The goodie bag has several definitions. Most people are familiar with those given to children at birthday parties. It can sometimes help, especially with young children to give a small bag of toys and candy, so that the child doesn’t feel jealous of the birthday boy or girl. From this relatively innocent practice comes a wide variety of goodie bags for adults for various purposes.
Occasionally, a goodie bag is designed as a small collection of items given to a customer making a purchase. This is especially true of cosmetic goodie bags, and is often called a gift "free with purchase." Many major cosmetic companies offer free gifts to customers a few times a year in order to drum up more sales. These are not exactly free — people must buy an item from the company, normally spending $20-30 US dollars (USD) to get the free gift. A typical gift from a cosmetics company might include a makeup or tote bag, a sample or two of lipstick, a small mascara, and a few skin care samples.
Parties where household items like Tupperware® are sold may feature goodie bags for guests too. Sometimes only a couple of guests win a bag at a party like this. At other times, all guests get a few samples or discounts on purchases to increase sales.
The value of the cosmetics goodie bag are far eclipsed by those offered to celebrity presenters at award shows and events. Many companies vie for the attention of “stars” by offering free gifts and services to award show participants. Past gifts in these over the top versions have included expensive jewelry, designer clothing, cellphones, Blackberries®, extended trips to deluxe resorts, and gaming machines.
Up until 2005, US celebrities receiving award show goodie bags usually did not have to claim this on their income tax, despite receiving gifts that could be valued at more than 10,000 USD. These rules changed in 2005, since the bag was not thought of as a gift, but a gift that was part payment for participation. Some celebrities may now forgo taking them, since the taxes on some of the “gifts” can be quite high. Others don’t take the goodie bag out of a sense of ethics. Many celebrities feel the last thing they need are free items, since their incomes are already plentiful.