I’m sure some of you have seen those ads on the web advertising a free gift iMac, iPod, or Razr. When you get to their site, though, they tell you that you have to complete certain offers in order to receive your “free” gift. I read an article on the ‘net a while back that chronicled the author’s participation in a “Free Mac mini” gift site. He talked about his doubts that he would actually get his gift and about the ups and downs of completing the offers while dealing with the customer service people. However, in the end of the article he posts pictures of his newly acquired Mac mini, totally convincing me that it is legit. I saw an ad for a free iMac, and figured that I’d jump in and see how it went for myself.
The iMac being offered was the one with a 20.1″ widescreen, Intel Core Duo 2Ghz, 250GB hard drive, and 512MB RAM. Right now it’s being sold in the Apple store for $1,699.
I realized that the iMac was being offered from the same company that the Mac mini came from, so I decided to see how it would go for me. This gift would require me to complete 18 offers in order to get the iMac. Almost all of the offers required a purchase in order to get credit for completing the offer. Since most of them offered refunds, I calculated that I was going to need to spend around $135 after it was all said and done. Considering that it normaly costs $1,700, I was willing to spend at least $500 and still feel pretty good about the savings.
After completing all the offers on my end, there were 3 of them that didn’t report as completed to the gift site, and their terms stated that I had to wait at least 30 days before I could show proof of purchase and get credit for the offers. I waited the 30 days, and then they manually credited my account to show that I had qualified for the iMac. I filled out a redemption voucher and mailed it in, and 2 weeks later the UPS man dropped this off at my office:
It was delivered to where I work, so I could barely wait till I got home to open it up and get it running. I was so shocked that it actually worked! Not to mention the anticipation was killing me having to wait the 30 days for the credits to go through and to mail in the voucher. Here’s some shots of the unpacking.
Here’s a shot of the initial setup. Since I have a PowerBook, I can automatically transfer all my settings and files to the iMac so that when I sit down to use the iMac for the first time, it’s exactly like my PowerBook.
Here it is all set up and firing away! It’s noticeably faster than my PowerBook, however, it seemed to be a bit more RAM hungry. I quickly ordered an extra gig of RAM so now it has 1.5GB total, and hums along quite nicely. It’s amazing that Apple can fit all of that power and beauty into such an elegantly small package. I mean, if you didn’t already know, that’s the whole computer right there. The screen, the keyboard, and the mouse (optical Mighty Mouse, nonetheless). All of the components of the iMac are fitted into the white casing around the LCD display. (Notice the green box on the right side of the picture is a 512MB iPod shuffle that I also got from a freebie gift site and didn’t have to spend a penny.)
I thought I was gonna have to buy a new desk to fit the huge 20″ screen. I was quite surprised that it fit inside that little opening, but just barely horizontally. It really is a very sharp screen that is very bright and extremely comfortable to look at all day. I find myself having too much space sometimes. Wait. I didn’t just say that. One can never have too much space! The only annoying bit is that the SuperDrive is on the right side of the screen, so I have to rotate it slightly when I need to insert a CD or DVD. It’s really not that bad at all.
Ok, so you’re probably wondering the total amount that I ended up spending to get this wonderful new iMac for “free”. Well, I went over my original estimate by $79.85. The total dollar amount that I spent after all the refunds were issued and returns shipped was $214.85. Some of you might say that amount is well in excess of “free”, but may I point out that it is also $1,615.82 cheaper than I could have paid for it at the Apple store (price includes sales tax). It’s not everyday that one gets 88% off the retail price.
So in conclusion, I would highly recommend that anyone try out these “freebie” sites and bring home some really cool gear. There are tons of them out there offering a wide range of items from phones, to designer handbags, to iPods, to prepaid Visa gift cards. Not all of the companies are as reliable as the one I used, so be sure to do some research on the item you’re contemplating before you begin. Also, keep in mind that it takes several hours of your time and energy to do this. I had to keep checking up on offers to make sure I canceled in time to prevent getting charged for extra shipments. I spent quite a bit of time going over each offer’s terms and conditions to make sure there were no hidden costs or fees that weren’t clearly stated on the website. This alone probably saved me about $300. I kept a text document running and made sure to make note of how much they were charging, when I needed to cancel, and the phone number to call to cancel. I say all of this to make it very clear that I was very meticulous and aware of everything I was getting into, so if you are careless, you might end up spending more than you planned on, or possibly not even qualifying for your gift. Be careful out there. I’m not making any guarantees about your experience.
One last note. I got a call today from my credit card company saying that someone had attempted to use my credit card to make a $500+ purchase on some family reunion website in Utah. Obviously, I have closed the account and won’t ever know for sure if the account number was stolen by one of the offers I did or through some other means, but I felt that it was worth mentioning.