If you're in downtown Manhattan today, be sure to swing by the lavish townhouse at 214 Lafayette St., where Google is handing out tangy cocktails, an entire rainbow of macarons, and of course, tens of thousands of dollars in gifted electronics to the journalists who cover it.
The entrance to the Rio-themed property, furnished as if Rihanna and Tony Stark shacked up, might be easy to miss. Luckily, as we were trying to crash it, a steady trickle of grinning reporters and editors popped out of the logo-plastered door brandishing brand-new laptops, tablets, and phones, which Google had given them just for showing up. When we tried to pop in to check it out, we were initially told it was "press only" and guests were only allowed with an invite—staffers from Reuters, New York magazine, The New Yorker, Marie Claire, and other top-tier properties waited to pick up their badges and head upstairs while dazed security looked on. It was impossible to miss the giant pile of computers and Google-branded tote bags awaiting them once they'd come back from the tour of the manor upstairs.
A pool, multiple bars, pastries, and product demos were lined up under 29-foot ceilings inside the SoHo palace, which is usually booked for $20,000-per-night rentals and Beyonce video shoots. But there was no such occasion today—no occasion at all, really. Google had no new product to show, no announcement, no news. Just ample air conditioning and a manufactured opportunity to ply reporters with fancy cocktails, food, and most importantly, Google gadgets.
"Have you made a decision about which gift you'd like today?" a Google rep asked an editorial duo from New York magazine. Attendees had their choice of a Nexus 4 smartphone ($300), Nexus 7 tablet ($200), Nexus 10 tablet ($400), or a Chromebook laptop ($250). Unlike the last time Google handed out goody bags, there was no mention of a loan agreement, or any pretense that these things would be "reviewed." This was a straight-up giveaway. Free shit. Delighted writers crowded in line to exchange their name tag for a valuable gratis thing. Not to single her out—she happened to be the only person we positively recognized—but New York senior editor Carolyn Murnick and a colleague were among those eagerly lining up (though maybe just to window shop). The rest walked away, struggling to hold the big new boxes they'd been handed, perhaps a little uneven from gin and tonics by the Google pool. A few disappointed reporters were informed that the party had run out of free tablets, but reassurance came quickly from a smiling spokesperson: the company was issuing "IOUs" for gadgets that were out of stock, and they'd be mailed to those who walked away empty-handed.
"We'll take care of you!," one rep chirped.