I’m going to a Dodger game tonight and I can usually judge how early I have to leave by knowing if they are having a free give-a-way night or not. Whenever it is announced that a free bobble head, fleece blanket, keychain, beach towel or any other merchandise will be given away free as you enter I know to leave 20-minutes early. People always arrive early on these nights to make sure they get their freebie before they run out. It is a wonderful marketing ploy…people love to get stuff for free. I use the word stuff because the life expectancy of most of these items is a week at the most before they break, tear, or pop. The marketers have their logo and tag line stamped across the item so when you are you are using it you are also giving free advertising for Target, California Pistachios, State Farm Insurance or whoever is sponsoring that night’s give-a-way, but hey it’s free with the purchase of your $55.00 Dodger ticket. What ticks me off are the greedy pigs who horde as many free items as they can. You can see them as they walk back to their car before the game to store all the free bootie in the trunk. I don’t know what you do with that many rain ponchos in L.A. but it’s free. I have seen the police called in at Angel Stadium when they ran out of bobble heads due to the first group grabbing as many as possible leaving others out in the cold and not happy about it. People stormed over the poor volunteers who were well in their 70’s to try to get one. The volunteers eventually ran for help leaving a feeding frenzy among the sharks. It was an ugly scene, people got hurt, kids were left crying and it took police force to calm the situation down. All of this for a bobble head, which by the way is the crown jewel of all give-a-ways. The worst part was that it was the adults who were doing all the shoving, swearing, and hording. The kids would have gotten trampled if they got in the way. Then in most ballparks they will shoot out free t-shirts to the crowd which causes another fracas. Why? It’s free. It doesn’t matter what the t-shirt has written on it or the size, just elbow out your neighbor and grab the t-shirt. I have also learned that there is nothing free about getting a free sporting event ticket. Yes you get in the stadium for free, but you will end up spending $20-$60 on food and merchandise. A hot dog, beer, and peanuts will run you $20 alone. You can multiply that times the number of guests and if you buy a beer or two for the person who gave you a free ticket you can easily come close to spending close to $100, almost twice the ticket cost. The cost of stadium food is on par with movie theaters for mark up. I understand the need to make a profit but $5.50 for a hot dog and $11.00 for a beer would be laughed at anywhere else. Yet at the ballpark the lines are long to pay these prices. Once you are in there aren’t any alternatives and people seem to have accepted the ridiculous prices just like movie theaters.
I learned a lot about freebies or chachkies while working at a local television station. The station would have community events with booths or tents set up at the event to disperse free samples and information on the sponsor’s product. It didn’t matter what the give-a-way was, if it was free people would line up to get it. It could be a basic household pen that may write for 2-days tops but it was free so there was a line and if someone wasn’t monitoring the booth the pens would be grabbed up by one piggy. It isn’t limited to any economic class, people of all ages and incomes love free stuff. We once took a group of sponsors to Spring Training in Arizona. We paid all expenses including airfare, hotel, meals, and tickets to the games. We also gave each client a bag of merchandise including a hat, sunscreen, a disposable camera, and a signed baseball. It was a very nice trip for those who had spent a good sum of money to sponsor the baseball team. The guests were all well off, many of them owned their own car dealerships or held a high ranking job at their corporation. Yet despite the best of intentions I got a call at 2am in my hotel room and it was an upset sponsor who said he didn’t receive a disposable camera in his bag. The man could have bought 20 thousand disposable cameras but he felt cheated that he didn’t get a free one like everyone else. We got him his camera the next day and being a good salesperson all I could say to him was that we were sorry for the mistake when I really felt like shoving the camera up his ass…I mean how much could a disposable camera cost? I’ve been told, “There are no free lunches” and it is true. When you are given something for free there is almost always a catch. “Enjoy a free weekend in Palm Desert” the letter read. All you needed to do was listen to an 4-hour seminar on time shares to qualify. “Buy-one-get-one-free”…that isn’t really free. “Call for a free consultation” then spend $100 dollars for the next visit, no freebie there. People love free stuff and to aggressively step over people to get it is wrong. Take one and move on so that everyone can share equally. That may sound idealistic, but the alternative exposes the ugly and selfish side of people.