Most of us seem to love to get something we haven’t paid for. Today we see countless advertisements for “free” samples of almost everything from household goods, foods and pharmaceuticals to such things as services and entertainment. We’re accosted by marketers in the malls, the grocery store, the theater, and almost any other public place they can gain our attention.
Frequently we’re offered a free sample of a food product designed to tantalize our taste buds. With the sample comes a coupon for a discount if we purchase the product, which is usually available right there on the spot. The intention, of course, is to acquaint us with the new item and convince us we can’t live without it; thus gaining a loyal customer.
Benjamin T. Bobbitt, a soap manufacturer in the 1800s, is thought to be the creative genius behind such promotion. His idea was so successful that marketers have continued the practice with some modifications ever since.
Computers have brought a new style of “free” offers. You may sign up online to receive the promised item or a coupon that can be redeemed at a local store. Generally you must provide your email or snail-mail address, and they may ask you to sign up for a periodic newsletter. These tactics enable the marketer to find people who are initially interested in their kind of product and obtain information for future contact. Sometimes you will be asked to fill out a preliminary survey. This allows the company to obtain even more detailed information.
While the item you are seeking may be free, shipping and handling fees may be added and they may be quite expensive. Likewise, the company may agree to send the first item ‘free” as promised but if you aren’t careful, you will find you have agreed in the small print to purchase other items later.
Companies generally offer “free” items so they can test drive their products, get customers to try them, and obtain information and addresses. There are some very good opportunities available, but one must be cautious and weigh carefully giving up their privacy.