Flattery Project: I thanked 42 companies, see what they sent me!

Companies take complaints very seriously.

Years ago, when I still drank Diet Coke, I opened up a can that tasted funny. It tasted closer to seltzer than Diet Coke, so I called the customer complaint line on the back. After a brief conversation, where I read them some information off the can, they sent me this glossy coupon for a free 12-pack of Diet Coke cans. Score! One bad can = 12 good ones!

Fast forward a few years, just as in-flight Wi-fi was just becoming popular, I emailed a complaint to Southwest about how their in-flight Wi-fi didn’t work. I didn’t throw a fit, I just sent a polite email to their customer service about how the wi-fi probably wasn’t ready for prime time yet. I was looking for a refund of the access fee, but they did one better… well, a hundred better. They sent me a $100 credit voucher!

I’m not sharing some secrets when I say that complaining about bad service will get you something. We all know that complaining works.

But you should only complain if something bad happens.

What if a company is so great so often that you never have any reason to complain?

The old saying, after all, is “flattery will get you everywhere,” not “complaining will get you everything.” πŸ™‚

What if I just started complimenting every company I liked to see what it would get me?

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Table of Contents
  1. The Flattery Project
  2. What did we get back?
  3. Best Swag: Nespresso
  4. Most Thoughtful Response: Republic of Tea
  5. Summary

The Flattery Project

All good projects have a name, ours is The Flattery Project. I identified about forty companies whose products I enjoyed (or someone in our family enjoyed) and emailed their customer service a compliment. I sent each company roughly the same template email:


I wanted to say that I’m a huge fan of your company.

I’ve been a long time buyer of [product, service] and can’t imagine buying anything else. I know a lot of folks probably email to complain and it can be tough responding to those, so I thought I’d add a little sunshine. πŸ™‚

You’re doing great work, it’s appreciated in our house, and I wanted to say thanks.

I don’t know if you have any samples or coupons you could send my way but I’d be most appreciative to try more of your products.

Thank you and have a great day!

I made some edits to the email from place to place. I didn’t ask for samples from restaurants, for example, but for the most part, I kept to that same template.

The companies we contacted:

  1. Barilla
  2. Burt’s Bees
  3. Celestial Seasonings
  4. Chapstick
  5. Chicken of the Sea
  6. Chick-fil-A (see our best Chick-fil-A hacks!)
  7. Chipotle
  8. Chobani
  9. Clorox
  10. Coca-Cola
  11. Colgate Palmolive
  12. Dunkin’ Donuts
  13. Einstein Bros. Bagels
  14. Energizer
  15. Famous Dave’s
  16. Folgers
  17. Frito-Lay
  18. General Mills
  19. Gillette
  20. Hormel
  21. Jamba Juice
  22. Jimmy John’s
  23. Kimberly Clark (Huggies)
  24. Kraft
  25. Nespresso
  26. Nestle
  27. Noodles & Company
  28. Papa John’s Pizza
  29. Pepsi
  30. Purell Hand Sanitizer
  31. Powerbar
  32. Proctor & Gamble (Pampers)
  33. Red Robin
  34. Republic of Tea
  35. Sanford Uniball Pens – I had to shorten the message because their form limits the number of characters.
  36. SC Johnson
  37. Smuckers
  38. Stacy’s Pita Chips
  39. Stash
  40. Tom’s of Maine (Toothpaste)
  41. Wendy’s
  42. Wrigleys

What did we get back?

In the process, I learned a lot of brands are owned by the same major conglomerates. Some major conglomerates were more generous than others. Every PepsiCo brand sent us something. Some companies never replied – which was very surprising.

But here’s the full list of what we got back: (green means they sent something)

  1. Barilla– The first email back explained they had coupons, as in coupons existed but we weren’t sending you any. Then I asked where I could find these fabled coupons… to which they responded: “Often times we do offer coupons on our website as well as occasionally in the Sunday paper. You will be receiving a brochure packet containing coupons in the mail in the coming weeks.” Hey! I’m getting coupons! Unfortunately it was mostly brochure… with one $1 off coupon for two boxes of BARILLA ProteinPLUS, Whole Grain, Veggie, White Fiber or GF Pasta. Also included, info on their Wasa crackers and a $1 coupon for that.
  2. Burt’s Bees – a $1 off $10 purchase coupon
  3. Celestial Seasonings – No response πŸ™
  4. Chapstick – “Unfortunately the online store does not have any samples or coupons.”
  5. Cheerios – “It is our policy not to provide coupons upon request.” BOOOO
  6. Chicken of the Sea – A polite thank you response the next day along with a promise of coupons in the mail and a reminder of their loyalty email newsletter. Three coupons arrived the next week for FREE Chicken of the Sea products, maximum value of $3.
  7. Chick-fil-A – “Because each Chick-fil-A restaurant is independently operated, it is up to the Chick-fil-A Operator’s discretion as to how much and when he or she distributes coupons in their area. You may check with your local Chick-fil-A Restaurant and speak to the Operator or Manager to determine if they have elected to distribute coupons.”
  8. Chipotle – “We love our fans, and we truly appreciate your support. We’ve always got something cooking up on our social media; please follow the links below to stay in the loop with all of our delicious promotions.”
  9. Chobani – “Thanks for reaching out to us! We just love hearing from our fans and we’d be happy to send along money-saving coupons for our delicious, creamy Chobani® Greek Yogurt products! You can expect them to arrive in just a few short days. P.S. Feel free to contact us every 30 days for coupons for your family.” — YEAH!
  10. Clorox – “At this time we do not have coupons/samples available to send, but periodically, we offer cents-off or free coupons for products on our website.”
  11. Coca-Cola – No coupons or samples available. I should check my local newspaper or supermarket flyers for coupons and specials. πŸ™‚
  12. Colgate – Hill’s — They sent me Hill’s contact info but I didn’t follow up.
  13. Dunkin’ Donuts – A polite “thank you for being a customer” email, no coupons though.
  14. Einstein Bros. Bagels – No response πŸ™
  15. Energizer – “At this time, we do not have any coupons to send. However, we would be happy to put you on our mailing list for future promotions.” πŸ™
  16. Famous Dave’s – A polite thank you response appeared within minutes, but nothing else.
  17. Folgers – No response πŸ™
  18. Frito-Lay (a PepsiCo brand) – Sent $1 off any one Fri-lay product priced $1 or greater and two 55 cent off coupons on any Fri-Lay product priced 55 cents or greater.
  19. General Mills – No response πŸ™
  20. Gillette – No samples, no coupons.
  21. Hormel – I emailed them about Applegate, their organic line, and they told me that they don’t have coupons available by mail and that I should email Applegate directly. When I emailed them, they told us to check their website for coupons. (which you can get if you sign up to their email list)
  22. Jamba Juice – “There is nothing more rewarding in our business than to be recognized for a job well done; however, at this time we do not have any free promotional items available to send you.”
  23. Jimmy John’s – They will pass my compliments off to the store.
  24. Kimberly Clark (Huggies) – “In answer to your inquiry, we do not have a program for sending product samples or coupons on request.” but you can sign up to their email list to get coupons from time to time.
  25. Kraft – No response πŸ™
  26. Nespressosee below
  27. Nestle – No samples but they did send me a 50c off printable coupon and this little nugget of information – “Due to the overwhelming demand for coupons we are only able to fulfill one request every six months.” So you could email them every six months for a fifty cent coupon. πŸ™‚
  28. Noodles & Company – No samples or coupons, just an invitation to their EClub (which we’re already a part of an periodically does include coupons).
  29. Papa John’s Pizza – “Thank you for your compliments! We are constantly striving to improve our services whether it is in the store, online or our product quality that you have come to love. We are very pleased to hear that you are enjoying it! We have forwarded your notes to the appropriate department and thank you for your feedback. Please feel free to call us at the number below if you need any assistance while ordering online in the future. Thanks again and have a good day!” — to be fair, there are 25% and 50% off coupons online all. the. time.
  30. Pepsi – Two coupons for One Free 6 or 8 Pack (bottles or cans of any flavor Pepsi-Cola product)!
  31. Pfizer (Purell Hand Sanitizer) – Coupons! Two $1 off coupons for 2-8 fl. oz or larger OR 35ct wipes or larger.
  32. Powerbar (Premier Nutrition) – Two coupons for a FREE PowerBar Product (up to $2.99)
  33. Proctor & Gamble (Pampers) – They don’t normally send out coupons but they do have a $3 off Pampers diapers and $2 off Pampers wipes coupon they could send. Also included was a $1 off Ultra Mega Roll Pack of Charmin.
  34. Red Robin – No response πŸ™
  35. Republic of Tea – “Thank you for your email and kind comments. We appreciate that you are a Citizen of our great Republic. I would be happy to mail you some samples.” — seems pretty middle of the road, but the card we got was very thoughtful.
  36. Sanford Uniball Pens – I had to shorten the message because their form limits the number of characters but they “do not offer samples or coupons at this time.” πŸ™
  37. SC Johnson (Ziploc) – In thanks for your loyalty, while we don’t have samples available, a booklet of savings is on its way to the address you provided. It features coupons for a variety of SC Johnson products. Please watch for it in about two weeks. A few days later a large coupon book with coupons for all types of SC Johnson products arrived.
  38. Smuckers – “Unfortunately, we currently do not have coupons available for distribution nor do we maintain a coupon mailing list. However, we occasionally run coupon offers in Redplum® coupon inserts found either in your newspaper or mailbox, on Coupons.com and Redplum.com, and at your local grocery stores.”
  39. Stacy’s Pita Chips – A polite reply but nothing. πŸ™
  40. Stash – I got an email in an hour where they asked for my address to send some coupons! A couple days later, two (2) 50 cent off coupons for any box of tea (18, 20ct)
  41. Tom’s of Maine (Toothpaste) – Samples! They sent a 0.9oz beauty bar (Daily Moisture with olive oil & vitamin E!) and a 0.48oz of men’s deodorant.
  42. Wendy’s – No response yet.
  43. Wrigleys – No response πŸ™

Best Swag: Nespresso

There was one standout response… and I wasn’t surprised. Nespresso sells single-serving espresso machines, a higher end Keurig (I talk about it in my Upgrade & Save Strategy post).

I enjoy the espressos and decided I’d depart from the template and sent them this email:

Hi Nespressoans, I just wanted to write you a message thanking you for such a great product. I was first introduced to one of your brewers while staying at a very nice hotel in Manhattan. When we returned home, my wife gave me one of your machines as a gift and I haven’t looked back. We love the high-quality coffee it produces and just wanted to say thank you. Cheers, Jim

To which they replied with something polite… but I thought I might push the envelope…

Hi [name of representative], Thank you for the quick reply to my email, I was wondering if you guys had any Nespresso swag so I can show off my love of your product? πŸ™‚ Jim

I am glad to hear you love Nespresso. I understand you would like to know if we can offer you any items to show off to your friends.

We usually do not provide free gifts. However, as a one-time courtesy, I will send you a gift at no charge.

They sent a pair of Cappuccino Cups and saucers. They’re pretty wonderful and I use them all the time. πŸ™‚

Most Thoughtful Response: Republic of Tea

A thoughtful card from Todd B. Rubin, plus a bag of Orange Blossom & Get Active tea
A thoughtful card from Todd B. Rubin, plus a bag of Orange Blossom & Get Active tea

Republic of Tea, sent me two tea bags but a handwritten card from from Todd B. Rubin, who is the current President of The Republic Tea and the son of Ron Rubin, who acquired The Republic of Tea back in 1994. They’re known for having non-traditional titles (his business card listed his title as Minister of Evolution) but it’s one thing to have quirky names that imply you care about your customers… and actually caring.

I sent in an email that, truthfully, told them how much I loved their products. I like that their bags are unbleached, don’t have staples and tags, and a lot of other “innovations” that make their product that much better. Mostly… I sometimes forget I have a mug of tea that I left there with the bag (I know, steeped it too long!) but I still want to microwave it. πŸ™‚


All in all, it was a fun little experiment and a little peek into the customer service workings of a few companies.

If you want to do this to get free stuff, you can. Coupons are plentiful. Samples too sometimes. In terms of ROI on your time, it’s probably not worth it…

… but sometimes it’s nice just to say thank you to the companies that make the products you love. πŸ™‚

My next “fun” idea (not really personal finance related) might be to email startups for nice soft t-shirts, that’s all I wear these days. Everyone at my gym, my kids’ daycare, and everywhere else I go know about a whole host of financial companies because of me (and Fincon!)! I don’t know when I’ll do this but wish me luck! πŸ™‚

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About Jim Wang

Jim Wang is a forty-something father of four who is a frequent contributor to Forbes and Vanguard's Blog. He has also been fortunate to have appeared in the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Entrepreneur, and Marketplace Money.

Jim has a B.S. in Computer Science and Economics from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.S. in Information Technology - Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a Masters in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. His approach to personal finance is that of an engineer, breaking down complex subjects into bite-sized easily understood concepts that you can use in your daily life.

One of his favorite tools (here's my treasure chest of tools,, everything I use) is Personal Capital, which enables him to manage his finances in just 15-minutes each month. They also offer financial planning, such as a Retirement Planning Tool that can tell you if you're on track to retire when you want. It's free.

He is also diversifying his investment portfolio by adding a little bit of real estate. But not rental homes, because he doesn't want a second job, it's diversified small investments in a few commercial properties and farms in Illinois, Louisiana, and California through AcreTrader.

Recently, he's invested in a few pieces of art on Masterworks too.

>> Read more articles by Jim

Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank or financial institution. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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About the comments on this site:

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

  1. Jason Butler says

    This is pretty interesting to see how the companies reply. I’m actually doing something similar to this. Instead of emailing the companies I sent physical letters. So far I’ve received 2 thank you letters and one coupon.

    • Jim says

      A few years ago, someone did something similar and got all sorts of stuff. If you write a letter to any company on this list, I’d love to hear what they sent you vs. what they sent me for an email.

  2. Retire Before Dad says

    Really enjoyed reading this. I thought you’d get more responses, but not too shabby!

    This project reminds me of an old book called “Letters From A Nut” by Ted L. Nancy (foreword by Jerry Seinfeld). It’s by a comedian that writes absurd letters to companies and gets funny responses. Pre-email days. Hilarious. Google images has some samples to read.

  3. Jaime @ Jaime Donovan says

    A couple of years ago I sent an email to Hy-Vee (a pricey supermarket in the mid-west) saying how much I loved Hy-Vee and their customer service and to keep up the great work.

    They sent me a $15 gift card saying how much they loved my email. I called up the manager and thanked him for the gift card. He said that it wasn’t a problem. It was seriously nice of them and very thoughtful.

    • Jim says

      That’s so great! I bet all these companies just get complaints all day long, it’s a little refreshing to write something nice.

  4. Allan Liwanag says

    I absolutely like this post.

    I like contacting companies and giving them compliments on the products I buy from them. At first, my intention was just to thank them for the wonderful products I consume. What I ended up getting? A bunch of free samples and more coupons. Ever since then, I have taken the time to thank them because of the quality of their products, the satisfaction I get from them, among others.

    The truth is, it only takes a couple of minutes to pay companies compliments. Whether I get coupons, free samples, or nothing, I still thank them because I get to use the products that I really like. The freebies and coupons are just bonuses.

  5. Stretch A Dime says

    This is a fantastic post Jim! Very basic and yet very profound. People like to be appreciated and they almost always reciprocate. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

  6. Norman says

    This is a very interesting idea! Not that I recommend it, but I wonder if you would get even more swag if you complained to each of those companies like how you complained to Coke? Perhaps they have an even greater motivation to satisfy an unhappy consumer?

    • Jim says

      I think that falls into an unethical area, I don’t want to complain unless there’s a reason, you know? They would certainly do more but I’d have to have the complaint in the first place.

      • Anonymous says

        I would argue that sending praise or thank you notes to achieve an end (swag, coupons, etc.) especially if you don’t use/consume/buy the product is just as UNETHICAL. Customer Service staff have plenty going on with their real customers. Your “experiment” has empowered copycats who literally cut and paste your email into notes they send to companies – good job Jim. That companies would not catch on when they receive the exact same email from multiple people…
        While compliments are always appreciated, when they are based on fake motivations those compliments are empty. That’s enough sunshine. If you are interested in coupons, how about just ask for them?

        • White Knight News says

          To the β€œAnonymous” person who left a comment:

          But he did β€œjust ask for coupons”. All he did was say that he liked the products that he actually uses and truly likes, then asked for coupons. Why, then, accuse this good man of having β€œfake motivations”? Clearly you didn’t read the article thoroughly, because he was totally sincere in his compliments and 100% honest with the companies about what he wanted. Why all the hate? False accusations, slander, and yucky vibesβ€”shame on you!

  7. Our Next Life says

    I love the whole premise of this — that you took a positive view toward products rather than just taking the easy road of complaining! (We’ve definitely netted plenty of free travel by noting travel inconsistencies, politely of course!, such as no wifi, broken Direct TV, overly long delays for silly reasons, etc.) From my past coupon days, I’m familiar with those lists some of the companies put you on, and often they actually DO send out high-value coupons. But the internet has made “extreme couponing” a thing, and so all of the couponers now know to to write to companies to ask for discounts. It’s telling that you got the best response from the companies who aren’t part of mega-conglomerates, so probably aren’t subjected to the same onslaught of coupon requests!

    • Jim says

      Ha I didn’t know emailing them for coupons was a thing that resulted from the extreme couponing craze, I wasn’t a part of it so I had no idea. I thought I was being clever. πŸ™‚

  8. Missy says

    I really love this idea! I do something similar when I need a problem solved and have to speak with someone at customer service–whether it’s for cable, credit card charges, or hotel changes. If I get great service I ask to speak with their manager and give them kudo’s and recommend they be recognized for their stellar customer service and for doing their job well. It always makes people’s day, since all they usually do in customer service is hear people complain! It is such a tough job, they deserve it!

  9. Paul says

    I live in New Zealand and coupons are rare here. Certainly NOT in any of the newspapers.

    But I had something happen quite good happen a couple of weeks ago. My Wheelie Bin (rubbish/garbage collection) was up for renewal. And for the 2nd year in a row it had increased in price. Quite dramatically to be frank. So I checked the 2 alternative companies, one was charging $265 per year but payable by direct debit fortnightly, and the other $268 payable in advance. So went back to my current supplier and told them I could get it for $265 a year compared with their “increased rate” of $326 a year. Woman said we can match that. So I was happy, meant I didn’t have to sign any new forms, make sure the company got their bin and recycling bin back etc. Then I said I had a compliment about one of their drivers who a few weeks earlier had used the hydraulic lifter 4 times to ensure ALL the rubbish had fallen out. In the past I’ve had as much as half the wheelie bin not come out into the collection truck due to compaction of the rubbish. Told the woman that I really appreciated what he had done, and that I thought “he” believes in customer service. She said she’d find out who it was and pass on the compliments. 5 days later got a new invoice emailed to me and was it matching the other companies? No. It bettered it and was down to $250. I believe the compliment got me an extra $10 off the matching price of $260. Made me as happy as Larry.

    • Jim says

      Ha this is a fantastic story! I love it, thank you for sharing it Paul!

      Give and you shall receive!

  10. Steve @ Think Save Retire says

    Very cool concept, thanks for putting this all together. Even though you didn’t necessarily get a coupon from every business, at least you got a reply from most of them. Those who didn’t reply need to serious work on their customer relations!

  11. Maggie @ Northern Expenditure says

    This is fantastic! I think it would be awesome to do for a whole bunch of startup companies that I love just to spread the love, not necessarily get anything in return. I bet that would feel pretty great. Thanks for doing the experiment! My cousin did a science fair project one time in high school to see which shampoo got chlorine out of hair the best. She wrote to all the shampoo companies and told them about it and they all sent her TONS of shampoo. She had a whole cabinet in the bathroom full of the stuff for over a year!

    • Jim says

      Oooooh that’s a really good idea, I’m going to do that I think. The startup idea… not the shampoo idea πŸ™‚

  12. Chris M. - (just a life-long money smart chick) says

    Okay, peeps- I have to chime in with my experience on this one.
    Make sure you’re writing to the people who can make your samples/coupons/happy letter dream come true. First level customer service reps who reply to the “Contact Us” button on a company’s website are not the people who can get you swag the majority of the time. They are trained to respond to negative comments. The positive ones are nice to get, but don’t get the good attention at that level. Aim higher- much, much higher! CEO, Director of Marketing, President, Regional Sales Manager… you get the idea. If you really, sincerely love a product they will be happy to hear from you and filter your comments down to an assistant who will send you some goodies, or at least some coupons. Been there, done that and got the free t-shirt! Good luck.

    • Jim says

      This is a great idea, thanks Chris!

      I’d also add, as I think about this, fewer people contact folks at the higher levels so you rise above the “noise.” I might do this. πŸ™‚

  13. Marisette says

    Hi Jim,
    I love your blog! You already send me free stuff so I’m not asking for anything. I just want you to know how much I appreciate it. ?

  14. CrystalH says

    I’m pretty sure you already know that if you tell them you are a blogger they will send you TONS of stuff to share with your readers!

    • Jim says

      Well, that would be unfair πŸ™‚

      Plus, I don’t want the free stuff in any type of quid pro quo situation… though I don’t begrudge anyone who does!

  15. Lena says

    This was pretty cool! I’m surprised more of them didn’t send you actual samples. The “we don’t provide coupons upon request” responses makes me wonder how many people do this – sounds like a lot!

    • Jim says

      Someone was telling me that extreme couponers were doing this a lot so the companies set up systems in place to counter it πŸ™

  16. Kristin says

    Fun experiment! When I was little, I loved Peeps so much I wrote a letter to the company telling them how much I loved them, and they sent me a huge box of all of their other candies. My parents were probably less thrilled than I was, but that was very cool of them.

    • Jim says

      Ha that’s awesome, my son loves Peeps too… maybe we will do that. Well, maybe in a few years, he’s 4 and his penmanship needs work. πŸ™‚

  17. Aaron says

    Ha! Great idea here. I’m not surprised that you didn’t get a lot of responses from the bigger companies, as I’d assume they get a fair amount of mail / comments. But think this is a great idea for those smaller / start-up type companies who are looking to spread the word.

    • Jim says

      I thought the larger companies would have some process in place so they would be more likely to respond, but it turns out the reality is “not so much.” πŸ™‚

      It was pretty awesome to get handwritten letters from Chobani and Republic of Tea though. Both are high on culture and delivered.

    • Jim says

      They are pretty awesome, I use them a ton because they’re the perfect size (obviously) and the perfect price!

  18. Yetisaurus says

    I’m surprised Chipotle corporate didn’t send you anything, but maybe you should try again in store. My boyfriend has gotten free tacos multiple times by going in and telling them how that store is his favorite because they always are so friendly and get his order exactly right, etc. They don’t always give free tacos, but sometimes it’s a bonus scoop of guac or an extra scoop of meat. I don’t know how he pulls it off, except that he IS 100% genuine when he says all that. He really doesn’t do it for the discount so much as he’s just honestly happy with their service. Maybe they see that he’s being sincere about it, who knows. But worth a shot?

  19. Giovina says

    My dad is a big fan of contacting companies for both complaints and compliments, depending on what they deserve. When he sent a message to Steamwhistle Brewery about how much he loved their beer, which he found out about from getting it (free!!) on porter flights, they sent him a really cool fridge magnet bottle opener with a little bucket attached to catch the caps! Great customer service.

  20. Rebecca B says

    Enjoyed reading this post. Quick thing being from Maine…can you fix the listing when you say “Tom’s of Main” it really is “Tom’s of Maine.” Have to represent my state. πŸ™‚ Thanks!

  21. middle class revolution says

    This is really interesting. I was surprised by the lack of coupons and goodies, but then again, people would abuse the system if companies gave out coupons and stuff to everyone who compliments their products. They also don’t need to give something to a person who already likes their product. That’s why they tend to give something to complainers, who might become a customer if treated properly.

    I had a good ‘complainer’ experience with Crest (P&G?). I was given a refund for the sub-par product (gift card) and they told me to keep the product. I used that gift card money to purchase a better Crest product and gave the other one to a friend. Win-win.

    I don’t complain often and only if I am really unhappy with a purchase.

    • Jim says

      I see the logic in your argument but giving free products to your fans can’t be a bad thing. Sure, the little tube of toothpaste gets them through another week for “free” (or more likely, lets them take it on vacation because it’s travel size), but doing nothing implies something else.

  22. Jefferson says

    Since I’m in charge of our marketing I send out free ice cream coupons for a pint of ice cream or movie tickets to people who make nice comments about our company on our social media. When they randomly show up people get really excited and make more great comments and tell their friends about it. It’s fun because they went out of their way to say something nice so we return the favor. Business is about relationships and value not just marketing and selling.

    • Jim says

      So….. where do you work? πŸ™‚

      In all seriousness, you’re right. It is about relationships and that’s one thing that some companies, the bigger ones, tend to forget because they are so massive.

    • lynn ling says

      Free ice-cream! Yay!

      Your free ice-cream scoops reminds me why I stop having my fav ice-cream – Haagen Dazs in Malaysia. I used to buy pints off-supermarket shelves though once in a while the quality are not that great. Finally once it was so bad I couldn’t stand it anymore so I wrote in a letter – not complaining , just hoping that they solve the problem. Instead I got a rude reply that I should deal with the supermarket.

      I guess great customer service is a developed nation privilege.

  23. Kevin says

    My most epic reward for polite feedback was not exactly a product, but an experience at an absolutely packed concert in a multi-story venue. The tickets I had purchased were labeled as main floor, but my wife and I were directed to a hole in the wall on the top level with absolutely no view of the stage. We were crouched under a railing to try get a better look when one of the security guards approached and said we couldn’t stay there due to fire regulations. I explained very politely that we thought our tickets were for a different area and that we really couldn’t see anything (probably not the first time they’d heard this). Then the guard winked and said, ‘follow me.’ We were escorted to the staff elevator and when the doors closed, the guard said that they rarely get ‘nice’ feedback from concertgoers and that they appreciated our non-confrontational approach. We arrived on the first floor and as the door opened the guard said simply, ‘now follow me and don’t mention it to anyone.’ This was a full-bodied guard, mind you, so we followed in their wake through the crowd and were deposited in the front row. The guard looked around as if there on some other business in order to distract from the fact that they were placing us there, and then asked with a side glance, ‘will this work?’ It most definitely did… Our kind approach and their good mood turned what could have been a completely miserable concert into one of the best of our lives, and it pays back for the company since we are eager to support the venue any chance we can!

    • Jim says

      I love this story!

      I always try to remember, especially when I’m getting upset or frustrated, that the customer service rep or the employee that’s in front of me is almost always NOT the person who caused the problem in the first place. They just happen to be there. I see so many people get angry at the wrong folks and, as a result, stand zero chance of being helped.

      Like a coupon not working at the register – the customer flips out on the cashier even though it’s not her fault at all. The cashier could get a store card or some code to enter in to give a discount, but won’t because the customer is being abusive.

      If you’re nice, the other person will be nice, and we’ll figure out a good solution. If you’re a jerk, well, sorry pal. Thank you for sharing this great story!

  24. Investment Hunting says

    Last year I bought a 12-pack of Diet A&W Rootbeer. When I opened the 12-pack there were 12 diet A&W Cream Sodas in the box. I’d never tasted A&W Cream Soda before. I liked it a lot.

    I emailed the company not to complain, but to let them know of the mistake in case they needed to do a recall. I also thanked them for the mistake, letting the company know that I’m hooked on both sodas now.

    An A&W rep called me to discuss the issue. A few weeks later I received a card from their CEO with $50 dollars worth of buy one get one free 12-pack coupons; roughly 10 free 12-packs. They earned a customer for life.

  25. Piper says

    I did this twice, and actually I never asked for something but both I got something.
    When I was living in Rego Park, NY I had my favorite Dunkin Donuts store. The store was right by the subway station so they always got lots of customers in rush hours, I was one of them. Although all the employees were pretty good, one was exceptional to the point that she remembered my order. The moment she would see me walking into the store she would start preparing my coffee (extra large with two milk). One day I wrote down her name and sent an email to Dunkin Donuts, and they forwarded my email to the store owner. Store owner replied to me stating that the employee was going to get a reward for her commitment to the customers, and on top of that he asked for my address to send me $10 gift card. I never asked for it, but he simply offered it. Few months later I found out that this one particular employee got a promotion, I was so happy to hear it.

    My other experience was with Zappos. They have this VIP segment. They don’t promote it, it’s something they simply they offer to their all time customers (you get free 2 day shipping, better refund policies etc). I never knew about it until I read the book by Zappos’ CEO. The book talks about how much the company is committed to customer satisfaction. So I decided to run my own little experiment. After I read the book I sent them an email saying that I enjoyed the book, and that I loved their company. In this case I asked for something. I asked them if I can become a VIP member as well. They replied instantly. They thanked me and sent me a link making me a VIP member. That was cool.

    Life is short we might as well show kindness

    • Jim says

      Your last sentence hits the nail squarely on the head, I love it.

      BTW, Zappos VIP is free NEXT day shipping!

  26. Garrett says


    I actually work for a consumer product company as the marketing manager, and we get solicited for coupons/samples/free product ALL THE TIME. We love giving out free samples, but we generally only give them to people who come across as authentically loving our brand. It’s pretty easy to snuff out the people who just want free stuff πŸ™‚

    If someone sends us a genuine email on how our product changed their lives, we love it and will oftentimes send free product. On social media if someone mentions us and obviously just wants to spread the word (and isn’t asking for freebies), we will oftentimes send them coupons/samples/free product.

    So much of the marketing buzz today is about authentic brands, and really, we are looking for “authentic fans.” Like I said, it’s easy to spot the people who just want free stuff.

    We are a smaller company, so people at all levels of our organization are empowered to give out product. I would imagine this isn’t the case at larger companies.

    I figured you’d be interested to hear from a brand’s perspective! Nice post πŸ˜€


  27. Rob @ Money Nomad says

    It pays to be thoughtful (sometimes) – and it usually works best when it’s sincere. I sent a thank you note to my favorite Apple Cider company one year and they sent me 144 packets! So it does work. But then I decided to try complimenting a few more companies and got nothing back.

    I think most people can notice when something is sincere (and when you are the first to make contact, you probably do better).

    Entertaining experiment. Thanks for sharing the results!

  28. Jacq says

    I had a crummy few days for reasons beyond my control and the cashier at Wawa (East coast convenience store + gas station ), was just so friendly, I sent an email as soon as I got to my desk. His smile & kind words meant a lot & I saw him interact in a similar positive manner with other customers in the past. They sent me coupons for drinks & subs!

    I try to take a moment to email a compliment to the person’s supervisor or company in the hopes it helps at review / raise time, especially when it is extra ordinary service, or despite my crummy circumstances they are friendly and help the situation . For example : Dawn the waitress at the airport restaurant as my flight kept being delayed. She took the time to learn names, chat a bit, sympathize about delays, answer menu questions & then joked with me in passing later on. Crummy situation with a bright spot!

    • Jim says

      That’s so awesome, I used to go to Wawa all the time when I was driving back and forth from NJ to visit my girlfriend (now wife!).

      Compliments go a long way, a little brightness during a long work day can really boost someone’s morale, good on you Jacq!

  29. Mr & Mrs Bigg says

    You should try for free coupons for Trojan Rubbers. Upon receiving these little beauties wait 2 months and send them a reply like this. Your product is fine except for the big rip in the side of the condom. I am now 2 months pregnant and you will be receiving a letter from my attorney. It will state that you are being sued for child support and anything else we can get away with to be compensated for your inferior product.

  30. Jessica Brown says

    Hi Jim! This was truthfully an awesome project! You have inspired me to do pretty much the same thing!

    On a side note a read that you were thinking about emailing startups for tshirts.. my question to you is what is a ‘startup’?
    Thanks for an awesome read, hope to hear from you soon!

    • Jim Wang says

      A startup is new company that just “started up.” There are different definitions of what is a startup, but many of them have t-shirts and use them as a way to market their company.

  31. Heather Thornton says

    I just stumbled across your article and I love your idea. You’ve inspired me to do the same. I signed up for your newsletter and I’m looking forward to reading up on your advice and tips.
    Thank you Heather

  32. Linda Belcher says

    Tried to hit up Nespresso a few times, each time they gave me a link to their accessories page πŸ™

      • Zeggy says

        Maybe they’re being annoyed by non-customers begging them for β€œswag”. This being the internet, I can just imagine how many people who’ve never heard of Nespresso before copied your email to them, trying to get free cups. I’m a Nespresso customer myself, so I know they do keep track of your orders and how loyal you are, and they also proactively send coupons and gifts to reward and encourage that loyalty. I just recently got a beautiful capsule holder. But why should they send expensive cups to anyone who comes asking? I find this whole post incredibly crass. How about showing appreciation for the hardworking people behind your favorite products WITHOUT expecting something in return? That’s TRUE kindness.

  33. Gittel Gross says

    I do this stuff all the time and constantly getting free coupons! Although compliments are great, I’ve noticed that when I complain, they send way more free stuff! 2 really great stories:

    1. I sent the Dum-Dum company an email saying that I barely received any blue raspberry dum-dums in my bag, they sent me an ENTIRE bag.
    2. I once got a bag of Zours candy from a vending machine and got a significantly small amount in my bag compared to what they usually have, and they sent me an entire box of every Mike N’ Ike flavors they had, including 2 bags of Zours and a package of Peeps. It was really thoughtful.

    Chip companies always send great companies out!

    • Jim Wang says

      Complaints do work much much better but that’s because something bad happened and they want to make it right. We complain all the time when things go wrong but with some companies, especially good ones, things seem to go right. πŸ™‚

      Great stories!

  34. Nicole says

    I wonder, if you made the email a bit more personal, would you have received more/better responses? Maybe attaching a picture of your family all enjoying the products at home or on the go? To me, it would seem more genuine, and maybe it would stand out from the slew of emails they get from extreme couponers. Just my thoughts! πŸ™‚

  35. Pit says

    Wow, I was wondering about these emails and now I see what’s up. I work for one of the big companies that keeps getting emails with this wording and let me tell you, honestly, this won’t work. It just annoys us to read the same email over and over again and we haven’t sent a single discount or free product to anyone who emailed with this. Please stop wasting your and our time.
    At this time, we aren’t even reading the whole email when we see the intro.
    Thanks <3

  36. Bailee Young says

    I emailed Celestial Seasonings awhile back asking for coupons and possibly samples. I got both! 3 bag sample of tea and two coupons for .55 off a box, along with a very thoughtful email thanking me for my business. You should try them again maybe they have changed policies since you last emailed them.

  37. AG says

    Hey there everyone im based in the UK. Reading this made me smile. I feel asthough I took a shortcut. I spent an hour at work firing off emails to 19 companies complaining, mainly restraunts with a couple of cinemas.

    19 Companies contacted.
    15 Responses.
    4 No response.

    Out of the 15 who responded I have recieved free stuff from 8, apologies from 3 and 4 complaints still ongoing.
    Sofar I have recieved Β£260 worth of free vouchers. Not bad for an hours worth and a couple of quick email responses thereafter.

  38. Shawn says

    FYI, as a person who works for these companies that this form letter is being sent to, I want to give you all a tip. When we see email requests for coupons that are clearly form letters, like the above one, it drastically reduces the chances that we will send you something. If you want a coupon, write your own reason why and make it personal, it will increase the chances you might get something.

    • Jim Wang says

      Thanks for the great tip Shawn, I agree 100% – I meant my letter as a guide and not something to spam you guys with. πŸ™‚

      • Penny says

        I did the same thing with several food companies in australia, but each email was me personally thanking them for a specific product I liked as well as asking about future products or noting issues I might have noticed, also letting them know I was a fan.

        every time I got sweet loot, and I can tell you I would now buy foods from those companies over others. form letters are no way to get anything. do it from the heart, trust me.

        Loot I got from Mars foods was a stand out. thier whole range of simmer sauces, multiple 90second microwave rice packs as well as several large jars of spices. estimated value… $40. = Result, loyal customer. πŸ˜›

  39. Kat says

    I sent emails to several companies and got some pretty cool replies. I got free tea samples from Celestial Seasonings, a pack of $1.00 coupons from Udi’s Bread and A sample pack and coupons from Emergen-C. It’s fun to try to see what companies will send.

  40. HoBoFoSho says

    I would be interested to see what the difference in response would be if you generated fictitious complaints about each of those same companies, maybe try to mention how their competitors have never given you these problems and send them in to all the same email addresses. In my opinion, you recieved nothing worthwhile as a gift for your positive notes. Especially when compared to the free 12pack and $100 credit.
    I’ve been paying a lot more attention to how people react to things and what the common tendencies are. It seems to me that negativity dominates our society. We seem to crave it, dwell on it, hope for it and if it’s left up in the air for someone to make an assumption, people will almost always assume it’s negative. For example, text messages. Has anyone ever misread the time of a text in a more positive tone than intended? I have never seen it.
    There’s no urgency to prevent your positive opinion of any company from spreading to your friends and neighbors so you recieved the bare minimum acknowledgement for your praise. I’m betting the complaints would have you flooded with free merch and services to shut you up. This would prove that one of the influences we have nudging us to the dark side is that we are consistently rewarded for our negativity. Your thoughts?

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