This post is overdue (by about 20 years). I’ve never once posted about this topic, but it’s probably time I did. I’m going to link it to my website somewhere since this is so overdue.
This post is about free food. No, I’m not giving away any free food (sorry). This post is about why free food is unethical.
I have received a LOT of requests for free food. Hundreds and hundreds per year. Here is an example I received today:
I am looking and researching long term food storage now and need to see if you send out samples to try. I am looking to buy a year supply for 3 people but need to try it first. Maybe you could tell me how to figure out how much I need and mail me a few samples for myself and my 3 children to try. Thanks and I would love to try this food and get a shelf life list too.
From past experience spanning two decades, it’s clear what Crystal is hoping for, but hasn’t the courage to actually ask outright.
When I receive these requests (which occurs several times per week), I always hesitate. How do I respond? Our contact page (which was used) already covers this topic, but this is often ignored.
Any reply I write that doesn’t say Yes! Free Food Available Here! How much do you want? doesn’t satisfy, no matter how carefully I might write a reply. The unethical expectation these requests always convey is troublesome and problematic, so here is the detailed explanation of why I find these requests unethical and irresponsible.
But first, my reply:
We have sample sizes available for purchase, but we do not send out free samples. We have a Samples link here for the smaller serving sizes.
The amount of food you need is easily calculated with our Food Calculator. There are also a zillion food plans that are already pre-configured, the 1 year plans can be used as examples for size needed per person.
Shelf life of our food products and lines can be found here, Bulk Food Shelf Life.
A few minutes later, Crystal replied:
NO thank you. I do not plan on buying from any company who does not allow sampling first. I will not be shopping with your company.
In other words, only free sampling (i.e., “meet my demands”) is deemed to be the correct reply by Crystal, versus the “pay for what you try” reply. Crystal did not bother to state this fact up front (as she should have) – so who is being more honest here? Which is more ethical? Read on.
While amusing on one hand, this is a disturbing trend today. Some people truly expect companies to give them freebies. They dangle the “promise” of a potential future sale as justification for the request. Merchants are suppose to go along with this, after all, it means a sale someday, right? And isn’t that the goal, to make sales?
The focus to make “sales” is actually a poor way to conduct business. Money becomes the primary motivation while ignoring everything else.
Who wants to do business with a company that will do anything to make sales? When money becomes more important then simply speaking the truth? I’d written a detailed response, doing my best to assist Crystal with her inquiry, but alas, this was rejected. No skin off my nose – her reply was the making of a bad customer who believes that she is entitled to free food. The lack of ethics at work here (or not working here) is appalling.
At the heart of these requests is an unethical demand which can be summarized as follows:
Give me something for nothing and I’ll consider giving you something in return, someday.
In other words, this is a type of verbal contract (unenforceable by the merchant of course), offering an unfair exchange bound with an empty promise (it’s not redeemable and carries no monetary value or even any exchangeable value for anything).
To put this in a real context – nobody is going to be able to say “Hey, I gave you free food, so now you owe me a sale”. If they could, that would be a redeemable promise, but they can’t, and therefore, it is an nonredeemable promise without any value or even any date.
The actual scope of this unfair exchange may astound you – because it actually affects everyone, everywhere. If you have EVER bought ANYTHING (and everyone has) then read on.
It is unethical to support those who refuse to support themselves. This is crystal clear (no pun intended, that was the name she gave) – Crystal was not willing to do anything herself and will only cater to those that do this for her.
This is an absurd expectation. It’s also highly irresponsible behavior. Nobody has the right to do this or demand others to submit to this. You are entirely responsible for yourself. But unfortunately, this is pretty common today.
Now imagine what this means in our collapsing future. Or just imagine a worse “welfare” state then we already have today. Most of us are literally surrounded by lazy people who are unwilling to help themselves. What will they be like when the chips are down? Pounding on your door for help? Begging for “free” but unable to lift a finger or pay their own way in time, labor or money, giving you virtually nothing in exchange for what you gave away for free?
Did they prepare when they had the opportunity? Did they even consider the possibility? Or will they do what they’ve always done – expect others to take care of them?
Maybe they’ll just try to survive on the “samples” they ripped off from all those companies that allowed this behavior…
Just how long will you be able to endure such people until you have been depleted of your substance and resources? That is EXACTLY what these people are doing now to merchants and this ridiculous demand for “free”, “or else”. They refuse the essential responsibility to pay for what they get and illogically expect someone else to do this for them, never considering the costs or the impacts. Under a collapse / crisis condition – these are not the people I would want for neighbors (or fellow countrymen), nor do I wish to encourage this activity in any way. But it has proven VERY hard to “edjumacate” the dumb ones, so I’ve had to resort to this post.
Too harsh? Here’s another one:
I just started what you would call “prepping” I suppose, and I am looking into food options for myself and my wife. I have heard from a few of my friends who are also prepping that they have tried your products and enjoyed them and that I should try them as well. I’m considering ordering a large amount of emergency food and was wondering if you would send me a sample of a couple of your products so I could try them before I spent several hundreds of dollars without knowing the quality of the product. How would you rate your products as far as taste goes?
We do not offer any free samples and neither do the companies we carry. We do have sample / small sizes available on the website for purchase.
We only carry the best brands, so we’re going to say that ours also taste best, but it’s more then taste, it’s also nutrition and quality that make good food “good”.
There are many places to buy food, but not all of them are good deals. We’ve got a lot of information listed under our Information section that we suggest you review.
thanks for nothing, if your not even willing to help a customer make a decision, then you wont be getting my business, you just lost about a grand in sales.
Usually, I don’t even bother with a follow-up to such people, because I gave him accurate information (as I did with Crystal); responded exactly to his request in a timely manner; and pointed him to even more information, which was all totally rejected.
But this time I did respond, because Brad is not who he claims to be (I looked up his entire history online after reading this exchange):
We didn’t lose anything, not even our temper. Making a “decision” is not based upon giving away free products, but if that’s what you think, then the only thing we “lost” was a bad customer. We’d much rather you shopped elsewhere, taking your bad attitude with you.
But Brad isn’t finished:
Top notch customer service as well, I’ll be posting these emails on prepper forums all over the internet so people will know not to buy your products, have a wonderful day.
Go for it. I’m sure my lawyer will have fun with your libel. Even your “threats” are grounds for litigation (because they are illegal).
You sir, are just a bad apple, as evidenced by your childish behavior. Grow up or you will regret it.
Brad is a total fraud (in more ways then one). I located his online postings, address and more. Brad is another scam-artist, pretending to be something he’s not (I suspect he’s still living in his mother’s basement). He’s stupid and willing to risk litigation (or worse) to spread his poison because he didn’t get his way. Is THAT the behavior of a future responsible customer? Absolutely not – but it is the behavior of a child-man who throws a tantrum.
I do NOT tolerate bad behavior. No means no and it is NOT cause for bad behavior because no means no. It simply means No. However, to tolerate or encourage bad behavior because it may mean “a sale” someday is an abandonment of ethics.
What would you rather have? A company with no ethics or a company that stood up for what is right (and said so)?
Pointing out bad behavior always means “no sale”, but it also means ethics and standards of acceptable behavior exist and will be adhered to – despite the costs. It also means that if you ARE a customer, then you’re going to be treated fairly instead of capriciously, based upon “a sale”. Who wants to be shoved to the back of the line because someone else made a bigger sale then you did?
Bad behaving people are not customers and never will be (not here) – they’re assholes and they shit upon everything as they exit the door. They always leave a mess and they never claim any responsibility for what they’ve done. This is a clear sign that they are untrustworthy, dishonest, irresponsible and rude. They’re definitely not welcome here.
Asking others to do for you what you SHOULD be doing for yourself is prima facie evidence that you have no intentions of keeping your word, and you have refused to invest anything in yourself. These steps are essential for ethical behavior to even exist, otherwise if they are absent, nothing claimed can be assumed to be true because the ethics governing self-responsibility are absent, and therefore, it is very unlikely you will do anything you’ve claimed.
Remember, it is not what people SAY that matters – it’s what people DO that matters. Doers take initiative, responsibility and ownership of their actions. And they don’t freeload or expect someone else to pay their way or throw a shit-fit when they don’t get what they want. These sorts of people are children, acting like children and SOMEBODY needs to speak up.
Here are a few more thoughts on the subject:
Free food is a scam to get you to buy something. It’s usually offered by those with obscene profit margins (which is where you will find it most often), which means you’ll be paying too much if you did purchase from them later. But that’s ok, since the ethics of the freeloaders isn’t about the math, or the costs or the honesty or the profits, it’s about “did you succumb to my demands” and “I don’t care what this will cost the merchant” attitudes. They don’t intend to buy any food anyway.
If you did succumb to their demands – great, “then maybe I’ll buy something from you…” or most likely, not because these people are actually freeloaders at heart. If you did not succumb to their demands, then you’ve suddenly become the scum of the Earth (ignoring all your previous attempts to help them, a perfect example of this was Albert Lewis, probably the worst customer I’ve ever had) and a you’re a “bad company” because “you won’t help me for free“.
Uh, yeah, actually I did. But such people aren’t bright enough to even realize how or even where they were helped for free. But I won’t help you be LAZY or IRRESPONSIBLE. You’re expected to take ownership of yourself and your actions. That’s very reasonable and ethical. I’ve helped thousands of people setup their food plans and food storage. It’s why all that information is there.
There’s also no consideration of anything else (like reputation, value or quality of products, timeliness of customer service, etc.). You’re just “bad” because you didn’t fall for the demands of “make it free to me“. This narrow-minded selfish attitude is simply wrong and needs to stop.
Free food (or free anything) is also done by those desperate to make a sale or pawn off inferior or dated products. But this doesn’t seem to matter either, since it’s “free” after all. Many people simply go online and demand free samples from as many companies as they can find (they’ve told me they’ve done this, and you can read such comments all over online). They have NO intentions of ever buying anything. They don’t see anything wrong with this behavior either since “you offered this” and therefore, it’s neither unethical or immoral in their mind. This is an abdication of responsibility on one’s own actions and complicity, and a deflection of just who is being “bad” and who is not, who is freeloading and who isn’t. I’ve never found such people desirable customers because they’re unethical and irresponsible freeloaders.
We’ve all seen it. Go to Costco on Saturdays and watch how people will go from one free food vendor to another, “sampling” the offerings as they gorge themselves. Costco is NOT required to do this. Nobody is. They do this because they want to, because they can afford to, and because they know they can play upon the guilt-factor and raise prices to cover this. Since you ate it, you should buy something…
It’s a great selling tool for those that stoop to this technique, but it’s encouraging bad behavior. There is no such thing as “free” anywhere. Ultimately every single connedsumer winds up paying for what is claimed to be free with higher prices. While this is considered an acceptable practice by consumers and businesses alike, it’s really not. Nobody else is responsible for you – only you are. And I do not like paying more then I should when I shop because there are so many people now who abuse this “generosity” (which it isn’t – it is a marketing scam resulting in higher prices for EVERYONE, which is also unfair to everyone).
Bad behavior isn’t “free” either, it always costs somebody something. I’ve written before about dishonest customers ripping off UPS and FedEx (and the canneries) with bogus claims of missing products or damaged goods – that’s why shipping is as high as it is today because this kind of fraud is a HUGE problem EVERYWHERE, costing billions of dollars per year (legitimate claims notwithstanding). If this fraud were stopped, shipping would cost half of what it does today, but tens of thousands of thieves engage in this activity. I finally found a way to put a stop to this with my company after watching in dismay as fraudulent claims were filed again and again. But a lot of other companies simply don’t bother trying, which ultimately makes them enablers.
In the real examples above, both Crystal and Brad deem free food as their “right” somehow. It’s not a right – it’s a gimmick, and an expensive one (to everyone) at that.
Free samples (in this business) are not “free”. They cost a company about $20 each with product and shipping. In the course of a week, this can be $100 – $200 dollars rather easily. That represents $1000 – $2000 in sales just to cover this cost. Add that up over a year and it’s definitely expensive, and will result in higher prices for everyone. That’s why my prices are so low – I don’t (and won’t) play this game. It’s unfair to you, it’s unfair to me. The only fair way is for everyone to pay for what they receive. Most people will agree with this – everyone should pay their own way. But some still think “free” can be demanded. They’re wrong.
The “promise of a sale” always accompanies these request. This is the broken “hook” to get a merchant to go along with the offer, “I’ll become a future customer if you give me free food to try now“. Paying you to become a customer means both of us are unethical, engaging in an unfair exchange – and you’re the one who is actually causing this problem. A ethical and fair exchange is for you to pay for what you receive. That’s business.
For evidence of these points, I have received numerous replies that essentially say “No free food? Then I’m not going to become a customer“. It’s pretty obvious where their ethics are. I’ve already made my “investment” in myself and my company with the best site in the industry and thousands of hours of time, but that does not extend to compromising my ethics to stoop to these ridiculous demands.
Frankly, I deem these claims of “future sales” to be generally bogus. Anyone who is unwilling to invest in themselves by refusing to pay for what they receive has no intentions of doing anything else.
Those that do (and undoubtedly, some do go on to do this elsewhere) are simply being cheap. They refuse to spend any money up front – but they want YOU to do it. That’s illogical. It’s also not how the real world works. You don’t get to try out free tires and see if you like them, or ask the butcher at Safeway to let you take home a steak and try it out or get the hardware store to give you a free door hinge. Nobody does this in reality except the small tiny samples at supermarkets. The online hucksters that are shoveling free food samples out are doing this for a reason – it’s crappy, inferior and cheap food.
- If you’re unwilling take the responsibility of paying your own way, nobody else should do this for you either.
- Free food (supplied to you) is not a right – it is an unjust, unfair demand and unethical if you think it is.
- Free food is actually a scam to get you to buy something.
- Free food plays upon the guilt card (this rarely works anymore because ethics are rare).
- Free food is often used to discard inferior products (you don’t get the good stuff).
- The promise of a future sale does not carry any meaning if you refuse to pay for what you receive. It’s simply an empty promise.
- There is no such thing as “free” – this is a myth.
- Free food means higher prices for everyone.
- Advertising to one customer at a time with free food is a very poor advertising method (it doesn’t work because it is seriously abused, see below).
- Free is actually a gimmick (always, everywhere) – no matter what is being said. It’s NOT free. You will pay for it in higher prices wherever and whatever you wind up purchasing.
I SHOULD mention something I’ve eye witnessed many times. I’ve attended a number of trade shows where free food giveaways occur. I sat directly across from the exhibitor where I could witness everything. Can after can of food is opened over the course of two days or so and passed out in small sample cups, which once emptied (eaten) are tossed, filling up the nearby trash can. I’ve never once seen a single sale result in this effort.
None of this is my product lines (I don’t do this), it’s a competitors line of food that I won’t carry (it’s crappy food). I do not know the exact reason why these efforts resulted in no sales. Either people are taking advantage of this free food, or they do not like it (I didn’t like it), or they do not have any money then, or the timing isn’t right or whatever the reasons actually are – no sales were witnessed. Not a single one.
I’ve seen the disgust on the faces of these exhibitors. Table displays costs quite a bit for a weekend, they’re out thousands of dollars for some events. Some never come back. I never see them again. But the bottom line – free food giveaways don’t generate sales as claimed. They generate crowds at times (depending on event), but not much else.
This would also be a great place to expose the truth about “free shipping” and the many bogus claims made, but it would make this post too long.
Adventure Support Requests
I’ve also received numerous request for “adventure support”. Dozens and dozens of these request each year.
These are individuals and groups that are intending to take an extended vacation usually lasting several months to even several years. Most will write carefully detailed requests about their adventure and reasons for doing this, ultimately to wind up asking for free food in “support” in their email. What they’re really asking for in reality is several thousand of dollars of freebies (each).
They make the same type of verbal contract above: “support us and we’ll promote you later“. This is the same thing as “I’ll buy from you later“. Most really don’t seem to have any real idea of what they’re asking for. Many don’t have a website, or a marketing plan or an even an advertising plan for their supporters. Most think that by giving them free product support, that this will somehow magically turn into “sales” from their fan base years down the road. Most are actually quite clueless that this simply never works (I’ve tried it).
I’ve tried explaining to several in the past year why their “plan” is inadequate and poorly expressed and even why their efforts at finding sponsorships are failing (many include this in their initial emails). So far, none of them have bothered with any sort of reply, telling me I’m wasting my time to try and encourage them to take the right steps. Oh well.
Sponsorship only works on television (as far as I can tell). While I do support many of these ideas and their desire for adventure, that’s as far as I’ll go beyond a cash donation here or there (which I’ve done) anymore. I’ve yet to see a single sale in 20 years resulting in any of the support or free products that I’ve given away – it doesn’t work. Nothing comes of it. But I know why – these sort of things do not (and never have) reached real customers. Probably not their fault, after all, they’re off wandering around in the middle of nowhere, but there it is.
Generally, it’s a bad idea to think someone will give you something for nothing unless you offer something in return. Humans are very competitive, always seeking advantage over each other in virtually everything that they do. This behavior isn’t free either by the way, something that I don’t think is well understood. It creates competition and demand, which in turn create markets and costs. And none of this is free (and never will be).
The only things that are free in this life are those things that have yet to be owned (or sold, which is the same thing in reality). Everything else comes at a price, somewhere, somehow.