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Lifestyle

November 8, 2012

Is that 'free' sample really free?

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Will you get your sample after jumping through all of these hoops? Actually, you may. But you might have guessed by now that the sample you get may not actually come from the manufacturer at all. Some websites that offer free samples actually harvest data for other companies. You must complete several different promotions, often described as “qualifying offers,” before you get to the screen advertising the sample.

The website that hosts the parade of offers you’ve dutifully filled out will, indeed, provide you with the sample — but it might be a travel- or trial-sized product identical to those offered in the aisles of your favorite grocery store. The company has purchased these samples in bulk and provides you with one ­— after you fill out lengthy sets of forms and offers for other items. Yes, you get something “free,” but the value of the data you supply is far greater than the cost of the sample.

How do you tell the difference between a legitimate sample offer and one that might trap you in a seemingly-never-ending web of forms? There are a couple of ways. If you click on a web banner offering a free sample, and the word Free has an asterisk next to it – FREE* Sample of Shampoo! — it’s usually a pretty good indicator that the sample isn’t truly free. You’ll have to work for it. I prefer to take part in sample offers that come straight from a manufacturer, via the manufacturer’s own website, or from a trusted partner site.

Here are some of my favorite sites for free samples:

Startsampling.com: Well-known manufacturers offer free samples in many categories, from detergent to over-the-counter medications and personal care products.

Pssst.generalmills.com: General Mills’ Myinsite offers free samples and coupons for General Mills products and brands.

Vocalpoint.com: Free samples and coupons for a variety of products and brands, including Procter & Gamble products.

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Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.

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