Furloughed? Frustrated? How About a Free Vibrator?


Click here for all our coverage of the government shutdown.

The government shutdown means that over 800,000 workers have found themselves with some unexpected—and, in many cases, unwelcome—time on their hands. Sure, there are movies to watch, museums (non-federal of course) to visit, and probably some closets to clean out, but if these workers still bored they might want to check out a new offer from Vibrator.com. The Michigan-based sex toy company is offering free vibrators to the first 200 furloughed employees who make contact each day. And it plans to keep it going until the government reopens.

The online ad for the giveaway shows a picture of a pink vibrator and asks, “Are you a federal employee that has been deemed non-essential? Do you have a little too much time on your hands and nothing to do? Is the recent government shutdown to blame?”

Tom Nardone, the founder of the site, promises that the free vibrators are high quality. “[T]his one is quite powerful and it’s quite quiet so we really like it,” he says. “It’s a good vibrator. For free, it’s amazing.”

Nardone thought up the giveaway after he heard of the government shutdown, though originally he had wanted to do something to go after those responsible for grinding the government to a halt. Free penis pumps for senators and half-off all enemas were among the original ideas thrown around, but Nardone told the Huffington Post that ultimately the company wanted to do something more positive: “We’re like no, that’s not what we do professionally. We’re not hateful people, we need to be helpful, like you tell your kids, ‘Is that hurtful or helpful?’ So we’re like, who’s really getting stiffed in this whole thing, you know. … The people who are really getting screwed out of the deal right now are the federal employees.”

For privacy reasons the company is relying on the honor system and not requiring anyone to prove that they are actually furloughed, “non-essential” employees. However, the website does warn that karma will get anyone who exploits the offer.

Demand started slowly, with only 400 requests through the weekend, but all 200 of Monday’s vibrators were gone by noon. And the publicity stunt appears to be, well, generating publicity. I suppose it’s much more fun to think about park rangers, NASA scientists, and Census Bureau statisticians unwrapping a shiny new toy than it is to think about all those Head Start kids who can’t go to school and WIC recipients who can’t get food.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Follow Martha Kempner on twitter: @MarthaKempner