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.