EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Lifestyle

November 8, 2012

Is that 'free' sample really free?

Dear Jill,

Your recent column on having to register online for a coupon, then getting to the next screen and discovering there is no coupon available to download reminded me of a problem that bugs me. I like to get free samples of products online. I visit a couple of sites that are reliable for freebies. But sometimes when I am surfing the web, I see banners offering a free sample of something like a free bottle of shampoo or free laundry detergent. But when I click them, I have to fill out two, three, four or more screens for different offers from companies not related to the sample. One time I had to sign up for a magazine trial, and another time it was for a recipe site. Then, of course, I got a bunch of spam! How do I know where to get good samples?” – Miriam E.

Dear Miriam,

You’re not the only one who Fullscreenenjoys free samples! Manufacturers often distribute free samples to consumers to let them know about new varieties of products, or to get shoppers to try a product they may not have used before. In the pre-Internet age, shoppers might have waited for a surprise sample to come in the mail or picked up a free sample from a store display at the supermarket. But if you’re online, it’s easy to find opportunities to score free samples.

On the web, you’ll find sites devoted to free samples. As Miriam discovered, you may also come across web banners advertising a free sample of this or that, if only you’ll “click here!” While the link you click may be legitimate, it may also be a link designed to capture personal information about you. That link may lead to another link asking for your name and address again, but this time to fulfill a different offer. And when you click submit on that link, guess what? You may be redirected to fill out yet another form!

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