Bailout Bill Offers New Yorkers $50-$5,000 from his Bailout Booth

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Bailout Bill Offers New Yorkers $50-$5,000 from his Bailout Booth

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Giving stuff away for free appears to be a hot trend. Bailout Bill’s bailout booth in New York (this will make sense once you read the article) is drawing lines as massive as yesterday’s Denny’s giveaway. The BBC reports:

In New York, a man is giving away stacks of cash to anyone who’s prepared to stand in line for it. The mystery man, who calls himself ‘Bailout Bill’, says in the middle of an economic crisis ordinary Americans who are struggling to make ends meet deserve a bailout.

In order to get the money people have to go the ‘Bailout Booth’ in the heart of Manhattan’s Times Square. It’s a small cubicle, a couple of blocks away from the massive Virgin Megastore. The minimum anyone can get is $50 (£35). The maximum is $5,000 (£3,513). No matter who you are or what you do Bailout Bill guarantees that you’ll get something if you just show up and tell your story.

Hundreds have already braved the freezing temperatures to get their free dosh. Some have stood in line for hours before getting to the front.

His staff hold up banners which have the address of his website printed on them. They encourage the public to go online and check it out. It’s an advertising site where people can post their videos and adverts in order to sell items they no longer want.

After New York, the Bailout Booth will make its way to Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC.

Several weeks ago, Suave, Unilever’s budget cosmetics branch, gave away free shampoo. Yesterday, Denny’s gave people free Grand Slam breakfasts. Now it’s Bailout Bill’s turn to give out money and cross his fingers that people want to use his video commercial service.

Yesterday, commenter JoyfulC pointed out that giving stuff away for free probably costs less than a big marketing campaign, while giving the company maximal exposure. It’s an excellent point–why put up a commercial nobody will watch, or a banner ad that people learn to ignore?

There’s a cultural aspect to the give stuff away for free trend, too. We’re in a situation where we don’t really trust government, don’t trust big corporations, and feel ripped off in general. When a company like the one behind the Bailout Booth steps up to the plate and offers a hand, free of obligation, visitors associate that company with feelings of appreciation and gratitude.

These two sentiments are pretty scarce right now. When you think about it from an economics standpoint–where good juju is a type of soft currency, in demand, and scarce–freebies make perfect sense.

That doesn’t stop them from being a gamble, though. People like and appreciate companies for giving them stuff they need, like money and food. But the fact remains that nobody’s spending. The freebie folks may get good sentiment, and improve their reputation long-term, but the quality of their ROI remains to be seen.

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About The Author
Drea Knufken
Drea Knufken
Currently, I create and execute content- and PR strategies for clients, including thought leadership and messaging. I also ghostwrite and produce press releases, white papers, case studies and other collateral.
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  • February 4, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    this is incredible… why have i not seen this guy? thanks for the heads up on this! just came upon your site, love the witty banter. perhaps you’ll enjoy our new club for those receiving New York’s $405 Unemployment Benefit per week, New York’s fastest growing club:

  • JoyfulC
    February 7, 2009 at 5:58 am

    I was so tickled to see that you quoted me!

    …but that’s not exactly what I said. I think the Denny’s free Grand Slam breakfast campaign was a stroke of genius, but “giving away free stuff” isn’t always all that effective.

    In Denny’s case, the costs of doing this were probably not much higher or lower than a CanAm-wide advertising blitz. And they’re an established chain, so I suspect that rather than bringing in new customers, their goal was to secure customer favour at a time when many customers are looking for ways to cut back. They’re competing for their established customers’ business in a contracting market. I think they’ll get good results from this campaign.

    But on the other hand, think about how many pens, pads of paper, etc. you have sitting around your office from someone who perhaps got the idea that you made your purchasing choices on the basis of who gave you the best free pen. (Or perhaps they think that having their name under your nose every time you jot down a number will make you think of them when they need something — which could be, but every time I clean out my desk, I find pens with company names that I couldn’t associate with any product or service.) I’ve never once been influenced in a purchasing decision by a free pen — have you?

    But, on the other hand, I do some resume writing, and years ago, in the early 90s, I used to give my clients a couple sheets of laser-printed labels with their resume packages. Although I won’t claim I planned it all out this way, these label sheets did a lot for my business in that my customers loved them (few had their own laser printers in those days). Right away, I was getting calls: “Did my friend phone you? She did? Oh good, I gave her your number. Say… since I gave you a referral, do you think I could get another couple sheets of those labels?” ??? This never would have occurred to me.

    But on the other hand, I’ve always found it annoying and pushy that when I buy high-end cosmetics, they make a big deal of giving me a “free gift.” First, I know it isn’t “free.” It’s a marketing campaign, which comes out of the company’s operating expenses, which is figured into the price. I’d rather pay less. Second, they usually select the samples in the “free gift” to suit some sort of average. Trouble is, I’m not average. I have trouble finding cosmetics that don’t make me look garish. So when I take the “free gift” home and try the samples, and I look like something out of Night Of The Living Dead, that can’t be good, right?

    But on the other hand, the words “free shipping” can and have influenced my choice between two or more similar vendors.

  • February 8, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    oh plz, Bill help me.
    viens en France me donner 50 dollars car je n’ai presque rien à manger, mon frigo est vide.
    J’ai 52 ans,je suis un père de famille & un travaileur français trés pauvre.Je gagne trés peu d’argent avec mon job de jardinier & je n’ai aucune aide sociale quelconque. L’état français est comme l’ex-gouvernement américain avec Bu$h;l’état français est trés gentil avec les riches & les banques & il est trés dur avec les familles,les gens,& les travailleurs pauvres en france… Bill envoies moi 50 ou 100 dollars(par courrier ou par Paypal) si tu veux….

    (Bill,i live in france & im a very poor worker whit a family.
    Im in depression whit a diabets, & my wiffe are very sick(hepatit,diabetis, ect….)
    have you 100 £ for eat for my family?
    by post office or Paypal)

    February 26, 2009 at 11:35 am


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