A leading goal at the annual BlogHer conference is "economic empowerment" for female bloggers. For some participants, this means ample freebies; for at least one, it meant the chance to shake a company down for free shoes.

George Smith, who does online marketing for Crocs, wrote about a blogger at the conference who was upset the company ran out of free pairs of its inexplicably popular plastic shoes. The blogger started out timid, but grew brazen:

"Ya know, if you don't give me shoes – I could totally write something bad about you on my blog."

"Excuse me?" I asked – hoping she would laugh or give me some indication that she was just joking around. Nope…

"It's just a pair of shoes. It's a lot easier to give them to me than deal with the negative press I could make."

Smith hadn't heard of this "nobody" and dispensed with her quickly:

She looked shocked – like she really thought her sad attempt to blackmail me would work. In a second, she walked away and, before I could really gather myself, disappeared into a sea of bloggers. I never saw her again.

Blackmail over a $30 pair of Crocs? Really? Talk about small time. If bloggers can be bought so cheaply, it's sad to think how many glowing posts the free schwag at BlogHer is generating. The conference featured giveaways in the SocialLuxe "pampering" lounge, including makeovers and Smith's Crocs, as well as gift cards and laptops on offer at the conference website.

Bloggers insist ample freebies don't influence what they write. But those at the feeding trough are bound to get their egos bruised sooner or later; how many will be able to avoid a pathetic, prideful outburst of "DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM??" schwag extortion?

(Pic: Smith by @greeblemonkey, via)