3 Free Gifts

One of my pet peeves is with advertisers that offer “free gifts” but impose an obligation to collect them, or say you can get something free, “just pay shipping and handling,” or “free gift with purchase.”

While this form of up-selling may be legitimate, I think companies should not be allowed to offer “gifts” or something “free” unless it really is offered without obligation.

I recently put this to a test. I subscribe to Reader’s Digest magazine. For the past three months, my magazine came with a card that offered “3 Free Gifts.” RD provided a website where I could go to collect the “3 free gifts.” Upon visiting the website, I found that I could download a cookbook for free, but for the other two “gifts” I would have to sign up for a book club. I wrote to Reader’s Digest about this matter but never received a response.

Since the headquarters of Reader’s Digest is in New York, I wrote to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. He replied within a week saying he was forwarding my complaint to the proper department. A week after that, I received a letter from Karine Patino of the New York Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection. She wrote, “I am forwarding your complaint to the company to request a statement of their position and a possible adjustment.” Maybe just the inquiry from the New York Attorney General will cause Reader’s Digest to rethink their advertising methods. I would have no problem with RD offering a bonus for trying their book club.

Arizona Attorney General, Terry Goddard, also mentions scams involving “gifts” in his office’s brochure “Ten Top Consumer Scams.” (See: http://www.azag.gov/consumer/TopTenScams.pdf )

Goddard mentions that some auto dealers “Advertised minimum trade-in amounts and free gifts. Dealers may raise the price of the car to offset a low value trade-in or the cost of the gift.”

Caveat Emptor.

Do you wordsmiths out there have any phrases you would like to see disappear – phrase such as “very unique,” or “past history,”  “terrible tragedy,”  or even the one I used, “pet peeves?”

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