Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Feedback for Freebies

If you’re trying to obtain important items – everyday necessities, survival gear, food, whatever – on a small budget, you can save some money by sending positive feedback to the companies that sell what you need. Doing this will score you discounted, or even free, stuff. I’ve been doing it for months, and have a small pile of coupons and freebies to show for it.

The process is simple. Let’s take my favorite gel-ink pen, the Pilot G2, as our example. I love this pen – have for years. I’ve spent only goodness knows how much on refills, and new pens, over the several years that I’ve been scribbling with this brand. I’ll gladly spend money on this particular product as long as I have hands to hold the sucker, but getting a free pen or two isn’t bad at all.

So, I went to the Pilot Web site and looked for a contact form. I spent about two minutes writing a couple of paragraphs to the company. This quick message told the company why I like the G2 pen so much, and why I’ll continue buying it instead of a different brand or type of pen.

Here’s the important part: be sure to include your mailing address on the contact form. If you don’t, the company doesn’t know where to send your goodies. I included my P.O. box, along with my e-mail address.

Soon – about a week later, actually – I received several G2 pens in a padded mailing envelope. Free pens! Score! They’re all different colors, including blue, black, red, green, et cetera. The red and green will be great for editing my writing, as will the blue.

Earlier this week, Ziploc sent me a coupon for a free box of Big Bags. The coupon was good for up to six bucks and change, and the local Walmart wants seven and change for one box of the bags. So, I didn’t actually get the product for free, but I did get a really-good discount. I’m not going to complain about saving a few bucks, especially when I had to invest only a few minutes of my time to get it.

Other companies have also sent me free stuff, just because I took two or three minutes out of my busy life to send positive feedback about their products. Free food, in particular, is really sweet, because any help with the groceries is a big deal in my family. After I had all my teeth pulled, the discounts on soups and other such foods were really nice, considering how much my family had just coughed up to the dentist for all that work.

When I don’t score freebies, I usually receive coupons. I’m going to buy X brand peanut butter anyway, so why not save a few cents on it, right? Right. Some companies send better coupons than others, so your results will be all over the place if they’re anything like mine.

I’m sure, by the way, to give honest feedback. If I really do like or love the product, I say so. If there is a problem, or if I have a suggestion, I mention that in my message. I’m not going to blow smoke up some company representative’s rear end just to get a little free stuff. Honesty is important to me, after all.

Why do companies give you freebies? Because you’re telling them that you’re a loyal customer. They spend very little on the coupons that they send you, but it’s a wonderful goodwill gesture. Yes, I’m going to spend money on the products that I love whether I get these benefits or not, but the company gains something by being nice to me. I’m likely to tell family, friends, blog readers, et cetera that X company sent me free stuff, and that their stuff rocks even when I have to pay for it. It’s cheap advertising, and it works.

So, start looking for company Web sites, and start sending feedback. You might be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Unfortunately, I have no delusions that I’ll receive a new sedan if I write Mercedes-Benz to tell them how much I love heated, leather seats. Sending feedback to various companies won’t result in really-valuable freebies. But saving a little here, and a little there, adds up over time, and I can’t complain about that one bit.

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“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
-George OrwellAnimal Farm