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Freebie and Discount Etiquette

Updated on June 2, 2014

Know Your Free Etiquette!

With great freeness, comes great responsibility.
With great freeness, comes great responsibility.

Just because it's free doesn't mean it's good, or even free for that matter!

We have all encountered it. That situation where we are on the brink of getting something for free. We may have stumbled upon a promotional item or an exclusive giveaway. Whatever the reason, getting free stuff is one of those special experiences that the average consumer delights in. The practice of enjoying free items can sometimes be very unrestrained. Since there are general etiquette rules for everything from clothing and dinnerware placement, I will give you some pointers of how you can enjoy free items...the right way.

  1. Make sure that you are fully aware of any stipulations: This not only improves your experience, but it makes life easier for those who are offering the free item. A few month ago, Starbucks was promoting a new energy drink by offering it for free. The rules were that anyone could get them for a three hour period, and it was limited to one per person. I can guarantee that there were some free-over-loaders who either tried to leave with both hands full, or were arguing because they had missed the free period by only a few hours. For free etiquette pointer number one, you do have to at least invest a few minutes to know all of the details. That way you are able to enjoy what you are getting without any unfortunate surprises.
  2. Mind your G and T: This pointer will benefit you when it comes to free stuff etiquette. I am referring to gas and time when I say G and T. I would not be willing to wait in line for three hours for much and I doubt that you would either. Unless you are the first on the scene, or the only one to know about a promotion, free events will almost involve large crowds. You have to be aware of how much time it will take for you to get the free item. I would not be willing to wait for three hours for a free drink and I doubt that you would be either. If you end up going for the goods at a peak traffic time it may not be worth your while. Additionally, if you need to pack an overnight bag to get within range of a free sandwich, then you did not get it for free. All that you succeeded in doing was getting a discount on potentially wasted gas in sandwich form. If you are able to enjoy a free promotion within the parameters of a somewhat useful trip, then you are fulfilling free stuff etiquette point #2.
  3. Be fully aware of the situation: Free promotions are really a marketing tool. A freebie is offered, and sellers fully expect customers to make other purchases. This is of course perfectly acceptable. It would not seem fair to expect a business to offer thousands, or millions of free items and take such a potentially large loss. Free etiquette as it relates to your spending means that you need to be careful so you do not overdue a purchase in a free situation. Unless you live in a hole, you have to be aware of the nationwide "Free Slurpee Day" that is run by 7-11 every year. I read up on how the company is really affected by giving out millions of free drinks. 7-11 sees increases on snack purchases and sandwich purchases during "Free Slurpee Day". This is perfectly reasonable since consumers are willing to patronize the company for the freebie they are getting. However, one interesting statistic is that 7-11 sells more Slurpees at full price during this event. You read that right, they actually sell more of an item they are giving away on the promotional day because many customers forget about the promotion they are interested in. While this may break some etiquette rules for the free offering company, many consumers are just unaware of how much they actually spend. You could call this effective marketing at work. You can just take the item as free, or see it as a discount on your bundle purchase, but do not buy much more than you intended because of a small free item.
  4. Update your preferences: In the case of Starbucks, the free item was a new release. I took the opportunity to try something which could end up being a future favorite (I recommend the berry hibiscus by the way), without having to take a full-priced taste gamble in the future. Just like you test drive a car, these promotions let you test drive small products, something that I am a huge fan of. By trying a new product, you may be willing to give them more business in the future. As a good etiquette buyer, you should be willing to patronize a seller who offers a free item that you would be willing to purchase in the future. You could even take your friends along, and get a group consensus on which new flavor should be the new go to beverage. My group trip brings me to my final point...
  5. Enjoy yourself, but be reasonable: This makes me think of a Family Guy episode in which Peter gets a food sample, then goes back in various disguises in order to obtain more free items. If you really feel the need to do this, then I hope you have some creative costumes. While these promotions are to bring in business, they are better used than abused. In the case of the Chick-Fil-A "Cow Day", I was able to get an entire free meal, but If I had only been able to get an entree or side, I would have had no problem making an additional purchase since I was receiving a discount. Enjoy these types or promotions, but be a considerate customer as well. Like I said before, nothing is worse than a free-over-loader.

Are you a free etiquette expert?

How many free etiquette pointers do you follow?

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    • EvanWright profile imageAUTHOR

      Evan Wright 

      6 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      @CrisSP Thanks! And @GClark I agree with your article completely. One of the points in a chapter in my book is that saving 50% on a purchase that was 100% unnecessary isn't really saving at all!

    • CrisSp profile image


      6 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Great useful hub and something to keep in mind. Thanks for sharing!

    • GClark profile image


      6 years ago from United States

      Good hub that also fits with one of mine that I think you would enjoy. Mine is entitled "A Bargain Or Not?"

    • EvanWright profile imageAUTHOR

      Evan Wright 

      6 years ago from Minneapolis, MN Find out about how to make the most of your Ebay experience as well!


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