Last week, I left the office during the lunch hour, and went to grab a quick bite to eat. I work in Chicago, so there is frequently a lot of “hustle and bustle” in the middle of the day. People in suits, business casual folks (like me), tourists – people from all walks of life are out enjoying the city. Late Spring, Summer, and Early Fall in Chicago are beautiful, and I think it’s that reality plus the harsh reality about the brutal weather the rest of the year, that brings people outside.
As I walked down the street, I saw up ahead a group people in short-sleeved, collared shirts – like they were representing a company – stopping people as they walked and motioning them over to the right. This isn’t uncommon, as people in major cities and tourist areas are always trying to sell something to people passing by. In this case, however, I can see that instead of the usual quick brush off, people were stopping to pay attention.
As I got closer, I sensed a vibe of excitement from the people milling about, so I stopped to see what was going on. As it turns out, the people dressed in those short-sleeved collared shirts were pointing people to a stand that they set up, where you could get a free sandwich. I quickly figured out they were promoting a new TV show, which is to be aired nationally on a major cable network. As a part of their promotional campaign, they were stopping folks on the street and offering free sandwiches while mentioning the name of the show and when it will debut.
I was hungry, so I thought to myself: why not?
As I took the sandwich, a guy also handed me what looked like a mini DVD which promoted the show. This DVD, which is what I assumed it was, was very tightly wrapped.
Anyway, I didn’t care about show, I was just happy about the FREE LUNCH!
It was a good sandwich: BBQ pulled pork, very tasty (probably not healthy, but it was good), and filling. And FREE!
As I walked away, I took a look at the mini DVD, and got curious. So, remembering that, I saved it for later that evening, and opened it up. As I mentioned before, it was tightly wrapped, so it actually took a couple of minutes to get the thing open. Then, after looking at the DVD, I got curious about the show. I didn’t try to play the DVD, as I set it aside. What I did do, however, was go online and spend about 10 minutes looking at information on the show.
Then it hit me: I probably spent 15 or 20 minutes of my time when you add up opening and looking at the DVD, and going online out of curiosity. This was for the sandwich that would probably sell for $5 tops.
The company’s strategy worked: give me the sandwich, make me aware of the show, make me try to look up information on the show. The next would be for me to tune in, and at this point, I’m curious.
They won. No regrets at all from me, but they got what they wanted.
That sandwich wasn’t free. As my Dad always liked to tell me when I was a kid: There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Thanks for that advice, Dad!