What Everyone Ought to Know When Applying for Free Stuff

by David Ning · 13 comments

If you love free stuff, life is good since the Internet made finding out about them extremely easy.  Whether it’s giveaways, coupons or offers, a few clicks of the mouse and loads of free offers become available for the picking.

No Free Lunch with Freebies

As Milton Friedman famously reminded us though – “There’s no free lunch in this world“.  So why do these offers exists?

  1. Scams – Not to sound harsh, but some of these offers are really scams.  It’s just a way for them to get your information to do something else with it.
  2. Incentives to Get Your Business – Of course, some offers are more genuine in that they are just trying to offer something for free to get your long term business.  They believe that the ROI to offer something free up front is worth it for the larger customer base.  Example include the free trial offer for Netflix or Redbox letting you rent a movie for free by signing up to their newsletter.
  3. Market Share – Some companies will actually give away free products to gain market share in a particular niche.  They figured that if everyone is already using their product, they can kill their competition.  Example – Linksys in the consumer router space when they were offering $0 after rebate offers.
  4. Branding – Some companies will offer free samples just so it establish and strengthen its brand.  The free offers from Walmart is a great example because you will grow to love that company if you get enough free samples from them.
  5. Feedback – Many companies will send out a free product for testing purposes.  While it’s not really free, what’s the harm of answering a few questions to get a free appetizer or something at your favorite restaurant?
  6. Giving – Sure it doesn’t happening often (in a relative scale), but some offers are really just someone being nice.  They might be hard to find, but these offers do exists if you look for them.  Example includes donation.

What’s Your Point with All This Free Stuff Talk?

Understand that when you are applying for something free, you are giving something up.  Whether it’s your email address, your full contact information or just your time, you are giving away something.  Before you sign up for another free offer, consider whether you are perfectly comfortable with what you are giving up.  Is it okay that my email address is giving out?  Am I okay with getting junk mail in my mailbox?  If the answer is yes, then by all means.  If not, then maybe that free movie rental isn’t worth the weekly emails that you will get.

Some Tips About What to Look For with Free Offers

So while scams are everywhere and the only 100% foolproof way to avoid them is to not sign up for anything, how can you still take advantage of free stuff?  Here’s a few things to look for:

  1. Trusted Source – Obviously, an offer coming from Walmart is pretty safe while someone from Nigeria emailnig you about getting free money is much more worrysome.
  2. Word of Mouth – If all your friends are taking advantage and can recommend it, there’s less of a chance that it’s a scam.
  3. More Information – The more you know about the offer and the company, the better.  For example, having an email address is probably not enough for you to know about the offer but if it’s free ice-cream from a store, you can probably figure out whether it’s a scam or not as you can actually go to the store to ask questions and check it out.

The Last Tip – Trust Your Gut

Your intuition is incredibly good.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Hopefully no one ever gets scammed again and more people can take advantage of free offers.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • If you’re asked to answer a few questions in return for a freebie, be sure you don’t give out your phone number or e-mail address. For this purpose, I have a fake phone number and a g-mail address that’s not fake but is used only to catch junkmail.

  • Epicview says:

    Actually, a lot of companies give away free products to win repeat business. I received a free Gillette Fusion razor, out of the blue one day. It just appeared in my mailbox–I never applied for it or filled out any forms. Gillette hopes that I will continue to buy their expensive razor blades. Likewise, when Swiffer first came out, I was able to send away for a free starter kit. I actually start a website to list genuine, free deals. The best deals are the restaurants. You sign up on their email list and most will send you coupons for a free meal-especially on your birthday. I’ve received free meals at Mimi’s Cafe, Red Robin, Taco Bell and Wingz.

  • Truck trader says:

    @ Stock Investing Guru :- m also facing with same probs but i changed my official email address so as to get rid of those spam mails … i had tried to unsubscribe to those mails too but in return other scam networks started sending emails …

    i think cancelling that email id is the only way to get rid of such spammy mails …

  • Spartan Saving says:

    Google is your friend mates. Find the website/business name or owners name and run it through Google with the word scam attached to it and see what comes up. If there is anything suspicious, your friend Google will be there to set you straight.

  • This is the worst. Back in high school I signed up to win some cruise package, and I can’t even use that email because it gets bombarded with junk all day.

  • Truck trader says:

    In today’s time i don’t think anyone or any company or any business man provides or gives anything for FREE … this are all business tactics to attract customers with the max which they can provide with their product and would be better to use then the other local dealers or their business competitors …

    like companies give their shares percentage … to get some amount of $$$ from local people and invest in their company to make it big

  • Laura says:

    I like getting legit, free samples like WalMart gives, but I’m questioning if I should stop because all of the packaging they send the sample in isn’t exactly eco-friendly.

  • Kyle says:

    I think the key is to really make sure you are dealing with something that feels legitimate, and is something you really want. Is it worth the effort to apply for something you don’t want and then get bombarded with spam.. no not really. I use a separate email account for anything “FREE” and filter out most of the junk.

  • They say the best things in life are free, but it seems like everything in life costs money these days, so why not take advantage of a little free bonus here and there if it’s available.

    Like most things in life, it’s probably worth taking your freebies in moderation, and a general rule for your average consumer is to just take advantage of free stuff if you are planning on using the service anyway, like getting a sign-up bonus at a bank if you plan on opening an account anyway, or an extra credit card bonus if you’re going to apply anyway, or you might as well take that free 30 day trial if you plan on signing up anyway.

    But the problems start when you get overzealous and start applying for every bonus out there like an addicted freebie fiend, and one day you find yourself on the wrong email list or you give out your social security number to a less than trustworthy company just to get a $5 bonus.

    I personally am an addict, but you just have to be careful out there and know when to pass on an offer, like when that free toaster requires you to sign up for a useless service using your credit card, but you have to cancel within 7 days to avoid huge charges, and the 800 number the company gives out on their website is endlessly redirecting you to friendly messages that are reminding you of what an idiot you are for getting yourself into this mess in the first place, you might have to question if you’ve gone too far.

  • Craig says:

    The concept of “free” has made even more head way over recent years with the internet. It is so easy to do, hopefully no one gets scammed. I have signed up for things only to get on some email list I don’t want to be. Recently I have unsubscribed to a lot of them. People in today’s internet world want everything for free, but they have to be aware of what potentially can come after.

  • Matt @ StupidCents says:

    Last year I received a survey in the mail in regards to a company (can’t recall off the top of my head). The envelope actually contained a $5 bill. It was kind of an interesting tactic to help to gauge the consumer. I obliged and filled it out and sent it back.

    I also maintain a secondary e-mail account for various offers. Even though they claim not to sell them, I still get SPAM. At least it’s not my everyday e-mail account.

    Stupidly Yours,

    Matt

  • marci says:

    If you are into free samples via email signups, I recommend a separate email account just for such things. The newsletters and product info emails will fill up your inbox, but for me the trade-off in usable free samples is more than worth it.

  • tom says:

    These points are great but people need to realize that as you said, theres no such thing as a free lunch.

    Even if you get a free ebook, you still have to take the time to read it and apply it. Time is money.

    For me, it has become a habit of identifying these “offers” in terms of is it apply to my current goals I have. If not, I just move on to something else because I don’t want to get tied down.

    I remember having almost 10 ebooks on my computer and I eventually deleted them because I had no time to read them.

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