Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Couponing for Beginners Part 6: Free Sample Ins and Outs

This week's "Couponing for Beginners" is focusing on free samples, why they are great and what steps you should take to protect yourselves from the bad areas of free sample scams.

When you start going to the deals blogs, you will quickly that there are a lot of free samples of products available to request, as well as coupon booklets and other offers. You might wonder if requesting free samples is worth all the trouble since most free sample requests require you to fill out a form, or in some cases, a survey to receive the sample.

It is worth the time and effort to request these samples. Not only can you build up your stockpile with these items (heck I have enough free samples of toothpaste to last me a year without having to TOUCH regular sized tubes), but a lot of times you can get some really nice high value coupons with those samples (for instance a recent free sample of Taster's Choice sticks came with a 1.00/1 Taster's Choice Sticks coupons which could score you the smaller boxes of sticks for .50 about after coupon).

But there is a reason to be cautious. No matter how careful the owners of a site, some scams masquerading as free samples can slip through. If you have signed up for these free samples, usually your e-mail will be sold to loads of non-legitimate companies, and you will receive loads of span in your inbox as a result.  There are some steps I recommend to help protect you from loads of unwanted junk mail in your inbox.

One: I never sign up for a freebie unless I see it on a couple of sites I trust (use your Alaska blogs to do this for you). If, even after you see it on a site you trust, you are mistrustful of a freebie available, I recommend shooting the guys at Heyitsfree.net. Those guys are AWESOME at their job. They track down the companies that actually post freebies to a point that is totally amazing to me (down to tracking down mailing addresses and e-mails of owners and stuff in a lot of cases). I've scanned a few freebies I was unsure of through them before posting them here first, and they have always done great at letting me know if the freebie was a scam or not.

Next, I would suggest going to gmail (www.gmail.com), hotmail (www.hotmail.com) or other free mail service and sign up for a new e-mail just for online free sample and coupon dealings (honestly if you buy a lot of daily deals...you know Groupons and such...you might want to get two different e-mails, one for free samples and one for the Groupons...trust me you'll be amazed at the amount of e-mails you get deluged with). This will help to preserve your sanity as these services offer spam filters that will catch about 98 percent of the spam you may receive.

Never give out your phone number unless it is to a company you trust and you feel like receiving phone calls. If you want to take the chance of getting telemarketing calls, use your cell phone or a phone with Caller ID. And never give out your credit card number (there is no reason to if the sample is free). Anything that tells you there are “participation requirements” for “sponsor offers” is a scam and I urge you to steer clear of them (or, trust me, you will regret it).

One company I trust 100 percent and has always sent its samples is Walmart.com. Wal-Mart offers a variety of samples online to request through startsampling.com (a reputable company) and these samples do come (sometimes samples don’t come to Alaska from other companies).

This seems like a lot of work, but it does pay off in the end. I have received many free samples in the past (I even have a travel-size storage space for the loads of free samples I receive) and some of the full-sized samples I am even going to use as Christmas gifts. I’m not trying to warn you off of free samples, I am just stressing a note of caution and trying to protect you from things I fell victim to when I started requesting samples.

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