Photo (cc) by West Point Public Affairs
People will do incredible things to get free stuff – like get a tattoo.
More than a decade ago, Mexican restaurant Casa Sanchez in San Francisco offered a lifetime of free lunches for anyone willing to get a tattoo of their logo: a mariachi kid riding a corncob. Soon after, someone came in sporting a Jimmy the Cornman tattoo. Then more people showed up. Before long, Casa Sanchez had 40 people permanently wearing their logo for the promise of free tacos. They finally had to cap the lifetime offer at 50 people to avoid going under giving away free food.
But you don’t have to go that far to get free stuff. In fact, you might just have to ask for it – like these seven people did….
1. Date with the first lady
Two years ago, I was having lunch on my block when police cars pulled up. I came in from porch seating to see what was happening and almost ran smack into President Obama and his family. That should have been my “how I met the president” story, but it’s just my “the time I watched the president eat” story. It never occurred to me to ask for anything – not even a handshake.
Turns out, Marine Lance Corporal Aaron Leeks is braver than I am. When he met first lady Michelle Obama at a Toys for Tots event, he strolled up and asked her out on a date. She agreed, asked Secret Service to grab his information, and just like that, Leeks took the first lady to the Marine Corps Ball.
2. Free airline ticket
Recently, my neighbor Jackie came home from a vacation thrilled that her flight had been delayed and then canceled. Sure, she waited at the airport for more than five hours, had to find a hotel room within walking distance, and then waited in standby the next day, but she couldn’t have been happier. Why? Because she got something for free.
As Jackie tells it, she stood in line behind several angry customers, listening to them complain to the ticket agent. Every customer was given a free gift, either a $25 gift certificate or a free tote bag. When it was Jackie’s turn, she told the agent that she was expected back at work. A small gift certificate wouldn’t make up for the trouble she’d be in with her boss, and could she have a free plane ticket instead? The agent got a manager, who handed Jackie a voucher for a free ticket.
3. Personalized smartphone
Sometimes all you have to do for a free smartphone is ask. Well, ask, draw a picture of a dragon, have your story go viral on the Web, and bring in a ton of free advertising for the manufacturer. That’s how Shane Bennett got the only custom Samsung Galaxy S III in Canada.
It all started when Shane posted a message on Samsung Canada’s Facebook page asking for a free Samsung S III since he was a longtime loyal customer. Then he posted his drawing of a dragon.
The next day Samsung Canada replied that they couldn’t give Shane a free smartphone. If they gave one to everyone who asked, they wouldn’t have any left to sell, but Shane could have a picture of a kangaroo on a unicycle.
The story went viral on Reddit, and suddenly everyone was talking about a dragon, a kangaroo, and the Samsung Galaxy S III.
Then one day Shane received a package in the mail. It was a custom Galaxy S III featuring his dragon drawing on the back cover. It came in a special box with a personalized note.
Sure, the Internet helped a lot with this one, but Shane started it all just by asking.
4. Year’s supply of candy
A few years ago at a family dinner, my cousin walked in crying because her gummy bears “looked funny.” She was 2 and a big fan of crying, but my uncle inspected the gummy bears anyway. The box of candy was almost entirely filled with headless gummy bears. It was a little unnerving, but the poor kid just couldn’t get over the headless bears. She even had a nightmare about them.
To make her feel better, my uncle told her he would tell the company what they did wrong. So he wrote a letter to the manufacturer, mostly as a joke, saying that their decapitated candy was keeping his kid up at night.
A few weeks later, FedEx showed up at his door with a package big enough to hold a major kitchen appliance. Inside was an apology note offering a year’s supply of alternative products for his daughter. The box was filled with candy, chips, cookies, and nearly anything else the company made that wasn’t in the shape of a bear.
5. Your favorite band playing at your wedding
Want your favorite band to show up at your wedding? Try inviting them. After all, it worked for a Norwegian couple, Njal and Elin.
In 2010, the couple got engaged at a Band of Horses concert. When the wedding approached, they sent the band an invitation with a note explaining how they got engaged. As luck would have it, the band was playing at a festival nearby the day of their wedding and decided to show up last-minute.
As a complete surprise to the bride and groom, Band of Horses walked into their wedding and played their song “Marry Song” for the happy couple.
6. Dinner with a celebrity
During college, I worked at an Outback Steakhouse near a busy international airport. One night, I was finishing my shift when one of the hostesses came to the back saying she just sat “that actor from that disco movie.”
I peeked around the corner to confirm my suspicions. It was John Travolta and four other people sitting at a table for six. I told the manager, and he dared one of our waiters to go sit with Travolta. The waiter marched up to the table and said, “Hi, I’m a big fan. Can I sit in this empty chair?” Surprisingly, Travolta agreed, the manager lost the bet, and the waiter got to eat dinner with a celebrity just for asking.
7. Upgraded hotel rooms
A Daily Tekk writer tweeted his way into an executive suite in Chicago’s Westin Lombard. During his first night at the hotel, loud noises kept him up for hours and two calls to the front desk didn’t solve it. But no company wants bad Twitter press, especially when the tweets read like this:
@StarwoodBuzz Thanks to lack of sleep at Westin Lombard, now missing the first event of my conference today. Super 6 would’ve been better.
It took a few tweets, but the writer’s complaints got him bumped up to the executive suite with a free meal.
I wouldn’t start a Twitter war if you don’t have a legitimate problem, but there’s nothing wrong with telling a company that you’re unhappy. If that company wants to throw in some swag, all the better.
Those are seven examples of some pretty awesome free stuff, but here at Money Talks News we love hearing about people scoring anything for free. Have you ever gotten anything? Sound off on our Facebook page and tell us about it.