Since everyone on this page HAS to own a computer, I thought I would post this up here. It's a research project I'm doing. I'm keeping an online journal on another site, but it's pretty interesting:
I can't go to any website these days without seeing those stupid ads that offer "Free iPod here!" or "Free $600 Cell Phone HERE!". I keep wondering how these damn things can stay around.
But they can't really be a total scam, can they? I mean, if they were a complete rip-off, then they wouldn't still be around. I've always been curious, and I've seen published reports online and even on Fox News about how these things actually work. And now I think I have an opportunity to get to the bottom of it.
I was assigned a report in my Sociology in Marketing class today about pretty much anything I want to do. I've decided to make these free offer websites the topic of my paper. I want to get to the bottom of them and see if they are a scam or if they are for real. As another subject of my paper, I'm going to see how hard it is to have people come along with me on these offers that have to be completed to get your free (whatever).
Because I need somewhere to keep some of my findings, and because most of the people on this site would probably be interested, I'll be keeping track of progress and findings on this thread. I'm actually pretty excited about the idea, since I get to do a bit of investigative journalism. And instead of saying things like "I heard from someone that that's a scam" or "I know a guy who knows someone who got a free iPod", I can say from my own experiences whether it's a hoax or worth your time.
These are the first things I need to do:
1. Gather information on the freeflatscreens offer. See what kind of published data there is on the internet.
2. Sign up and begin the process of getting other people to sign up with the offers, and record their responses. I've decided to take three different routes on this. The first is to advertise on a site where I know the people (here). The second is to find 10 random websites with message boards and put up a single spam message advertising the site. The third will be to try to recruit people face to face, and even guide them through the offers at their computer.
3. Keep a running tally of how much money I have spent on this venture.
If anyone wants to reply to this thread and give me any comments on what you think of the whole "free" phenomenon or if you have any experiences with it, please feel free to comment. If you want to leave your real first and last name and your age, it would also be fantastic because I'd be able to use you as a source in my paper (I have to get 20 pages out of it).
Alright. Day 1. I signed up with the website. If anyone would like to help out by completing an offer (or even looking around at them), go to:
Information I've gathered:
I've found a lot of info here: http://188.8.131.52/search?q=cache:r4 ... scam&hl=en
They explain all of the offers and have examples of how much the companies that run the offers in these programs pay to get them filled out. The way that the companies can afford to give away all these iPods/TV's/etc. is that companies like AOL, eBay, and Columbia House pay them mucho dollars for potential customers. According to this page, for every person that Gratis (the company that runs most of the "freewhaterer.com" sites) refers to eBay, they can get paid up to $45. Since I have to get 8 people to sign up (plus myself), that's a potential for eBay to make over $400. Plus, Gratis is registered with the BBB, so they have to be legit.
Conclusion: If I do get all of the offers completed, I'll get hwat I'm promised, but getting the 8 others to join is going to be the hardest part.
I signed up for the Columbia House offer, which cost me $27 for shipping on my first 8 movies. And I'm on the hook to buy 4 movies from them in the next two years. I think I can handle that.
Money total so far: $27.
This is a website that gives a lot of info about how the offer is legit and actual instructions on how to fill out the offer that will cost the least/be the easiest to do.
More info about how it is legit.
Talkting to someone I know that tried it, he says he got a few real referrals, and tried to fake the rest. He got a bunch of fake e-mail addresses and completed all of the offers himself. When he completed the required amount, he sent it all in to the website, but then they denied him because they could tell he signed up for all of them himself. He says it's probably because he used the same credit card and address for all of the offer sign ups.
There's a buch of new websites called "Conga Lines" where the basic premise is to turn the whole thing into a Pyramid. You sign up for a certain "Line" and fill out an offer for a person at the top. When that person gets enough referrals, then they are gone and the next person gets the top sopt and all of the referrals.
Conclusions for the day: It'll be interesting how well I can get people to sign up for these offers. I think the tactic that will work best (if any) will be face-to-face with people.
Any thoughts, feel free to add.
Over the weekend, I did more research, and came up with some cool stuff:
There's a website called http://www.ratetheoffers.com/ratings.php
that actually rates which of the offers you have to complete is the best one to do in terms of how long each one takes, which is the cheapest, etc.
Also on the site:
Fair enough. How do I get started, then? What's the process?
Easy. So easy, in fact, that if you follow these directions it's a cakewalk!
1) Click on one of the links above (they will open in a new window), sign up, and complete at least ONE offer -- many of which have a free trial period and/or do not require a credit card. You can even find ratings for each offer at RateTheOffers.com. Some are quite useful (in my opinion), like Blockbuster Online and eFax. Some even go so far as to send you extra free stuff just for trying that particular offer!
(Also, an important item to note: if you're concerned about getting spam, you can choose to opt-out when you sign up. See their sites for more information.)
2) While waiting for your offer to be credited, spread the word around by referring friends, family, and others using your referral link!
3) After you reach your required referrals, they send you the product free of charge -- even with free shipping! If you don't like the item you've chosen for your offer, be sure to cancel within the trial period and you're good to go!
How do they make their money then, eh?
Again, easy. Gratis and Offercentric make considerable money from each offer that visitors complete, which in turn pays for the items you can receive, while they receive a profit.
Another testament to their legitimacy, Gratis made #95 in Inc. Magazine's 500 Fastest Growing Companies list this year!
Are they legit, or what? Are they gonna screw me?
Their legitimacy gets a resounding yes, and I've got the proof to back it up. So far, I've personally completed freeipods.com [Proof: Pic 1, Pic 2], freeflatscreens.com [Proof: Pic 1], and freedesktoppc.com [Proof: Pic 1, Pic 2], for a total of over $1450.00 MSRP! Not bad for a little work!
As far as getting screwed, as long as you aren't trying to cheat the system by registering a bunch of times for the same item from the same account or by other means, you're good to go.
Further evidence of these offers' legitimacy can be found at Gratis' own site and FreeiPodGuide.com. On top of this, there are a multitude of sites on the web that will vouch for Gratis Internet and Offercentric's offers, including pictures.
SOmething that stuck out to me was the thing about registering a bunch of fake e-mail addresses and trying to scam that way. From the multiple people I have talked to, this almost never works, so it looks like I'm going to have to do this the old fashoned way.
PROGRESS: So far, I have 2 people that have completed offers, so six more and we'll see if this is really really for real. The two I have gotten have been from putting up something in my profile on AIM. I've tried a few people face to face, but they're all a little gun shy. It's strange, because I have proof that this isn't a scam from some legit sources, but because it's something of actual value that's being described as "free" then they don't want much to do with it.
On another note, I hear that the process of filling out the offers is 100% safe as long as you cancel the order in the trial period with some items. The Video Professor offer is really popular because it costs $5, you get to keep 2 CD's on how to use a computer, and you get instant credit for filling out an offer. But you have 30 days to cancel and if you don't, you get automatically charged $70 and they send you the next one. Ouch.
actually walks people through the process step by step.
Another good guide:
2) Click a referral link above to sign up and enter all of your information.
3) Surveys are optional, you may click yes or no to whichever ones you choose.
4) You can choose people to refer now, or skip this step and wait until later.
5) Complete an offer. The offers come and go. A certain one may be gone one day and show up the next. Here are a few of my favorite offers:
Ebay: The online marketplace. Bid on and sell pretty much anything. When completing this offer, make a real bid on something that you are actually interested in winning. For example, don't bid two cents on a new digital camera, since it's obvious you have no intention of winning the auction. NOTE: this offer has been gone for a while, came back for a weekend, then disappeared again. Who knows if it will be back.
Infone: Kind of a personal assistant service. Call if you need directions, or tickets for something. You get a few free calls, and from then on you are only charged for using the service.
Ancestry.com: Two week free trial, and they have tons of information about your ancestors and geneology.
Stamps.com: get a free trial so you can print out stamps at home and use them to mail items.
Video Professor: Get two cd's free to learn virtually any computer-related subject, and pay just shipping, which is ~$7.
Just check the list for other offers you may be interested in.
6) Get the correct number of people (5 for freeipods, 8 for freeflatscreens, and 10 for freedesktoppc) to do what you just did.
So I've spent nothing more than the Columbia House money on this project, and I'm 1/4th of the way there. I gotta find some way to advertise this thing without making it seem like I'm lobbying for people to join. In other words, I have to spam and make it not look like spam. Any suggestions?