Complimentary Turkey? Why Free Stuff is for the Birds!


Free stuff is everywhere. I’m offered a free flat screen TV if I purchase living room furniture, I’m given free cosmetics if I buy $50 bucks worth of lipstick, and the local grocery store wants to feed me a free turkey with a $250 purchase. Sounds ideal really. There’s nothing like watching TV while eating turkey with freshly glossed lips. Smack. Yum. Burp.

For many of us, free stuff is the ultimate money hack. What’s more deliciously satisfying than buying “something” only to get another “thing” for free? Who doesn’t like squawking to a flock of feathered friends about “the deal” you just plucked by spending a few bills?

I think free stuff is for the birds. I don’t mean to ruffle your feathers but have you taken a gander at how the cost of free stuff pecks at your wallet? I think marketers are brilliant at goosing us into buying the golden egg and getting something fowl for free. I wonder, if so much is being given away for free, then why is everything so expensive?


Here are five reasons why the “free stuff” money hack is a quack:

1. Incentive to Spend More:

Marketers and retailers want you to put all your eggs into one basket and spend more on a single purchase. By setting the “free gift” purchase price at a profit for themselves, they can then offer you freebies for meeting their sales targets. Did you really need to spend a whopping $250 to get a little meaty freebie? Is your additional grocery expense worth a bit of birdie? Personally, I think freebies are a plucky way to part you from your cash. Be careful when clucking for “free gifts” cause you might just spend extra bucks for a bird.

2. Freebie Bundled Into Price:

Retailers want you to believe your “free gift with purchase” is without cash commitment. I call fowl. Many marketing mavericks use the “bundling” tactic to bury the freebie cost with the price of the consumer product. You may think you’re getting a free lunch, but you’re really paying for that turkey dinner with all the fixings. Consider the commonplace “FREE phone with purchase of two-year contact”, or “FREE flat screen TV with purchase of sofa and love seat”. Do you really think retailers are giving you these products for free? After paying for the inflated product price, you’re paying the full price of receiving that free gift. Feeling cooked and basted yet?

3. Free Gifts Lack Quality:

How long did your last fast freebie last? Did that free television stand the test of time? Did that turkey taste wholesome and delicious or more like mechanically separated meat? I don’t know about your free gifts but most free gifts I see are crap. They last about as long as the car ride to take them home. The goal of the free gift is not to be useful beyond time, but rather to get you to buy into a bigger initial purchase. Since the freebie fulfills it’s usefulness at the till, it’s not built to last. Free gifts are meant to be consumed quickly and fiercely. They are disposable and fill our landfills. Honestly, freebie crap makes me want to fly the coop.

4. Suspect Products with Gifts Attached:

There is a motivation for pushing a product with a free gift. Marketers and retailers have several reasons for needing to tactically move certain products from their shelves. Perhaps they ordered too much of something, perhaps it’s obsolete, perhaps no one wants it, or perhaps it’s just inferior quality crap. For whatever reason, retailers love “free gifts” to get you to buy into the requisite removal. Stop the “free gift” feeding frenzy by leaving the suet on the shelves.

5. Stuffed Full of Free Stuff Yet?

Do you really need more stuff? Does it matter if it’s free or not? There’s a cost to bringing more crap home – it makes your house a barnyard mess. I see so many women cluttered with free cosmetics, too many men pricked with free knives from China, and so many families using free TVs as paper weights. When will we stop running around like chickens with our heads cut off and figure out we’re cooked with “free gift” crap? I’m a little raw when it comes to crap clutter. I do tend to get into a flutter and feel tender about it. But I’ll stick my neck out again and call us all bird brains for buying it.

Am I talking turkey or is the “free gift” money hack just quack? Do you feel plucky when you find a freebie or are you roasted and basted? Is free stuff for the birds?


  1. Heidi April 21, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    Well said! They alawys get me at the Clinque counter with the “free stuff” – I am pretty good at saying no to crap, but makeup crap is a weakness…

  2. fox April 21, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    Heidi: Ohh the Clinique counter is killer. It’s all the little portable lipsticks and face creams. Who doesn’t have a drawer filled with the stuff?

  3. Four Pillars April 21, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    That’s one good looking turkey! You’re right – nothing is for free.

  4. moneygardener April 21, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    Loblaws marketing and promotions are laughable.

  5. fox April 21, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    Four Pillars: The turkey pic is funny. The ad was sent in April. Why turkey in April? Why?

    moneygardener: Loblaws promotions are a hoot. I just got an email for Complimentary watermelon with $150 purchase. Good thing I wrote about turkey…I don’t think I could write “melon” puns and get away with it. 😉

    I actually like the Galen Weston Jr. “Go Green” ads. He’s a geeky cute. Ok, I like geeky cute. Ok, I love his ads. I’d go green for Galen Weston Jr. I should stop writing now…

  6. Jules April 22, 2008 at 3:55 am

    In some supermarkets in Europe, you can get these little stamps for ever 5 euros you spend. Collect enough stamps, and you get “free” things…I calculated that you needed to spend 125 euros to get a “free” place setting for four, that honestly looked like crap–as in, IKEA makes better things.

  7. Green Panda April 23, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    They do this a lot with Food Lion around the holidays. I don’t want to be tied to a grocery store for 8 weeks and pay so much at one time. It’s not cost effective. I prefer doing a big shop once a month and replace milk, drinks, bread, etc when needed.

  8. Salaries and freebies. « centsprout April 23, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    […] has a good post on why freebies are for the birds. This past week-end I had to scramble to use a $25 gift card that expired on Sunday. I got the gift […]

  9. Chickadee April 24, 2008 at 6:31 am

    (quote)I actually like the Galen Weston Jr. “Go Green” ads. He’s a geeky cute. Ok, I like geeky cute. Ok, I love his ads. I’d go green for Galen Weston Jr. I should stop writing now…

    So, we should beware of Geeks bearing gifts?

    Very funny and perceptively written article. I agree that most so-called ‘freebies have’ strings attached, and are seldom worth accepting. I figure that anything which is aggressively marketed is probably very profitable for the company.

  10. Kerry April 27, 2008 at 8:11 am

    Jules: I laugh whenever I see “free” place settings or dishes being touted. I guess most people just don’t do the math!

    Green Panda: Retailers love to “tie” us to their loyalty programs. Nowadays I just say “no” to shopping with “program cards” and try to shop where the most nutritious and affordable food is being sold.

    Chickadee: There you are girl! Wondering where you’ve been hiding! LOL on “Geeks bearing gifts!” Dang, I wish I thought of that one. You are so right…I cannot let my fondness for “geeky cute” zap my pocketbook. Indeed, anything agressively marketed has got to be a huge profit maker for the company. It’s funny how all the “needed” food items are never mass marketed, things like simple milk, bread, eggs.

  11. guinness416 April 27, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    Whoa. JUST as I was reading that last comment Galen Weston came on the tv advertising dishwasher soap. Creepy ….

    (we know he’s good boy cause his mum’s Irish)

  12. Kerry April 27, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    guinness416: “JUST as I was reading that last comment Galen Weston came on the tv.” WHICH CHANNEL? I should really stop writing now…. 😉

  13. […] for a completely different opinion on FREE (in fact, a robust argument that it’s for the birds) visit the inimitable […]

  14. Brian Lang May 9, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    The only way it makes sense to go after the free turkey would be if you already spend that kind of money on groceries. At that point, you might as well get the freebie. Superstore is one of the least expensive grocery stores too. But don’t go crazy buying extras to pad out the $250 to get the Turkey.

    As to why was it posted in April? If I recall correctly, that message came just before Easter – a semi-traditional time for Turkey in Canada…

  15. Danny Attridge February 1, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Not a big fan of this story you have written. I don’t see a problem with any company giving free products to entice customers into their stores. It’s up to the customer to have some common sense and I guess that is the real problem here. If your normal grocery bill is $150 a week and you spend an extra $100 just to get the free turkey don’t blame the store. Your story should be based on exercising restraint on shopping trips but as is the norm it is always easier to blame others rather than look in the mirror and identify the real problem. Seek help you need it!

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