Free Samples -- Worth the Hassle?

by Lynn B. Johnson on December 12, 2009

free-samplesOK, the economy might be bouncing back but my wallet sure isn’t, so I went trolling on the Internet for some free samples. Call it cheapskate retail therapy. There are plenty of places where you can sign up for free stuff, but at what cost?

The first site I went to was Thunderfap.com.  They list an appealing “fall sample pack” on their home page, along with other items that would be of interest to pretty much anyone who has pets, kids, or a pulse.

I clicked on the “fall sample pack” and was taken to a page on another Web site where I could enter my name, address, birthday, gender, and a password. (You know to never put your real date of birth on something not involving a credit card application or other financial data, right?) Then they wanted to know which medical conditions I was planning to see a doctor about (I clicked “none”, and would have done so even if one of the conditions was indeed something I was concerned about). I declined to sign up for the free email newsletters. Oh, and when I filled out the top part of the form, I made sure to use my Yahoo! email account, which is the account I use when I think I’ll be bombarded by spam for my actions.

I clicked “submit” and was then asked to answer more questions, to see if I’d qualify for more offers. Will the “fall sample pack” be worth it? Well, based on the photo, it looks like the sample pack will include Colgate Total toothpaste, vitamin C, Crystal Light water flavored packets, Clorox color-safe bleach, hand sanitizer, Total cereal, Welch’s fruit snacks, Apricot scrub, and Acuvue contacts. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, I ordered my sample pack more than a month ago and have yet to see it arrive in my mailbox. Maybe there was some small-print warning that it would take 8-12 weeks, but I don’t remember seeing it, and couldn’t find anything about it when I revisited the Web site.

Thunderfap also categorizes free samples, so you can click right to household items, kids’ items, CDs and DVDs, and even books! Just be wary of the terms and conditions that apply to each offer — Thunderfap is a clearinghouse of other companies’ offers.

Shop4Freebies is another clearinghouse site for samples. Again, different companies will ask for different information, based upon the samples you choose. If you must select a free e-newsletter in order to get the sample, have it sent to your secondary email address. Likewise, if you must create a registration email/password, use your secondary email address.

There are tons of free sample sites on the Internet, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one more: Ecobunga.com. Ecobunga touts itself as “your guide to green giveaways and deals.” While there aren’t as many free samples on this site as there are on others, Ecobunga is a great place to find companies that provide sustainable or otherwise green products. I clicked over to learn about the Seventh Generation “Million Baby Crawl”  to encourage Congress to reform its toxic chemical policy. I also viewed the products at Stubby Pencil Studio, which carries eco-friendly art supplies for kids and offers some of the most adorable items I’ve browsed in a while. Plus, they offer free gifts with purchase. Pretty good deal!

So yes, if you have a secondary email account that can be flooded with spam — terms and conditions aside, I find most companies manage to figure out a way to send you unsolicited emails — and do not include your real birthday, then trolling for free samples on the ‘net can be fun, but don’t hold your breath while waiting for your samples to arrive.

Also, this might just be a coincidence, but ever since I started my free-sample research, the amount of spam in my primary inbox has more than doubled. Your mileage may vary.

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