Earlier this year, I got a letter in the mail from Dairy Queen with a $5 gift card. The company was writing to follow up and apologize for a recent complaint I had made, and the $5 was a gesture to keep me as a customer. Maybe it was wrong of me to spend it, but you better believe I did. (A free Moolatte? Hells yes!!) Wrong, you ask? Why would this be wrong? Well, you see… I didn’t make the complaint.
Before you chastise me, for maybe sort of kind of “stealing” (?), let me tell you another story that redeems myself and balances out my karma.
I was at a pita place and the two obviously new girls behind the counter who had NO CLUE what they were doing. It got to the point where a guy in line went behind the counter to man the grill (and save all that burning bacon!). Seriously. At the time, I didn’t care – I was fricken hungry, in a rush, and could see that they didn’t spit in my food, so good enough for me! But when I got back to work and shared this story with a coworker, she told me I should call the health inspector and report them. But I eat at this place regularly and didn’t want them to shut down – especially if it was “my fault”. Instead, I emailed the owner to let him know what had happened. (Maybe it was a dick move, but my heart was in the right place.) As expected, he wrote back thanking me/apologizing and offered me a $50 gift certificate. $50!!! That’s like 6.25 pitas!! My broke-ass was so, so, so, so, so tempted to take it, but I couldn’t. Sure the service that day sucked, but I’ve never had bad service there before (or since), and my “traumatic experience” was worth maybe a free combo upgrade at the most; certainly not $50. (So see, I’m not a Greedy Gretchen after all.)
Now, I’m by no means above taking a discount or incentive if the service I received really was awful. Like my latest adventures with a certain airline that I’ve flown with a dozen times since in the last 3 years. (I know, I know, complaining about airlines is so cliché!) On my last two trips, between the 4 planes I was on (thank you stupid layovers), my seat was double-booked – twice, the “lavatory” was out of service, there was no food on one flight because of a catering delay, and there was no food on another due to a peanut allergy onboard (you don’t have anything that’s “nut free”?). I already have issues with this airport, because I have to leave the secure area on the domestic side, go back to the main boarding area and through security again on the international side because of “over-crowding” in the lounge. So I complained, and was offered a $50 promo code for my next flight with them. And I plan to redeem it. Chances are I’d have flown with this airline again anyways (despite all these issues, they are less than half the price of other airlines, and I’m cheap) but I feel like I deserve this $50.
I’m pretty sure that when you complain to any company these days, their response is going to be to offer you a discount or something for free. But is it ethical to complain for the sake of complaining, or as a money saving technique? As evidenced by Tom Locke’s 39 Dollar Experiment back in 2006, you can get free stuff from companies in an more honest way, by essentially writing love letters to them and asking for free products. (He appears to have been more successful than this Peter guy at Complain For Free Stuff but both of their letters are a humorous way to waste a little time online.)
But alas, people of the Internet, I pose this question to you all:
Have you ever complained to a company just to get free stuff?