My Love of Free Shit

Let’s face it. Who doesn’t love a good sale/coupon/handout? Ask any of my friends, family, or closest confidante (and soon to be roomie) Not-so-Carrie and they’ll tell you I’m the queen when it comes to getting free shit, knowing where the event with an open bar is, or having a ridiculously amazing coupon I got from some promotion. Most of the time, it’s all about networking. I can’t stress enough that it’s all about who you know anymore and not what you know, however, sometimes it’s definitely just a matter of being in the right place at the right time and getting lucky…and no, not that kind of lucky. Get your minds out of the gutter.

Sometimes I sit back and wonder how much everything I’ve won or been given would amount to. Math, however, has never been my strong point so I’ve never come up with a total. I like to look at the overall experience of it all as being priceless.

For instance…

I was at a trade show this summer and decided to check out a new (and not-so-different-from-anyone-else’s) product a company had debuted at this show. I’d received a postcard from them about checking it out, taking a picture of it, and tweeting it with a specific hashtag to be entered in a drawing to win an iPad.

SIDE NOTE: I have never been very lucky when it comes to drawings, Bingo, the lottery, anything of that sort. I don’t typically win stuff based on chance. The odds don’t ever seem to be in my favor when it comes to that. In all actuality, I’d probably be the first one to get picked off in the Hunger Games – and not even because of my lack of athletic ability or desire to kill. The odds just wouldn’t be in my favor. The end.

So back to this tweeting competition. Being the avid Instagram photographer that I am (everyone loves a good filter), I Instagrammed a picture of said product and raved about it on Twitter and Instagram about how cool and innovative (lies) it was and how you should check it out if you were at the show.

What do you know…that night I get a direct message on Twitter that I’d been drawn as a winner of an iPad and to stop by the showroom to claim it.

No. Freaking. Way. Score one for me.

Going hand-in-hand with this trade show – and any trade show in general – are showroom and rep/company-sponsored events. You say “Open Bar” or “Free ___________” and you can bet I’ll be there. You can never go wrong with networking events. Again, it’s all about who you know anymore and not what you know anymore…the open bar is just an added perk.

I’m also a big fan of the RedEye newspaper (and it’s free…imagine that). You never know what kind of events you’ll find in there. Last week I read an article about how a new startup company called Reelagram is relaunching the old classic ViewMaster toys (you remember them…those little red camera-like things with the round picture disc that you hold up to your eyes and go click-click-click and look at the pictures) with a twist…you can make your own discs with your own Instagram photos. Well, they were having a launch party this week at a neighborhood coffee shop with (you guessed it) free stuff for the first 25 people and (you guessed it again) free drinks and appetizers. Cue the inviting of my favorite Mexican, my work wife whose name my phone insists on autocorrecting to Party. Perhaps because she is the life of the party. I’ve never met someone in their 40s who is as much fun as this lady (let alone fabulous and gorgeous with a doesn’t-give-a-shit attitude who I thought was in her early-to-mid-30s when I met her).

But I digress. Cue the pre-party Mexican night (imagine that) of food and margaritas at the restaurant next door (a place to which I also had a $50 Groupon) before the launch party so we could be the first people in line. Where do we end up in line? Second and third. Jackpot. Free ViewMasters for us as well as some other fun takeaways. We also managed to discover where the two kegs were kept, make two new friends, and discover that the wine bar was serve-yourself. Never one to chance being wasteful and risk abusing the alcohol by spilling it, I sticky-fingered us our own bottle of wine and four glasses…for free. Yes, we are modern-day adventurers. You may as well call us Christopher Columbus and Ponce de Leon.

In my spare time when I’m not out at some impromptu party that I learned about from a rep or through the RedEye, I can often be found enjoying a long walk on the beach by myself with a Starbucks cup of wine. If this isn’t the case, you might find me sitting at home in my underwear taking surveys and accumulating rewards “dollars” that unfortunately can’t be redeemed for a check and can only be used for airline miles, gift cards, magazine subscriptions, and other such not-as-cool-as-cash perks. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about a free (are we starting to see a pattern here?) gift card or magazine subscription, but I’d really rather have the cash. But alas, I’ll settle for a free subscription to Men’s Health, GQ, Interior Design, or whatever else they randomly have on special. I haven’t succumbed to Cigar Aficionado yet though…

I really don’t have a clue how I even ended up a member of this survey group, but I really don’t care. If I’m being surveyed about beer, biscuit mix, razors, or my travel/airline/hotel preferences for some free stuff…well, that’s fine by me. They’ve recently started realizing how valuable my opinion is however and have begun sending me products to review for (gasp!) REAL REWARDS AND CASH. It’s about damn time.

The other day, I got a free stick of deodorant to try and review for $5 because it’s a new line from a company whose name I agreed not to disclose. I feel like a human lab rat occasionaly, but hey, it’s $5 and a new stick of deodorant that I no longer need to go to Target and buy. I also received an electric shaver to try out for six weeks for $20. The catch? I have to send it back…with a pre-paid UPS label…AND…I have to take a before and after picture when I use it at least once. We all know I love a good bathroom mirror selfie just like any other gay, so I’m just perfect for this product test.

I also recently signed up for Klout to see how influential I am on social media. I was surprised to see that I’m significantly more influential than many of my peers. Jackpot. Depending on your score of 1-100, they send you random perks in the mail on occasion to try out and blog/tweet/whatever about. In the month or so I’ve been paying attention to my Klout score (yes, that sounds dumb), I’ve banked some pretty sweet perks.

  • A $5 McDonald’s gift card to try some of their new offerings. This will most likely be used to drunkenly purchase five McChicken sandwiches with onions added and mayonnaise left off lest I go crazy on the cashier because of my strong dislike of mayo.
  • A hangover cure pill. Very useful, yet still waiting to receive this in the mail.
  • Two free bottles of premixed organic VitaFrute cocktails AND a coupon for $25 off the purchase of two more bottles. Definitely cashed in this coupon last night since they were on sale for $11.99 a bottle at the grocery store (do the math…money back towards the rest of my purchase!). Jackpot.

If you love free shit as much as I do, I highly suggest signing up for Klout (it’s free!) and banking these sweet (free) perks too.

I also once entered a drawing to host a Cinco de Mayo party catered by Qdoba through HouseParty.com (another free site) for 20 friends. Guess who ended up hosting a party with a spread that completely covered my IKEA dining room table, gift cards for free chips and salsa and an entree for each guest, and a bunch of free kitchen stuff that you got to keep? Yep…this guy right here. The only expense associated with this $200 free catering spread? The bottle of bottom shelf tequila and a $5 margarita mix bucket. I mean, it wouldn’t be Cinco de Mayo without copious amounts of margaritas…right?

If you haven’t noticed the pattern, I’m a sucker for free shit.

So now that I’ve sufficiently eaten up all the free time (pun intended) that I’d allocated myself for the day, I’m going to head on down to the Cultivate Festival, a (you guessed it) free festival put on by Chipotle complete with (free) activities including stations to learn about sustainability, sustainable farming practices, and other such nerdy things. Best part: you get a booklet that gets stamped at each station that you can turn back in and get a certificate for a free entree! ANNNNNNND there’s free concerts all afternoon…including one by Youngblood Hawke. Now that’s what I call a good time.

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