The government shutdown is over, and everyone’s back to work. Perhaps a few government employees will be returning to their desks with a bit more of a glow thanks to Tom Nardone, the owner of Vibrators.com
Tom and his company gave away over 2,000 free vibrators to furloughed government employees, and I chatted with him about the logistics of his operation and what’s next now that everyone’s back to work.
Did you hear that the government shutdown is over?
Yeah, well I was listening to NPR and it sounds like everyone’s going back to work tomorrow.
Is your free vibrator campaign over too?
One last hurrah. We’ll send out 200 more tomorrow. We don’t want to be seen as cheapskate after you give out so many, you don’t want to short change another 200.
How many vibrators have you sent out?
We’ve sent out around 2,000 vibrators since last Friday.
Is it a real vibrator?
It’s a real simple toy, just a regular vibrator - 5inches long, it’s pink, and it has our logo printed on it. For about a year and a half it’s been the free gift with your order. It’s always gotten good reviews, and it’s got a good motor in it. We paid a little extra to get one with a good motor. The vibrator we’re giving out, we buy them by the pound.
Where do you keep 2,000 vibrators?
In our warehouse which is 14,000 square feet in an industrial park.
Filled with vibrators and dildos?
… and anything that’s embarrassing to buy. Bachelorette party merchandise, embarrassing pharmaceuticals, weird sex toys, strange things, anal bleaching cream.
Is that a big seller?
It is, it’s in the top 20.
How did the idea come about?
All day we were joking about the shutdown and talking about how much we didn’t like it, and I have this other site called ShopInPrivate.com where we sell really embarrassing things like erectile disfunction products and that kind of stuff and we thought “Hey we should send free penis pumps to all the Congressmen - just joking on a Friday afternoon kind of thing.
No, we thought that wouldn’t be helpful. I asked, what would be helpful and we decided we should give out free vibrators to all those people at home with no work. We started joking in the office about ‘getting fucked by work’ — and we thought maybe this would be fun to do.
So the government shutdown was a good thing for you?
Well, this was the only time where we could be seen as the good guy. When Katrina happened and all these companies were donating aid, if we tried to send 1,000 vibrators, they would have sent them back and yelled at us. Same for Hurricane Sandy - when everyone lost power, if we sent battery operated vibrators to help, they’d send them back.
How did you know everyone ordering a vibrator was a government employee?
Well we knew we couldn’t. We’re PrivaCo, the world’s most private company, there’s no way we’d ask people what they do for a job. So we just said, we’ll just offer it, and limit it per day, and get some Karma for sending free vibrators. We did make you type in certain coupon codes like “I am a government employee”.
How quickly did they go?
One day, we gave away 200 vibrators in 6 minutes.
How did they go so quickly?
There are websites out there all about free deals. When you get listed on one of these websites, it’s the death of any offer. These sites, they tell you how to work the system so you can get more than one.
Well that’s annoying. Did that piss you off?
Well what we really took offense to was people ordering as many as they could get. To me, that’s just ridiculous. It’s an insult to me, to think that we couldn’t figure that out. We are information users. We are an internet company, not some Mom and Pop shop.
What’s the best part of being a vibrator impresario?
There’s a lot of great things about it. I think the best thing is it’s fun. Not to oversimplify it, but I’m a creative person but my creativity doesn’t lie in the way others do, I’m not a great poet, I’m not a great artist, i like these little lifehacks for people.
Is it fun?
Regardless of profitability, if you told me there was a way I could deliver 100,000 free vibrators everyday, and not go broke doin’ it, I’d do it. It’s a positive thing. There’s got to be some karma in it. All these people having orgasms, that’s pretty cool.
Was it fun watching the orders come in at a super fast pace?
Yeah. Lots. It was great when saw orders from those National Park areas. If you Google Map them, and they’re out in the wilderness, that made us happy. If you’re a park ranger, you live in the middle of nowhere, but you do get to live in a national park, but it sucks with no job.
Was there any backlash to your promotion?
No, I haven’t heard a single thing. People are only mad they’re sold out everyday. We get a lot of angry calls. The person who’s had this worst is our customer service guy. They’re not polite, it’s like it’s their God given right to get this offer, and it ramps up everyday.
Was it cool to be the good guy for a change?
To some people, I may as well be kicking puppies, wherever I go I have to be aware of what people think of me, and this has been the only instance where the guy who sells vibrators is seen as nice, because the government is so unpopular. The government was the villain in this case.