to call itself. You can buy whips, then have your logo, whether it's "HP Invent" or "Master ASE," stamped on them. Or just about anything else, it seems, from looking at the Swidge site. Water heaters, it says on the menu of dozens of items. I didn't see an option for the 20-gallon or 40-gallon models.
Did HP and lots of other people give this kind of stuff away in years past, instead of selling it? You bet. I've got a drawer full of the stuff from 25 years of tromping around conference floors. There was always a Swidge out there turning your garden variety golf glove into a corporate badge. This is just the first year I've been party to a purchase of an HP outsourced operation. The store staff wasn't HP employees, either. The Hewlett-Packard staff was on the expo floor, explaining blade enclosures to everybody — even the press on a pop-in interview.
According to the rules above on that blue sign, a big chunk of the merchandise was off-limits to the rare 3000 pro who'd earned HP CP status for MPE/iX. (That sign didn't keep me from buying something off-limits, strictly by accident. And it's good to know that HP is supporting manufacturing business in China, too. HP 3000s serve a major manufacturer in that country, with no migration in the foreseeable future.)
The ability to spend at the Store doesn't matter, considering all the other places a 3000 pro needs to spend — consulting for migration, third party support, spare parts — even training in vendor-neutral environments like Linux. We'll wait to see if there's ever a chance to shop on any expo floor in a Linux store, full of penguin products.