Gadgets for nothing
Yes, Virginia, there are legit free electronics sites
By John “jaQ” Andrews firstname.lastname@example.org
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.