As part of my (flexible) New Year pledge to live cleaner and greener, I recently purchased an air purifier at one of the city's major consumer-goods retailers. As the salesman was packing it up, he bent down and emerged holding a box that he casually added to the carry bag.

"What's that?" I asked.

"It's a free gift," he replied.

Impatient as always, I opened the bag to find two tiny casserole dishes - one pink, the other purple. Horror of horrors; both had handles on the lid in the shape of Mickey Mouse ears.

It's not the first time I've been given free crap - sorry, I mean "gifts" - with a purchase of household products: a coffee mug thrown in with a new stand-up fan and a windshield sun shade (I don't have a car) with a phone, spring to mind.

In Hong Kong, buyer incentive schemes are rampant but I only ever find out about the free gifts after the purchase has been made, so the whole "incentive" thing is lost in transaction. And, more to the point, I didn't buy an air purifier in order to get pastel cookware that is so small, I could only stew a mouse in it.

Don't get me wrong, I love gifts. I also understand that in an increasingly competitive world, driving sales is a tricky business. But in an age of over-production and crazy consumerism, these Made in China "freebies" churned out in polluting factories where the workers are paid peanuts have come at a cost - an economic and social cost.

In the 2005 bestseller Freakonomics, authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner state: "There are three basic flavours of incentive: economic, social and moral."

Maybe retailers should be focusing more on ticking all three of those boxes.