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Media (Apple) Media Spam

Inside the Free iPod Offer 396

jonathanhowell writes "David Lazarus, The SF Chronicle's tech guy, has an article in today's paper with an interesting investigation into the work you have to do to get a "free" (as in beer) iPod. I'm trying not to call it a scam, because it appears completely legal, if ethically challenged." From the article: "What it doesn't say is that the offer terms will expose you to reams of spam and marketing solicitations, that the user survey is actually a lengthy marketing ploy, and that the sponsor offers needed to qualify for that free music player will almost certainly cost you money."
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Inside the Free iPod Offer

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  • One comment.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ebrandsberg ( 75344 ) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:28PM (#11979739)
    Duh, anybody thinking anything is "free" today doesn't value their time, other people's time, or their sanity.
  • by shadowlordseth ( 416064 ) <> on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:29PM (#11979740) Homepage
    I just drop mine on the ground, and have my employer buy me a new one.
    • If I were your employer, I'd know that iPods survive drops to the ground quite well, and instead will fire you, and give the dropped iPod to a new employee.
  • TINSTAAFL, indeed (Score:3, Informative)

    by RobertB-DC ( 622190 ) * on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:29PM (#11979743) Homepage Journal
    As anyone who's read Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress [] knows, the Loonies were schooled in survival, not proper English. "From the TINSTAAFL Dept" may be more proper, but the definition (according to the usual source []) is "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch". Sure, it's a double negative and ain't ain't a word. But I don't think you'll ever hear a Loonie say "There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, by Jove" on their way to High Tea.

    Or perhaps the editors left it that way so that us whiners would have something to bi^Wcomplain about.
    • Or perhaps the editors left it that way so that us whiners would have something to bi^Wcomplain about.

      Or, since they've now changed it to the way Heinlein intended (for whatever that's worth), maybe they started it out with the "I" to make me look like a fool. [checks mirror] Yep, it worked.
    • Re:TINSTAAFL, indeed (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Pfhorrest ( 545131 )
      Not to be a grammar Nazi (I probably can't even spell grammar), but "ain't" is a word, it's just depracated in modern English due to frequeny misusage (such as in the TANSTAAFL acronym). "Ain't" (or an't) is a contraction for "am not", and thus the only proper usage of it would be in the form of "I ain't...". "Is not..." and "are not.." are misusages. But technically, I ain't making any major errors in this sentance.

      (And for those actual grammar Nazis out there, yes, beginning a sentance with "but" or "and
    • When you take your friendly introductory Economics 150 class, the professors usually use 'TINSTAAFL', with an I.

      Anyway, it seems to be 'corrected' to the improper-grammer form (however entymologically prefrable that version may be...)

    • From the same Wiki article you cited:
      "There's no such thing as a free lunch." -- popularized by economist Milton Friedman; New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia spoke it in Latin in 1934

      One might argue that the economist who is credited with first saying it trumps Heinlein.

  • Not Me (Score:5, Funny)

    by Zemplar ( 764598 ) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:29PM (#11979748) Journal
    I'm glad I won't have to worry about falling for those stupid "Free iPod" scams. As soon as my Nigerian friend returns my savings "fiffty fould" I can buy as many iPods as I want!

    Cool, eh?
  • breaking news! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by claussenvenable ( 820336 ) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:29PM (#11979749)
    people offering free expensive things are usually lying!
  • by Hulkster ( 722642 ) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:30PM (#11979759) Homepage
    Currently showing "Overstocked iPod's", "iPod Blowout", etc. ... not surprising given the page content, but you gotta wonder if the iPod scammers are milking it with Google Adwords too?!?

    Join my Folding@HOME Google Toolbar team []

  • by Tuxedo Jack ( 648130 ) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:30PM (#11979764) Homepage
    And I dissected the bastards' EULA at length.

    Read, if you're interested. []
    • Just use a different fucking email id. One from a free provider. And the last part of your last sentence doesn't make sense. And yeah, you'll be bugged by telemarketers, tough luck. You get a free ipod.
    • by Ilgaz ( 86384 ) on Saturday March 19, 2005 @06:38AM (#11983472) Homepage
      You should also write an essay about the amazing lowing profile of Slashdot users.

      See all those lame iPod signatures with referrer? Thats what I talk about. Look when did they subscribe. Look if there is a single 5 digit guy/gal having that signature.

      Yep, that's what I talk about.

      From now on, I admit I will overrate all posts mentioning that lame free iPod. I don't think anything useful/insightful will come out from a guy/gal is so low to abuse signature system of slashdot for a free (!) thing in return.

      I never abused slashdot for years and thats why I have excellent karma. That should give something back to me.

      I don't have to view anything except Slashdot ads while using this site.
  • Simpler way (Score:4, Informative)

    by Profane MuthaFucka ( 574406 ) <> on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:31PM (#11979767) Homepage Journal
    TiVo has a TiVo rewards program. Sign up for a credit card and you get points with your purchases that you can use to get an iPod. If you pay the thing off every month, your iPod is free.

    Besides the iPod, they also have Bose noise cancelling headphones, a Nikon digital camera, a couple types of new TiVo units, and some other lesser things.

    • Yes, sign up now for the new Tivo(TM) Platinum No Hassle card from Capital One and start earning iPoints(TM) that can be redeemed for a new iPod today. Also, with our low introductory rates of just 1.9% for the first six months, you can transfer your existing balance and save money for more important things. Sign up for the new Tivo(TM) Platinum No Hassle card from Capital One today.

      The new Tivo(TM) Platinum No Hassle card from Capital One. What's in your wallet?
    • you do realise that the tivo rewards program is just a normal bonus program of a cc company?

      let's put it this way: how much stuff do you need to buy to get that ipod for 'free'? a car enough? or 1000 dvd's?
      • Well, lessee. Most of the rewards programs offer you something like 1% back. (Amazon offers 5% on their own stuff and 1% on everything else.)

        So a $300 iPod comes free after $30,000 worth of merchandise.

        Personally, that's about two years for me. I put everything through my credit card, partly for the 1% but mostly for the convenience of not carrying cash (as well as the convenience of having the authorities know where I am, what I purchase, what sort of porn I like, etc.)

        The card I use now offers me op
  • by DavisNet ( 558626 ) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:31PM (#11979769) Homepage
    For an uninformed or disconected soul, the "chance" for a free iPod is well worth selling out your vital statistics. I'm always amazed at how easy it is to convice someone to sign on the dotted line, and it's offten only for a T-Shirt.
    This organization simply raized the reward, and thereby made the hoops you must jump through more elaborate.
  • by kevin_conaway ( 585204 ) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:31PM (#11979772) Homepage
    Plain and simple. Same with all the other Free deals.

    Whether you consider the Pyramid Scheme [] a scam, is up to you.
    • No, no, no. You have it all wrong. See, it's not a pyramid scheme. It's a MATRIX. It works _completely_ differently from those old "pyramid schemes". :-)

    • by Dmala ( 752610 ) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:41PM (#11979883)
      Whether you consider the Pyramid Scheme a scam, is up to you.

      Whether you consider the Pyramid Scheme a scam depends on where you are in the pyramid.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      A pyramid scheme is a non-sustainable business model that involves the exchange of money primarily for enrolling other people into the scheme, usually without any product or service being delivered. Pyramid schemes have been in existence for at least a century
      Only a century? Governments have been promising security (social security), peace, love, happiness, progress, and protection from oppression for millenia.

    • by houghi ( 78078 )
      Whether you consider the Pyramid Scheme a scam, is up to you.

      For me it is not up to me. I live in Belgium and the governement has made a law that makes Pyramid Sc(e)ams illegal
    • "First, let me assure you that this is not one of those shady pyramid schemes you've been hearing about. No sir. Our model is the trapezoid!"
  • What???? Don't tell me it's not true!

    It sounded so legitimate.

    Oh well. Even if I don't get a free iPod at least I 'm still getting my free flat screen monitor and my free digital camera.


  • by j!mmy v. ( 613784 ) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:32PM (#11979785)
    iPod Shuffle: $99
    iPod Photo: $349
    wasting your time, money, and creating a new e-mail address because you got r00ked by a net dot scam: PRICELESS

    "For everything else, there's legitimate commerce."
  • Worked for me (Score:3, Informative)

    by L. VeGas ( 580015 ) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:32PM (#11979793) Homepage Journal
    1. I used a throwaway email account.
    2. I signed up for free AOL for broadband.
    3. I put links on my personal website.
    3. I cancelled AOL for broadband 2 weeks later.
    4. I waited about 6 months.
    5. They sent me an iPod.
    6. A week later they sent me a t-shirt as well.

    For every story like mine, there are a bucket of people that never got enough referrers. I think I got in early enough so that it was still a novelty.
    • Re:Worked for me (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Kethinov ( 636034 ) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:53PM (#11980029) Homepage Journal
      I must say, well done. Sometimes putting up with these little sociological hiccups can be rewarding. Sure, you're right, for every story like yours there are dozens more people who get screwed, but that's a risk you take when you sign up for these silly schemes. Nevertheless, you beat the odds. Congratulations!
    • Re:Worked for me (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hackstraw ( 262471 ) * on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:54PM (#11980039)

      7. You helped perpetuate the spamming, pyramid scheme insanity.

      I mean, even the "" is a scam that is not free. Duh, why would they pay for an ad on TV for free stuff?

      FWIW, I foe everyone that has free crap in their sigs on slashdot. This is simply something that is driven by greed, for what? A toy that any working person could buy. They are only what, $400. For the six months and bothering some unknown pyramid amount of people you could have simply saved $67 a month and just bought the thing. Poor people suck. Go ask Kenny.

      There is some degree of merit for working to obtain what one wants in life. Then there is apparently some kind of merit for those that feel the need to exert annoyance on people and exploit people to get what they want in life.

      There is no such thing as a free lunch. There is no such thing as a free iPod. For the $400 they paid you, think about how many of your beloved greedy referrers and their referrers and their referrers were somehow affected by this scheme. Lets be conservative and say it was 128 people total from you that participated, and odds are none of them got iPods. Thats as whopping $3 to "market" to each of them (with results!). Its cheaper, and I imagine more effective than any other form of "marketing".

      The good side, is that it will not last. People will be over the scam in 6 months to a year.
    • Time taken to execute all of this: several hours (not counting the 6-month way).
      Cost of iPod: $300 for a decent one.

      At my salary, it's not worth it. Just pay the cash -- and get it today instead of half-a-year from now.
    • Lacking mod points, I'll simply add a <aol>Me Too</aol>
      Back when gmail was difficult to get, I gave gmail invites in exchange for completed referrals. I never promised that my referrals would get an iPod, just that I'd give them gmail if they helped me get mine.
      For the iPod, I signed up for an offer (Netscape ISP) which I cancelled with no charges. I used a address, which hasn't been hit with any more spam than usual, and I haven't received any postal junk mail or phone solicitation
  • As others have said, nothing is free.

    Beyond that, is the deluge of spam and junk mail that you'll get worth saving a couple of hundred bucks? If you believe the studies that outline how much productivity (and thus time) is lost due to spam, it seems to me that you'll making a bad choice.

    On the other hand, I'm probably not their target market anyhow. Enjoy the spam, folks - just don't bitch at me when you get it!
  • Free? As in beer? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by exley ( 221867 )
    Are you sure about that, chief? Because I think it might be free (as in speech).

    Why do so many Slashdotters insist on adding the "as in beer" or "as in speech" qualifier when it's patently obvious which type of "free" is being discussed? Oh yeah, because a lot of those people think they're really clever. In the words of Tyler Durden, how's that workin' out for 'ya?

    Personally, I'm a big fan of free (as in beer) speech.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:35PM (#11979825)
    From the SlashDot article:

    I'm trying not to call it a scam, because it appears completely legal, if ethically challenged.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but if a person has to buy something, even from another company, to get a "free iPod", then advertising the iPod as "free" is false advertising, no? That makes me not so sure about that "completely legal" part.
    • You're right but you're wrong. Yes, it's illegal in most places to make you buy one thing to get another thing free. In the case of these schemes, though, you only have to sign up for an "offer," which has a free trial period involved. As long as you cancel the offer within the trial period, you've incurred no charges and that's why it's legal. The shady part is that it's not always very clear (pronounced: @#%&ing hidden) how to opt out of the offers. Most people will probably forget about it in 90
    • With Gratis, you just have to do a trial offer and get your friends to do the same. The trial offer can require spending money (like an offer that involved a minimum purchase from an on-line pet store--but that was all right, I needed to nab some Frontline for the house panther anyway), or it may not. Some trial offers may even come with their own freebies, like the $20 gift card to Circuit City that I got for signing up with Buyer's Advantage.

      But you don't send money to Gratis. You don't even pay for t
  • loaded topic (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bad_outlook ( 868902 )
    I know seeing my sigfile makes this post look like irony, but it's on topic, and I'm posting cause I think this program is exactly as descibed in the article. Having said that, anyone who thinks their personal information *isn't* being passed around for $ right now by different 'marketing' companies is naive. Yes, if you sign up you get spam, but guess what? If you don't signup you get spam! Yes, it's a fact of life now, and is why we're all hopping from free email to free email; after time they become
    • I know seeing my sigfile makes this post look like irony, but it's on topic, and I'm posting cause I think this program is exactly as descibed in the article. Having said that, anyone who thinks their personal information *isn't* being passed around for $ right now by different 'marketing' companies is naive. Yes, if you sign up you get spam, but guess what? If you don't signup you get spam! Yes, it's a fact of life now, and is why we're all hopping from free email to free email; after time they become unus
  • by xnerd00x ( 92166 ) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:36PM (#11979840) Journal
    please mod this STORY down as "this is not news - just plain obvious"
  • In other words, you're on your own out there, spamwise, and getting off the mountain of mailing lists you'll end up on will be a long walk indeed.

    Use a disposable e-mail address just long enough to qualify. So many ISP packages these days include 6 free e-mail addresses. That could be 6 iPods right there.

  • Comment removed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by account_deleted ( 4530225 ) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:37PM (#11979850)
    Comment removed based on user account deletion
    • I'm sorry to hear you got flamed.
      Some script kiddies probably got jealous.

      I think everyone knows that this is a piramid scheme, but it also works. You just "hack" the system with dummy email addresses, and get the iPod.

      I myself found it easier to buy a shuffle, than have to nag on my friends, but I've never heard of anyone NOT getting an iPod after sucessfuly jumping through the hoops, while I did hear of people who got theirs.

  • Note that this article is not about the Gratis Networks freeipod offer, which was the first and most well-known, but about one of their more sleazy imitators. Here's another article [] that compares and contrasts a sleazy imitator to the original Gratis Networks.

    Gratis Networks just requires you to do one single promotional offer--and get several of your friends to do the same. Unlike the fraudulent con game that most people are referring to when they say "pyramid scheme" (you know, the "send five bucks to
  • by acomj ( 20611 ) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:42PM (#11979906) Homepage
    The doctors wrote software that integrates the ipod.. And had their employers buy them ipods..

    Pure Geuinus..

    article 1 []

    article []
  • I'm waiting for my chance at a free iMod. Something that will let me mod Slashdot posts up or down in a trendy, mobile package.
  • They are up in ft Lauderdale; one of my friends works there. The company is growing like crazy, and the CEO seems to have the aptitude to hire the right people and do what's needed to get them to work together.

    I would not work for them any more than i would work for a traveling carnival, but keep in mind that shady != incompetent.

  • My experiences... (Score:3, Informative)

    by bmooney28 ( 537716 ) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:46PM (#11979951) Homepage

    Disclaimer: I haven not tried hard nor received
    my free ipod []...


    Several friends of mine have... Some have even gotten free flat panel monitors,
    and even a free Dell Dimension 4000 system... Apparently, it helps to have
    a popular website [] to promote it...
    But the truth of the matter is that SOME of these free offers do exist... Wired
    has published stories [] with mixed results...

    Also, since signing up, I haven't noticed *any* increase in snail mail spam... I
    did not give out my real phone number, and no credit card is necessary. My
    throwaway gmail account has only 8 messages in it (and only 2 may be related...)
    so who knows... I am a believer for the time being....

    • First I'd like to say that I'm a bit skeptical of the story. Mainly the last line:
      "I ended up selling it on eBay," Culbert said happily. "I got $400 for it. " only has the $299 20GB iPods. When I sold mine on ebay I couldn't get more than 280$ out of it.

      My Experiences:
      FreeiPods is by far the easiest to do. So far I've reciveed 7 iPods. Yes, I know this is against their policy, deal. My first one took the longest. I was afraid I'd never get 5 people so I cheated my way up to 5. By the
  • and i suppose you'll also be saying those penis pills are a scam too...
  • Time does not = MONEY!

    You can turn time into money, but you cannot get time for money. Hence time cannot be money. If you were going to sit watching porn for an hour and instead use the time to get a free ipod you just "made money". You used time to do it, but it didn't become money. You're work became money and you worked within that time.

    So lets change it to Time + Effort = money k?
  • As bad as this industry may be, the companies involved are doing very well. Gratis Networks, Netblue(yfdirect/, and are all growing business with millions in revenue each month. With all the available money and the fact that a sucker is born every minute, these type of free offers are not going away anytime soon. What I fail to understand is how companies like netflix, ebay, and credit cards continue to pay for lousy inctivized customers.
  • Scam and not scam... (Score:5, Informative)

    by NYTrojan ( 682560 ) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:57PM (#11980066)
    I've seen those consumer incentive places and they look pretty sleezy to me, but I DID get an ipod for free from And it really was free.... with the possible exception of some junk mail to my house (easy enough to throw away) and some spam to an email account I don't use, and some telemarketing to a phone number that isn't really mine (When forced, I give out numbers that are a few digits off).

    Seriously people I don't get the "They're going to spam me under" argument. Who doesn't have access to a 'spam account' now a days? If not, get a free one from google. As to the 'deals' they make you do, if you're careful you and your friends won't have to pay a dime. The key is be CAREFUL...

    oh and avoid that consumer incentive one... but just looking at that site should be evidence enough
  • by Mr. Cancelled ( 572486 ) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:59PM (#11980079)
    Now maybe all you iPod owner wannabe's can remove the "Get a free ipod" link from your signature lines? For that matter, why not remove the free mini mac offers while we're at it?
  • I signed up with my gmail account and have not received ONE single piece of spam. When you sign up you simply don't check the two check boxes about future offers etc. That was 2 months ago and still, no spam. The two people I got to do offers have seen zero spam as well.

    And not to defend their business model but they are pretty upfront about the whole thing. They don't lie to you and try to trick you in any way. The offers you have to do many times comes from reputable vendors like Blockbuster etc. And ye
  • Now, how about a Free iSun Fire E25K?
  • by tekunokurato ( 531385 ) <> on Friday March 18, 2005 @06:19PM (#11980263) Homepage
    The point of free ipod is to offer you something that costs essentially only time, as opposed to mountains of cash. That, to the vast majority of people out there, is valuable. I've got a pal who paid people to sign up for the orders for him and collected his ipod for about $50 bucks. Saved a boatload of money.
  • by Dr. Zowie ( 109983 ) <slashdot@ d e f o r e s t .org> on Friday March 18, 2005 @06:38PM (#11980457)
    A looong time ago, I tried the "Green Laser Pointer" scheme, a protytype of this one (I think also run by Niu). That was about three years ago. I never got the green laser pointer, but my mail server still gets about 800 spams/day addressed to the pseudo I used.
  • by vincey37 ( 563081 ) <vincey37@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Friday March 18, 2005 @08:28PM (#11981207)
    First of all, the company profiled, Incentive Reward Center, is not the freeiPod company. They aren't even on the radar. Gratis Internet operates the most well known freeiPod site, while OfferCentric comes in second. Both are reputable companies that have good track records shipping products and providing customer service. Secondly, the author compains about spam. Both Gratis and Offercentric do not spam your email addresses. I have had over twenty people do referrals under me with these two corporations and have had no trouble. Finally, there is the issue of paying for offers. This is a total non starter because you know the terms of each offer before you choose to complete it! There are several free offers, including the easy eFax, which even allows cancellations within the 14 day trial to be done online. I can confirm eFax does not spam either. Is getting free stuff from these sites difficult? Yes. Is it feasible? Definately. Don't let this poorly researched article scare you away if you're dedicated.
  • by pcp_ip ( 612017 ) on Friday March 18, 2005 @08:52PM (#11981341) Homepage

    It works [] but it's more ponzi scheme than pyramid. Only the early ones in receive anything.

  • TINSTAAFL = There is no such thing as a free lunch. In this case, there is no such thing as a free iPod, as you have to not only sell your information to spammers, but also apply for offers for more services on the web as well.

    I I present a new acronym:

    TINSTAAFI = There is no such thing as a free iPod
  • Cost of Time (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sexistentialist ( 684258 ) on Friday March 18, 2005 @10:50PM (#11981984) Homepage
    People fail to realize that their time has value. The chump who got his $400 ipod in exchange for lots of pain with opening and closing accounts, shelling out some cash, arguing with vendors, using bunk email addresses so as not to drown beneath the deluge of spam, and so on, probably spent 40 hours overall. If you subtract the $75 from $400 and divide the remainder by 40, you end up with a cost per hour of about $8.13. I suppose that you could argue that taxes and such make the Ipod worth more, or the hours worth less, or something, but I would counter with the cost of the pain of having to deal with all of these issues.

    Another way to look at it is to compare the cost of those hours against the cost of doing something else, from an overall well-being perspective. Perhaps instead of spending 40 hours fenagling a free Ipod from some shyster in Florida the chump would have a higher quality of life doing something he actually liked.

    Maybe people just undervalue their time.

    Maybe people just get obsessed with the idea of "free."
  • by crivens ( 112213 ) on Friday March 18, 2005 @11:05PM (#11982065)
    The old addage holds true now just as much as it always has:

    "You don't get owt for nowt".

    If you think otherwise, you're either stupid or I'm missing something really obvious that could make me a lot of money.
  • by Ilgaz ( 86384 ) on Saturday March 19, 2005 @06:27AM (#11983443) Homepage
    Please guys, gals... Modify the lameness filter so the signatures having sort of referrer in the URL doesn't pass.

    I don't care if its scam or real. They give us no choice than disabling legit signatures displayed.

    This thing goes bigger each day. Stop before it becomes crisis.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.