May 24, 2007

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Gadgets for nothing
Yes, Virginia, there are legit free electronics sites
By John “jaQ” Andrews  jandrews@hippopress.com

I got a free MP3 player the other day.

The actual player did, indeed, cost me zero dollars, but I did have to jump through a few small hoops to get it. That’s right, I fell for one of those “Get free swag for taking our survey!!!* (*details apply)” banner ads. Truth be told, it’s not the first time, but a surprising number of those offers are actually legitimate.

What set this particular offer apart was that it was not only legitimate, but it wasn’t a pain in the butt.

Here’s the usual pitch for these kinds of sites: just take a survey and we’ll send you this laptop computer/iPod/home theater system for totally free! Oh yeah, our “survey” consists of poorly-worded questions to which “yes” answers will take you to advertisers’ Web sites. And you also have to sign up for two of these trial offers, which you can cancel if you send a fax to the company between 19 and 30 days after signing up. Plus, hey, you really need to get in on this wine/book/commemorative Harley statuette-of-the-month club. And one last thing, honest, get 10 of your friends to do all this stuff too, and then we’ll send your stuff. Probably. After you come back to our site and print and mail this claim form.

Now, if you actually get through all the rigamarole, you might find yourself with a new gadget in 12 to 16 weeks. It’s not that all the free-stuff sites are scams; they’re just so inconvenient and non-user-friendly that most people only get through the first couple stages — handing over demographic information, maybe throwing some clicks to their advertisers — before giving up. Most don’t even have a proper login and password system for checking on your account; if you’re lucky, you can log on using just your e-mail address.

The most famous of these types of sites is probably FreeiPods.com, operated by Gratis Internet. It requires the completion of one sponsor offer and you convincing five friends to do the same. The site I used, ShopFreePay.com, is run by the same company, but get this: you don’t need any friends. No referrals; it’s all up to you. There’s a whole bevy of products to choose from, and the commitment level of offers you have to complete increases with the value of the product you want.

What sets ShopFreePay apart, from even fellow Gratis sites, is the up-front attitude it has. Some higher-end products require outlays of actual cash, like signing up for Internet phone service or the aforementioned wine club. But you’re told about it from the beginning, and you need supply nothing but an e-mail address and password to get started. They don’t even ask for your mailing address until you complete the offers for your selected product, and they send it to you automatically.

My new MP3 player is hardly a high-end model; I could’ve bought it for about $30. Instead, I purchased one CD and enrolled in two free trials that I canceled on the Web the next week. It did take a few weeks to arrive, but arrive it did.

In a surprisingly stylish box to boot.


5/17/2007 Make your gadgets better

5/10/2007 You may now unplug
5/3/2007 Mobile is nothing
4/26/2007 Expand your wireless network
4/19/2007 Expand your wireless network
4/12/2007 Get a newer brain
4/5/2007 Get a newer brain
3/29/2007 Security can be free
3/22/2007 Paper that's not paper
3/8/2007 Use any file
3/1/2007 Audiobooks for free
2/22/2007 What's for sale today?
2/15/2007 Prints in your pocket
2/8/2007 Watch this
2/1/2007 How open is your source
1/25/2007 iPhone it now
1/18/2007 Simplify, simplify
1/11/2007 Vista time!
1/4/2007 Google killers?
12/28/2006 Tech that didn't happen
12/21/2006 Do not want
12/14/2006 Meet the new web
12/07/2006 Extreme price shopping
11/30/2006 They want what?
11/23/2006 Zat zany Zune
11/16/2006 Shop smart
11/9/2006 Your data's new home
11/2/2006 Hotkey heaven
10/26/2006 Computer to go
10/19/2006 Tech news roundup
10/12/2006 A different drummer
10/05/2006 Who needs TiVo?
09/28/2006 Disk drives without disks
09/21/2006 Movies, just click your mouse!
09/14/2006 Laptops for less
09/07/2006 GPS everywhere
08/31/2006 The printer dilemma
08/24/2006 A series of tubes
08/17/2006 More music, more places
08/10/2006 How big is your drive?
08/03/2006 It's a WiFi world
07/27/2006 Fancy a spot of memory?
07/20/2006 Under the sea
07/06/2006 eBaysic training
06/29/2006 You paid money for that?
06/22/2006 Processing ... processing ...
06/15/2006 C:\Run for the border
06/01/2006 The keyboard is mightier
05/25/2006 Geek phone home
05/18/2006 Super highway information
05/11/2006 How to host a site
05/04/2006 If they mated
04/27/2006 Apples to apples
04/20/2006 Flash uber-drives
04/13/2006 Web site, by you
04/06/2006 Ayyy, jaQ's right!
03/30/2006 Choose wirelessly
03/23/2006 Tax programs cometh
03/16/2006 And the Spammie goes to...
03/09/2006 Take in the Vista
03/02/2006 Cheap moviemaking
02/23/2006 Go directly to iJail
02/16/2006 Will you stamp your e-mail?
02/09/2006 War of the machines
02/02/2006 Faster than a speeding packet

01/26/2006 Free software made simple
01/19/2006 The Worst of CES
01/12/2006 Radio you
01/05/2006 Making Movies
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