Rival Giants Cushman and CBRE Keep Real Estate Reporters Awash in Techno-Gimickry (Updated!)

The average New York real estate reporter, a species known more for her irrational attachment to 15th-century technology than to her embrace of the modern, now finds herself the dubious owner of more jump drives or flash drives, or whatever you want to call those 21st-century contraptions, than a gadget-crazed Silicon Valleyite.

“I have a box of flash-drives now,” said one veteran reporter, via email. “I do nothing with them…”

That reporter has two real estate brokerages to thank for his unexpected wealth in gadgetry: CB Richard Ellis and Cushman & Wakefield, arch nemeses in all things commercial property.

The two have taken to giving reporters a new flash drive at every quarterly breakfast (in CBRE’s case, on the 18th floor of its Park Avenue offices, in C&W’s case, at midtown eatery Michael’s). That means that, should this reporter retain his job for another 12 months, he could add eight more flash drives to his already sizable collection.

One particularly fastidious reporter who dutifully drags himself out of bed at an unnatural hour to make it to midtown in time for the 8 and 8:30 a.m. breakfasts, has taken to wondering about the ethical implications of it all.

“The only thing that makes me uneasy is that it’s a gift,” he said, wondering out loud how much the jump drives cost.

(The Observer did a cursory investigation: Buy 100 online in bulk with a two-tone logo, and they come to about $7.50 apiece.)

“On a practical note,” he added, “it beats lugging paper around half the day.”

So what exactly is the deal with all of this flash drivery? Gimmickry gone amok? Or a nice, eco-friendly way to distribute marketing materials? Neither brokerage would comment  (though sources say the flash-drive phenomenon grew from the desire to forestall all those pesky reporter requests for slides, headshots and the like).

Perhaps more to the point, which is the better flash drive? For that matter, The Observer turned to its Webby-nominated tech staff.

CBRE wins on this one.

“This one’s nicer, because it’s more compact,” said a techie of the CBRE flash drive, which has 1 gigabyte of space. “It’s also more self-protecting. It’s also a little bit better from a key chain point of view. And from a tech point of view, this one is sleeker, way more portable. And it has a nice rubber grip.”

The Cushman & Wakefield flash drive, to be fair, dates back to the archaic days of 2007, when flash drives were larger, and in this one’s case, held only 512 megabytes of information.

And then there’s this minor detail. We turn to the ethical reporter:  “I think the CB ones have been seriously useful, because they give the entire presentation. Cushman didn’t, and when I was at [the] quarterly [breakfast], I asked if I could get the whole deck. They said no.”

Update 1:04 p.m.: Turns out the flash drives are part of a long history of tchotchke-giving. Another reporter emailed: “When I started in ’06, I used to get tons of golf balls. Wound up selling them at a garage sale for $10.” She received her first real estate flash drive in 2007. “It had a virus on it.”

Rival Giants Cushman and CBRE Keep Real Estate Reporters Awash in Techno-Gimickry (Updated!)