I’m pretty sure some of you are going to disagree with this post. In fact, I might even lose some customers over it. And yet I feel strongly about writing it. I love free stuff as much as the next girl. But at some point you have to step back and evaluate the expectations that we all have now when it comes to getting something for nothing.
I love getting free samples of products because I never know what I might buy. I’ve found many of my favorite foods and beauty products from trying out free samples. It’s good business for companies to give out free samples to people in different ways–gift with purchase, a sample and a coupon, a free trial of a service, etc. It gets the product in the hands of the consumer and if the product is good, enough people will buy that product in the future to justify the expense of giving away the freebies.
Sometimes the free stuff isn’t even related to the product being sold. Our local hardware store used to have a popcorn machine set up for customers to get a bag of free popcorn while they shopped. It probably kept people in the store longer and some parents probably preferred to shop there when their kids were with them just because the popcorn kept the kids happy while the parents did what they needed to do. The popcorn was in no way related to hardware but was cheap and worth it.
Now here comes the part that drives me crazy. Because of all of the above, people start to expect that they will be given something for free all the time and actually get irritated when they do not. They also find ways to work the system so that the businesses get nothing out of the free stuff. There are people who collect up the free samples so that they never have to actually buy the products. They send their kids up multiple times so that they can get more than the “one per person” allowed. They go to the hardware store for “snack time” every afternoon and go straight for the popcorn and back out again with no intention of ever even looking around the hardware store. These are the people who are ruining it for everyone else.
I own a website where we have a free game on the site that 600 people can play a day. I figured out recently that over 500 people had figured out a way to ensure that they got the free money every day and none of my other customers had a chance. Those 500 people do not use my business in any other way. Over YEARS of membership, they have done nothing but the free game and cashed out for prizes. So I changed up the game so that other people had more of a chance to play. Now I’m getting email messages from people telling me to “go to hell” and people are posting on message boards that it isn’t “fair” that I am taking away their free money.
When did “free” become the expectation and not the added surprise, the unexpected bonus, or the reward for loyalty? When did people start thinking that they DESERVE to be given free stuff by companies for absolutely nothing in return. Business is tough even in a good economy and even tougher right now. A company needs to show a return on investment for all of their marketing, and this kind of “free” doesn’t allow for that.
By the way, I heard the hardware store isn’t giving away the free popcorn anymore. I can’t imagine why.