I want a free-ish iPad!
October 27, 2010 5:01 PM   Subscribe

I know a lot, if not most, of the Free iPad when-you-complete-a-bunch-of-offers deals are fake. But I do want to roll the dice and try one - does anyone know of any programs that will actually hold up their end of the bargain?

I found a blog *comment* in a related article by someone who knew a person who did it successfully - setting up a temp email and google voice number as well as paying any trial fees with a prepaid card. They also documented and tracked everything (like cancellation dates) in a spreadsheet. All told, it cost something like 50 bucks and an hour or two's work spread over a few weeks. Unfortunately they didn't list what company this was done through and it was an anonymous posting.

Please help me to successfully navigate the shoals of gimmicky marketing for a great prize!
posted by 5ean to Shopping (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
An anonymous post from a guy who knows a guy who made money fast won an iPad on the Internet? Please.

If, hypothetically speaking, one of these things was not a scam, why would I want to lower my odds by telling you (and anyone else reading this) which one?
posted by mhoye at 5:15 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

He didn't win it, he fulfilled the terms of the agreement of the marketing promotion. And it being anonymous and without a link makes it more credible - it wasn't pushing a particular site.

Odds never entered into it. It was not a contest. I'm sorry if that wasn't clear.
posted by 5ean at 5:20 PM on October 27, 2010

I actually know a person in real life who successfully did this quite regularly. He had a series of email accounts that were all under his control and tracked everything very carefully. He does not do it anymore because, if I remember correctly, something in the fine print of the promotions changed and made it too difficult to fulfill the terms...I think he stopped doing these types of promotions about 2 years ago.
posted by mjcon at 5:28 PM on October 27, 2010

I don't know the answer, but I had similar designs but gave up after I realised that the amount of time I was spending doing surveys, clicking links, entering email addresses, and reading terms and conditions was comparable to the amount of time it would take me to, you know, actually earn the money to buy an iPod (this was some years ago).

They can't lie, but they can be very clever with the truth, or they can be very hard to find and sue.
posted by doublehappy at 5:33 PM on October 27, 2010

Several years ago I got a free iPod through freeipods.com (which doesn't seem to exist anymore, but this was the company behind it).

Completing the offers yourself is easy. It basically involves signing up for some trials (I remember stamps.com being one, one of those CD subscription clubs like Columbia House being another) and canceling them before they charge you. The problem is getting other people to complete the offers.

If you're savvy, what I'd suggest is setting up a blog documenting your process and setting up a referral chain for people who follow your blog (a "conga" line). Alternately, you can provide clear instructions of how to complete the offers and avoid getting charged to your more savvy (or alternately, trusting) friends and pay them $10 or so to complete the offers.

Anyway, it absolutely can be done.
posted by cosmic osmo at 5:46 PM on October 27, 2010

I won a free mac mini through gratis in like 2004. I think the site was freemacmini.com and I had to get like 12 people to complete internet deals.

Apparently, the company made money, because most people would sign up to do complete the deals, and do, at most half of them. Which gave the company 6 completed referrals without having to give anything away. They used to have one offer in particular that gave a free two week trial, and you could cancel anytime. I would have my friends sign up and then I'd call and cancel it for them.

Anyways, I was skeptical until I got the computer in the mail.
posted by monkeyman82 at 6:05 PM on October 27, 2010

I have a friend that was really into this stuff, but he stopped bothering a few years ago. Several people in our broader circle got free stuff through his efforts, at first. By the time I was convinced to do more than click on a link he asked us to because it was fast, the amount of work it took was too much to be worth it. This was probably right around when the IPod Nano first came out.
posted by SMPA at 6:47 PM on October 27, 2010

A surprising number of these are legit.

The way this works is, companies pay a referral fee for sign-ups. Let's say Netflix will pay Alice $10 if she signs up Bob for a Netflix subscription. Alice tells Bob, "I'll give you $5 to sign up for Netflix. You can cancel after your trial is over."

Instead of giving Bob $5 directly, she puts that in an account. Eventually she cashes the account out, and gives Bob an iPad.

So a couple things here. One thing you can see is that Alice is going to make more money off this than Bob. In my example she split the referral bonus with him. In real life, Bob is more likely going to be "earning" more like 20 cents off that $10.

Take the price of a new iPad. Divide it into 20-cent increments. That is how many things you will need to sign up for (and later cancel - hopefully successfully) in order to "earn" your iPad.

Each of those things will require an entirely separate identity (and pre-paid debit card). Companies are pretty savvy about all the various ways you can scam a referral fee network.

An increasing number of them are requiring you to wait until they charge you for your first month of service before you cancel. If they successfully complain to the parent company, then you will get no iPad, and you'll be out all that time and money.

And you WILL be out money. Columbia House is a great example. In order to get out of your contract with them, you have to spend $X on books or DVDs. That's $X that you could just be putting towards an iPad. And so forth.

These setups have been getting more and more restrictive as the years go by. I looked into it carefully around 2007, and determined that I would need to spend about $1500 plus about a hundred hours of my time in order to get a $2000 Macbook. (Whichever was the cool one back then.) TANSTAAFL.
posted by ErikaB at 6:51 PM on October 27, 2010

Hmm. It was my understanding that referrals had given way to more trial periods. That concept made this seem more attractive than in the old days. Spamming and cajoling my friends and relatives isn't really my thing. Same with scamming. I guess I'm really attracted to the idea of doing everything right and collecting a reward.

I hope I haven't just missed the boat altogether! Anyone know of any good blogs that list reputable offers?
posted by 5ean at 7:09 PM on October 27, 2010

I did this and got a $350 check a few years ago.

I joined a forum of people that did stuff like this and it went sort of "I'll sign up under you if you sign up under me", with a ticket system and all that. So I did 7-8ish offers (read the terms carefully, and you'll still have to pay some money, just generally very little and you'll get stuff like netflix for a month out of them) and people did offers for me and I got a real check.

I don't know if things have changed since then, but the forum I used was anything4free.com. You can also tell which sites are legit from that - I used a trainn site, which were the really popular ones then. Alternatively, you can try to pay people a certain amount of money to do an offer on your site - generally they can do the first few without paying more than $5-10, and if you pay them $25 and a credit on your site is worth $50 then you still come out ahead. That happened there too.

Also - don't sign up on a freebie site until you're doing it under someone, otherwise you're just wasting an offer since you could have done the same thing and also have done it under someone! Does that make sense?

And yeah. Some of the offers are ridic expensive. But I did find some - I remember VistaPrint, Netflix, Blockbuster on Demand, and Gamefly - that required me to pay no more than $10ish and I got a month+a trial period of those respective services, which I would have paid happily for anyways.
posted by R a c h e l at 7:24 PM on October 27, 2010

I used to work for a company that ran these offers. Basically, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but you have to make sure and cross all your t's, and you will most likely end up spending as much as the prize would have cost you anyway. Add to that the fact that many offers require you to sign up 10 of your friends in order for you to get to the gold level or whatever, and then they have to complete offers which require purchases or trials too, and you're doing a lot of work and spending a lot of money for what ends up being terrible return on your investment. Essentially, they're expecting you to get tired before you actually complete the offer, and don't expect you to hound them when your prize doesn't come for six months (try and find a phone number on one of those sites). But hey, the company got their $1.45 for a valid sign-up, and have now sold your e-mail to about 40 other people for about $0.04 a pop. If you do decide to do it, by all means, set up another e-mail account. I personally saw test addresses get hit by about 150+ new messages within hours of signing up for an offer.
posted by Gilbert at 10:14 PM on October 27, 2010

I heard a story about a friend of a friend managing to get one out of such a scheme.

The steps that he went to go about getting the prize was so complicated, convoluted and time consuming, I couldn't help but wonder if it hadn't have been easier just to save a small amount of money each month and then buy it outright at the end.

Especially since it appeared he managed to piss off a lot of friends trying to get them to sign up to such deals and he had to be extremely careful that he followed the companies rules to the letter otherwise they could invalidate all his hard work.

Personally, I'd just accept that nothing in life is free and look at what expenses you can chop out of your monthly spend that could be put into the iPad fund.
posted by mr_silver at 4:50 AM on October 28, 2010

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