FREE! What a powerful word. Among the most used, recognized and acted upon words in the world. The power of free!
One really does not know when the practice of freebies started. But suffice to say that this has become one of the more powerful promotion tools for any brand owner as also retailers. Many a times the consumer makes a final choice on what is being given Free. Many brands have created fads and cults with their freebies and a good example is the craze for Tazzos which was triggered by a potato wafer brand.
I have seen many situations where the power of free is on display. Children insisting that their parents buy something because a toy is free with it, ladies purchasing a personal product because an utility item is free and so on. However, the power of free was best demonstrated when I witnessed the following incident.
It was yet another opening of a swank, new modern supermarket. Offers and more offers made customers queue up and wait in the sun. Once the store was ‘inaugurated’ the mad rush began. I was a part of this crowd and suffice to say that I was carried into the store with minimal effort, thanks to my co-shoppers excitement. Soon my trolley was full and I rushed to pay and get out before getting caught behind a long line.
I emerged victoriously clutching my bill which said that there were so many interesting Freebies I had to collect. As I waited in the counter where they were handing over these free products I noticed a very upset middle aged lady. She was smartly dressed and was addressing the counter staff in excellent English and not sparing them. After observing the scene for some time I could surmise that she had purchased for a particular value which was almost twice the limit for a promotion and was demanding an additional freebie. Given the intensity of the debate, I got interested in case I had missed out on this offer. The staff were explaining that the free was not only based on the value of purchase but should also include some specific product.
I guess after some time the staff thought that it is better to give one more freebie and avoid the scene as also the ire of customers who were waiting for their turn. I was curiously waiting to see the freebie, which was the triumphant result of the lady’s efforts. To be frank, I was a bit disappointed when the staff handed over a medium sized ordinary looking plastic bucket, to the lady.
The lady picked up the bucket, thanked the person and turned to imperiously hand over the bucket to a smart uniformed person, who I noticed was standing in the side, saying ‘Keep it in the car’. This particular incident intrigued me more than the reality of someone insisting and getting a bucket as free. With growing amazement I watched the lady march towards a gleaming black, imported luxury sedan and get into the car. The driver dutifully placed the bucket in the boot and off they went!
Retail trivia – Many a times we would have asked that the price of the freebie adjusted as a discount and we are told that the discount offered would be a fraction of the price of such a freebie. Its might be puzzling as to why we don’t get the full value as a discount. The reason is very simple. These freebies are sourced in bulk and purchased at a fraction of their stated price. Hence, only that amount can be given as a discount if any customer insists on it. Its better to take the freebie and gift it to someone than lose out on the value by insisting on a discount!
This article is part of a series this author wrote for "The Hindu, Retail Plus".
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