Ask and you might get

A few weeks ago, I heard about Tom Locke and his $39 Experiment:

I was sitting around one day, skimming through a pile of bills that I needed to pay. I looked over at a new, unopened roll of stamps that I had sitting in front of me, and I thought to myself, “$39… for a roll of stamps? Geez… You can’t get much for $39 nowadays. Or can you…?” […] I was going to take my roll of stamps and send 100 letters to 100 different companies, asking for free stuff. I figured that I couldn’t do any worse than blowing the $39 at a casino, and who knows… maybe a few of these places would actually send me something good.

Today I checked on how he’s been doing. A mixed bag of results ranging from a firm “No” from some companies to coupons and actual products from others. So far, he’s received stuff worth $117.

His stock letters are quite amusing. For instance, this one to Mercedes-Benz USA:

Dear Sir or Madam:
I’m going to be honest with you. I am a poor slob who drives a bike. Not a motorcycle – a bicycle. Please send me a Mercedes Benz keychain, so I can at least pretend to have some class when I’m around people. Thank you in advance,
Tom Locke, self-esteem enthusiast

Yes, he got a key chain. And this one to Wrigley:

Dear Sir or Madam:
I am a gum addict. I have tried every flavor of gum made, and nothing compares to your Eclipse “Cherry Ice”. Did you stop making that flavor? I’ve heard people say that it tastes like a cough drop to them – but I love the flavor. Please send me free samples of any and every single gum flavor you have and can send me. I love gum more than I can put into words. Remember that girl from Willy Wonka, always chewing gum? I put that girl to shame. Thank you.
Tom Locke, gum enthusiast

No free gum, just a letter telling him where to buy the gum!

Classical. You can follow Tom’s progress in his Updates section. Note the emails he’s received from employees (seemingly – Tom’s not sure if those emails are legitimate) at some companies he contacted who said no to his requests, saying that if he’d approached local stores rather than corporate headquarters, he would more likely have received positive responses.

I bet those employees are bloggers, too.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Serge

    Dear Neville

    I am a poor lecturer from Belgium, with a wife and three kids to feed. They eat so much I do not have enough money left for other things, such as my interest in the web, new media, mobile telephoning and so on. I know you are an absolute ‘new stuff’ kind of guy, so I am sure you have got some used, but still usable items you could miss. A mobile phone, a laptop which you perhaps no longer use that often, a palm top, … Could you let me know what you could miss? Thanks in advance.


    PS Your not dumping garbage-like relics of no longer used equipment would be very much appreciated.

  2. Bryan Person

    Dear Neville:

    Much like Serge, I am a down-on-my-luck bloke from Boston, who listens to FIR every Monday and Thursday. I have a beautiful daughter in the sixth grade, who is hoping that she will receive a mobile phone for her upcoming 12th birthday, just to have in case of emergency when she starts using public transport to come home from school each afternoon by herself.

    In a recent episode of FIR, you mentioned buying a new fancy-schmancy phone during your travels to San Francisco. I am hoping, out of the goodness of your European heart, that you therefore might have an older phone you are willing to part with. It would mean so much to us, and especially to my daughter.

    Thank you for your generosity.

    FIR enthusiast

    * * * * *

    Haha. I checked in on Tom’s site for the first time last week. It was classic laugh-out-loud stuff.

    I wonder if some of the “stingier” companies might have answered differently had they known Tom would chronicle their responses on a blog.

  3. neville

    Dear down-on-my-luck bloke from Boston,

    How can I refuse such a request without appearing as stingy and mean as Wrigley? Quite easily, in fact :)

    But you said the magic words – FIR enthusiast! As it happens, I have a Nokia 6110 lying around that, while pretty old (at least 5 years), might do for your beautiful daughter in the sixth grade.

    Let me know where to ship it and it will be on its way!

    Best wishes
    FIR uber-enthusiast


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