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Free samples--where do you draw the line?

Abuse of free samples on-line

     
9:22 pm on Jan 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I'm trying to find out what legal liability an e-business has regarding offering free samples of a product.

Specific questions:

1. I state on my website that I will offer free samples of my product, say 1/person, and someone finds this and posts a link in some chat rooms. The result is that I get flooded with requests for freebies from people who have no intention or interest in buying my product--do I have a legal obligation to send them free samples when they didn't go through my website?

Next: If during a promotion for my product with a stated time limit, I send out 600 samples of my product, and a month later I have a bunch of people claiming that the post office stole the sample out of their package, am I legally required to replace the "missing" samples long after my promotion is over?

Can anyone give me a legal opinion on this?

12:39 am on Jan 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Do you say that you have a limited number of free samples and that you are not responsible for lost or misdirected mail?

-Corey

2:24 am on Jan 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Why would you be legally responsible for replacing a free sample? Come on thats ridiculous. If someone wants to sue you over not getting their free sample in the mail you would probably walk away with punitive damages against them from the court as a result of a frivilous lawsuit.
3:24 am on Jan 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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we say only while they last on rain checks.

If we run out hard luck.

Its a free sample not a rolex.

6:18 pm on Jan 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Thanks Corey, those are good suggestions.
6:26 pm on Jan 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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"While stocks last" is a common disclaimer. In my very limited understanding of the law, you don't have any contractural relationship with them as there is no compensation. Does that make sense to a legal type?
6:29 pm on Jan 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I state on my website that I will offer free samples of my product, say 1/person, and someone finds this and posts a link in some chat rooms. The result is that I get flooded with requests for freebies from people who have no intention or interest in buying my product.

A little OT, there are a few freebies forums out there and some people actually make money by posting to those forums.

A couple of years ago one of my clients who offers free samples had a barrage of free requests one day (250+). We tracked 240 of those back to a posting in a freebies forum. After reading the post from the original poster, we had to step in for the client and post a disclaimer.

The original poster claimed that they received their free product and that the promotion extended to everyone. Well, that was not true. The promotion applied to those with a business. Also, we checked the records and the person who posted the topic never did place a free samples order. They just read what was on the introduction page for the free samples. :(

Needless to say, there were 240 people who did not get free samples. You have no obligations when offering a free product, none whatsoever other than shipping it out the door based on the consumers request. Once it ships, your only obligation is really to follow up with the consumer. :)

12:31 am on Jan 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I have been dealing with this question for the past week or so because someone kept emailing me asking for free samples and finally ranked me out because I would not send him a free sample of a $1.50 item to the UK. He pretty much said I was evil. I asked a number of other people near my niche what they did about free samples. They all said that any free samples are included in an actual purchase, and that otherwise, they charge for samples. One mentioned that she charges for samples but will take that charge off a subsequent purchase. I liked that idea and made it my policy.
1:14 am on Jan 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the all the replies. Vincevincevince, according to Handel on the Law, it's a waste of time filing a lawsuit unless you have damages. If the "loss" is a freebee, then the way I see it, you have no damages, since you can't lose something that has no value.
Your idea is also a good one, HRoth. I think some people go crazy when they see the word "free."
3:10 am on Jan 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Another issue that you have to think about - is fofering free smaples, the user not receiving them and the possibly reporting you to the D.A. for misleading advertising.

Write up your TOS and then get an attorney to make sure everything is iron clad.

-Corey

1:47 pm on Jan 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

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That's also a good thought, Corey, but not everyone can afford an attorney for little stuff like this.