Traverse City Record-Eagle

Feature Columnists

April 27, 2014

Ed Hungness: Some things in life are still free

My eyes glanced over to the right and noticed a coffee mug stuffed with retractable ballpoint pens.

Chrome and plastic, in a variety of colors, they bore an advertisement for our credit union where I stood filling out a withdrawal slip. I wondered what the manager would say if I picked up the mug, along with the contents, and headed for the door? After all there wasn’t a sign saying, “Please take one.”

Likewise, nothing mentioned that the coffee mug was not also free for the taking. I supposed it was an implied rule that each customer should take only one pen and leave the mug. Remember the last time someone offered you a piece of chocolate from their box of Christmas candy? There’s no doubt it would have been in very poor taste to grab a handful.

I completed my banking transaction, and with a shiny new ballpoint pen in my shirt pocket, I drove to my next stop, Sam’s Club. I like Sam’s Club. If you are there on the right day, you can frequent a myriad of demonstration carts, a literal smorgasbord of delightful and “free” dining.

Product demonstrations are sponsored by the manufactures of the items being sampled. What better ways to have a potential buyer test their product? I first experienced this tried and true marketing method while shopping with my dad. Our butcher handed me a slice of bologna from behind the meat counter. It worked. I have been full of bologna ever since, especially if it’s pickled.

It is entertaining to people-watch while waiting to sample tidbits. Old guys are the most interesting, and learning new sampling skills always comes in handy. The seasoned senior shopper approaches the demonstration with caution. A favored method is to cruise by the table with no intention of stopping on the initial pass. First order of business is to ascertain what product is being sampled. The hungry senior keeps moving thus avoiding a sales pitch if it is non-food or a health-related product. Rarely are older gentlemen or ladies interested in chewable fruit-flavored vitamins!

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