I had an interview at a startup-ish company where they offered me a t-shirt while touring the office. I'm a regular Cayce Pollard and only wear plain black t-shirts and have enough of them (yes... I've read that Marie Kondo book), but I took it anyways. It has since taken its next great journey to Goodwill. This seems inefficient for both me (I had to take it to Goodwill), and for the company (they had to pay for that shirt that I didn't want). Goodwill does come out ahead, so I guess that's some social good achieved.

My question is: is it unreasonable or does it look bad to say "no" to things like this? It's not a huge deal, just wondering if this would look like I wasn't enthusiastic to work at the company (well, it turned out in this case that I was not).

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    "This seems inefficient for both me (I had to take it to Goodwill), and for the company (they had to pay for that shirt that I didn't want)." You are second guessing the company based on your limited knowledge base. It's a lot cheaper to advertise the company by distributing t-shirts than in doing anything else. One of my turnoffs at interview time is when a candidate jumps to conclusions and makes assertions based on the conclusions he jumped to. I don't like it. If you don't want the t-shirt, say no. One of the things your prospective employer will watch out for is how you go about saying no Jan 28 '17 at 0:36
  • Not to mention, just half an hour of one of your interviewer's time is already worth a stack of very nice T-shirts.... you don't seem to have considered this, which leads me to believe you probably didn't show a very appreciative attitude overall. I'm guessing that would be more important in the big picture of whether you look non-enthusiastic or not than what you said in response to their offer of the T-shirt. Jan 28 '17 at 5:32
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    @Chan-HoSuh Just to throw this out there, but you really shouldn't be trying to psychoanalyze the OP that much.
    – user42272
    Jan 28 '17 at 7:11
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    Taking it to Goodwill does not keep it from being shown publicly. It increases the name recognition, with not much relevance of who wears it. Mar 6 '20 at 17:10
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    I find your question hard to understand. From googling I take it that "a regular Cayce Pollard" is a reference to Neuromancer, but what does a "next great journey to Goodwill"? Is that the company you applied to or some cultural reference in the country you are from?
    – Helena
    Mar 7 '20 at 12:37

Yes it is rude, it's not a huge deal for you, and they're well aware of the cost. If you don't wanna go to Goodwill you can always make a cleaning rag out of it.

They get the things in bulk and probably costs them no more than a posh cup of coffee a piece. Take the shirt, put it on, say thank you, and then do with it what you will.

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    I think actually putting the shirt on is overboard. Jan 27 '17 at 23:58
  • @DepressedDaniel Could be. If you make it seem spontaneous it might work in your favour. Depends entirely on the situation at hand and the message you wanna send.
    – rath
    Jan 28 '17 at 0:28
  • It can be a huge deal if you care about the environment or potentially the slave labor that goes into a lot of the t-shirts that don't cost more than a cup of coffee a piece.
    – Helena
    Mar 7 '20 at 12:39
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    @Helena oh yes, go on a rant about unethical t-shirts, that will guarantee you to get invited to the next round of interviews for sure. Mar 7 '20 at 14:49

It is needlessly rude to reject their T-shirt. It is likely that conclusions will be drawn from it - if the guy cannot even graciously accept a present, what will he act like if there is an actual conflict? That is if HR doesn't care about the T-shirt, but just about the behaviour. But if this is a startup, chances are that they are proud of their company, and proud of their company T-shirts, and rejecting it will be seen as an insult.


It's probably not that big of a deal but the time to talk to HR or whoever about handing out T-shirts to prospective employees comes after you get hired, not before. It's unlikely they gave you the shirt because they expect you to wear it to work or anything, but you'd be surprised at how "little" things like turning down a gift might sour a manager towards you. It might not but why take that chance?


You should be comfortable rejecting a t-shirt if it doesn't match your attitude to consumerism.

"Thank you very much, I already have enough t-shirts and I decided not to get any more. It is a minimalism|environment|social conscience thing."

I wouldn't go into any details about why you wouldn't take that specific t-shirt, ("It has advertisement on it", "It isn't black") but let them know it is a general stance and not about the company. In the end the hiring manager or recruiter don't have strong feelings either, but they will take a note of how you deliver feedback.

  • And what is the upside of doing this instead of a simple "Thank you" and then dropping it at a nearby charity shop exactly? You are hoping that they won't care, so there surely must be an upside, otherwise, it's best to keep your views on controversial politics tops at home. Mar 7 '20 at 14:55
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    The upside is that you get to live your life according to your values rather than seeing everything through the lense of appeasing a potential employer. I totally agree that it may not be worth it (cost/benefit and all that). The upside may be small to you (ro me) but I don't think one can categorically say that there is no upside. Mar 7 '20 at 15:13
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    The upside is that you early on understand whether a potential employer is in line with what you believe in. If an organisation doesn't hire you because of that, then it clearly doesn't respect your personal values.
    – Helena
    Mar 7 '20 at 16:49
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    @Helena Then your answer is for a different question. OP here simply does not want the t-shirt for lack of usefulness sake, not to make a political statement and see if they are aligned with it. Mar 7 '20 at 17:00
  • The question was whether it was unreasonable to turn the t-shirt down. And don't think it is, I believe my answer conveys that.
    – Helena
    Mar 7 '20 at 17:55

If you know you would never wear it, especially since you only wear plain, black t-shirts, it makes sense to politely decline. Just say “I never wear t-shirts with advertisements on them, it’s a personal thing and I wouldn’t want to waste your gift.”

If you accept it and are hired, they might tell you to wear it on your first day or first Friday. Then you’d have to explain after the fact that you gave it away. That seems like a more awkward scenario.


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