Business | Your Money

Freebie hunting expedition: what to know before you jump

Some free trials can turn into a trap that could cost time and money in the future

  • By Ranoa Oteify, Special to Gulf News
  • Published: 21:00 July 20, 2013
  • Gulf News

It is true that there isn’t such thing as a free lunch, but the way many retailers do their marketing today may involve offering freebies. These free products and services typically offered in small quantities or a short trial period are meant to expand brand recognition and get the product in hands of potential buyers. Most freebies, however, may involve a brief introduction of the product by a salesperson, which can count as a cost if you think of the time involved.

Still, these are a popular, positive way to get to know a new product. Think of it this way: if this is an item you want, you may be able to get to try it briefly without a dent to your bank account. In this case, the free trial is an incentive and a compromise that may be worth your time.

Despite this, some free trials can turn into a trap that costs you time and money in the future. That is why before you jump into a freebie-hunting expedition, you should consider the following issues:

How free is free?

As mentioned, if an item costs you time, effort or attention, it is not totally free. In addition, some free-trial offers may involve some hidden costs — shipping charges, processing fees, and so on. You need to be aware of all and any such costs and make your decision accordingly. Finally be clear on what happens after the free-trial period is over, especially if you’re providing your credit card information. Will you be able to discontinue the use of the service or product without incurring any charge? If a paid membership, subscription or the like begins automatically after the end of the trial period, read the fine print to know how easy it is to cancel it if you want. If the process sounds too complicated now, it may not be a good idea to proceed.

Quality and safety

Even the pickiest people may let down their guard when a freebie is pushed at them. While many legitimate, high-quality products and service providers use this technique for marketing, shady retailers also may try to entice customers who wouldn’t buy their products otherwise. That is why don’t forget to review closely the quality and safety of any product you try. This actually even goes to some services. A free service — be it an online information website or a dental check up — may not be as inclusive and comprehensive as a paid one. If you’re seeking help with an important matter, focus on getting the service or the product that you actually need. While you don’t have to completely disregard available offers, be sure you are not unintentionally settling for less.

Getting hooked

Of course it is the purpose of marketing through freebies — get you to try a product and continue to use it afterward. While enjoying a freebie may not hurt you financially, committing to a product or a service that you typically don’t afford may knock off a balanced budget–particularly if you’re making a significant change to your lifestyle. With that in mind, go for whatever freebies you’d like to try and rate, but when it comes to committing or making a decision on what to spend your hard-earned money on, retreat to your bases and make a decision based on what you can — or can’t — afford.

In a competitive retail market like the UAE, freebies with no strings attached do exist in all sorts of activities and products from make-up samples to gym memberships. These freebies can save you some initial money and help you try a new product that you wouldn’t have tried otherwise. As long as you’re sure that the offer is truly free, take advantage.

 

Rania Oteify is a former Gulf News Business Features Editor

 

Get a free ride

- Check for hidden costs

- Verify quality and safety

- Don’t cross budget lines

- Take advantage of true freebies

R. O.

Gulf News

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