Free sells

Four years ago my friend Jeremy and his wife came for a visit to Dallas. We both grew up around Shreveport, Louisiana – you know, the town where the actors in that Oliver Stone movie had a fistfight last weekend.

Shreveport had no Starbucks at the time of Jeremy’s visit. Thus Jeremy had never gone to a Starbucks (unbelievable, no?!). Plus he avoided caffeine at the time. Health nut.

During his visit, we ended up near a Starbucks inside a mall.

I was distracted on the phone with Jenn trying to gauge how much longer we’d be waiting for them to finish shopping when the barista called out, “Strawberry Frappuccino… [long pause]… Strawberry Frappuccino.”

Jeremy walked forward, claimed his, ahem, free drink and enthusiastically said, “Thanks!”

We walked down the mall and I only noticed his unintentional theft after he’d gulped it down halfway. “I thought they were giving away free samples,” he pleaded.

Jeremy and I spoke today on my way to the office. He was in a Nashville drive-thru ordering his daily fix, a venti no-whip triple somethingorother.

Which got me thinking, do we charge for coin counters in our lobbies for non-members? If we do, we shouldn’t.


5 responses to “Free sells”

  1. Giving away a teaser free sample is often a killer business model.

    Here’s another one: My car is at the dealer right now, having some warranty work done. The dealer gives me a loaner car… which is the newest model of the same car I drive now. So I get to experience all of the new features, the smoother handling, the quieter ride of a car that’s brand-spanking new. Not to mention the new car smell. I have to bring this new car back when my car is ready. Talk about creating desire! Brilliant business model. Unfortunately. And of course, I may drive my friends around it and show off this new car to them too. Spreading the love!

    Another example: Rental cars offering GPS. Once you’ve experienced a GPS in the car, you have to have one, even when you are driving local. They are incredibly handy. If Garmin, TomTom, et al., were smart, they’d subsidize the cost of renting the GPS for EVERY car rental, just so that more people could sample it. I can virtually guarantee that sales of their GPS would increase if GPS were available at no cost to try out in rental cars.

  2. Never underestimate the power of the free cookie. Built Famous Amos. He did no advertising, only gave away cookies every Friday on the corner.

    On the coin thing – one CU in SA charges for their coin machine only if you get the cash. If you deposit it in your account, there is no charge. Shaping behavior approach, I guess.

  3. Did Seth Godin point to a bank that was doing this? If so, I can’t remember which one…

  4. @ Winter:

    Yes, S&L do charge for a lot of things that a CU typically wouldn’t charge for, and people are noticing.

    See here:

    Five pages of complaints… like I said, people are noticing.

  5. I miss you Trey

    I can hear you telling this story and I fear most commenters didn’t get it…..

    There was shameless “capturing” of the product that looked like devotion, but it is what it is…..

    I think I saw this in a dream……

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