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A problem with "Free" offers

There are people searching for "freebies" on the internet



8:59 pm on Jan 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

The discussion on negative keywords reminded me of a experience I had last year that is probably more common than I think.

I sell hand made wigits, and one of my wigit makers produced tiny samples that could be sent to prospective buyers. "If you would like to receive a free sample, please email us" appeared on the web page where I sell this wigit. I was getting two or three requests a month.

Then all of a sudden within two days I was deluged with requests for free samples from Canada! By corresponding with one of the free sample requesters I discovered that she was a member of a chat group whose sole purpose in life was accumulating free samples of whatever from wherever.

When I had difficulty tracking down this chat site, my correspondent gave me a link (it was part of another site having nothing to do with samples). She then sweetly mentioned that a major cosmetics manufacturer had encountered this same problem last year and in gratitude for her "help", had sent her a $10 coupon for more free cosmetics, and that I should do the same!

To me this is a form of blackmail. We are a small business and the free samples were intended for prospective buyers who might hesitate to buy the full size of a modestly expensive item. Needless to say, I removed the "free sample" option immediately (and she didn't get a $10 coupon, either). Since I believe they found my page by searching either for "free" or "free sample," I eliminated all references to anything free on the site.

The moral seems to be: Some people will go to any length to get a finger nail sized freebee. So be careful what you offer for free!


4:46 am on Feb 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Good post.

There are MANY forums out there with members clammering for freebies. I should know, I've been apart of boards like this for close to ten years. :)

I think what she suggested was rude of course though, I can't believe anyone would say what you should or have to offer to them!

If you charge even $1 (for postage) for the freebie, you'll deter a lot of "freebie hunters". :)


4:53 am on Feb 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I thought this died, apparently not :) I remember there were tons of sites like this in '99.


6:32 pm on Feb 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

In my experience, even asking people to cough up a 37 cent stamp or SASE dissuades a lot of the "freebies freaks". Go figure -- I suppose there's bragging rights to be had by getting the most useless junk for the least amount of money.


10:44 pm on Feb 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Yes, the obvious solution is to charge something for the freebee so that it's no longer truly "free." It seems to me a rather sad commentary on Western society that so many people would waste their time and energy collecting worthless free items for what--bragging rights?

Moderator, this may be a new topic, but I'll interject it here anyway: my 10 months experience with offering free samples not only proved to me that I should have charged something for them, but, not one person to whom I sent a free sample ever bought the product! Nevertheless, I had a number of other people who didn't request free samples buy the product. Conclusion: Giving away free samples is useless as a marketing tool?!


2:19 am on Feb 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

One of my clients offers a free widget planning booklet for requestors in his geographic area. The site says the offer is meant to introduce the firm to local businesses and inviduals. We're had a few cross-country requests, and have sent out the books, even though they cost us a few dollars. However, we told some competitors who filled out a form that we just didn't think it appropriate for us to send them our material.

So far we appreciate gaining the contact info -- which we tell them might be used by us to send them informational materials. No real problems and we're thinking of what our next free publication can be.


2:27 pm on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I'm a member of a few boards that has a freebie section. While I do particpate in it, I only get the freebie's that I want try with the possibility of purchasing. I'll click on the link and then once I see what they are giving away I'll then decide if I would ever use it or not.


10:05 pm on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

To stop free sample requests I use the .htaccess file to direct those requests to a different web site. Here's how to do it:

Visitors must fill out a form a request a free sample. In the form I validate that all the required fields are filled out with Javascript. Included in that Javascript is the following line:

form.elements[21].value = document.referrer

That puts the information about where the visitor came from (the referrer) into a hidden field on the form (it's the 21st object on the form).

"document.referrer" in Javascript identifies the web site that is promoting the free gift on my web site. I use that information and add the following code to my .htaccess file.

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http:\/\/www\.referringsite\.com\/* [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ [nowhere.com...] [L,R=301]

in the above "referringsite.com" is the web site they are coming from. "nowhere.com/index.html" is the page I want to send them to. This page has no free offers.


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