You’ve seen the ads: Free Apple Macbook Pro! Free Laptop! Dozens, maybe hundreds of sites offer such “gifts.” For a representative page, take a look at

Well-meaning relatives have sent me such links. They know that I make my living with a computer and that one is surgically attached and folds out from my chest. “Hey,” they think, “Joe would probably dig a free Macbook Pro.” And indeed I would. If it were free.

Which, of course, it isn’t.

In fact, the “free laptop” offer resides in the twilight zone of Internet marketing, where words like “free” and “privacy” don’t mean what they mean in the normal world. Not even the normal world of Internet marketing, which is a special kind of “normal” unto itself.

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Quick Facts About Free Laptop Offers

Here is the quick and dirty truth about these offers. Details will vary from site to site, but by and large, this is how the game is played.

  1. By signing up, you agree to allow telemarketers to call you regardless of your “do not call” registration.
  2. You agree to receive offers “you might like” by email and snail mail.
  3. You agree to allow the company making the offer (probably to use your contact information as it sees fit (i.e., to sell it to the highest bidder).
  4. You will have to comply with a looooong list of conditions to qualify for the “free” gift. The conditions probably include signing up for offers such as trial subscriptions and memberships.
  5. It is up to the companies offering the promotions to verify to the company offering the free gift that you have met the requirements. Read that again until you get it because it’s not going to happen.
  6. The “service,” which you must sign up for to receive your “free” gift, is not guaranteed to work all the time, or at all, or in an error-free manner. Huge red flag. If this alone does not dissuade you, nothing will.

One Example

Let’s take a closer look at one such offer, as seen at This site redirects to an affiliate site belonging to It’s a big, friendly page with a photo of a sexy Macbook pro. All you have to do to get started is enter your email address.

When you do, and you complete the registration form that follows, you’re signing up for “the service” and will recieve a regular newsletter containing offers targeted to you based on your answers to the surveys that follow. If there is anything wrong or incomplete on your registration, can terminate your membership.

I wonder if that clause ever comes in handy when it’s time to ship the “free” laptop?

Anyway, you also agree to a bunch of other things, such as receiving third-party offers by telephone, email, and snail mail. You also agree that it’s not the company’s fault if things don’t work out like they should and you in turn don’t qualify for the “free” laptop. Seriously. The Terms and Conditions (T&C) practically states, though not in so many words, “We might screw up, but that’s your problem.”

I could base an entire series of posts on the T&C, but let’s move on to the “Official Gift Offer Rules.” This is the list of things you have to do before you get your “free” laptop. You should read the whole thing, but here are some highlights. In this particular example, you have to complete a total of 13 sponsor offers: two from the first page, two from the second, and nine from the third. This step will cost you some money. If you’re disorganized like me, this step will cost you a lot of money when you forget to cancel your trials.

Here is the biggest hurdle, in my opinion:

Each Sponsor must provide written verification to that you have successfully qualified for and completed that Sponsor’s offer.

Call me cynical, but I just don’t see that happening. I have to get 13 separate companies to state in writing to yet another company that I have met their offer conditions? This in the day of automated everything when it’s hard to even get a person on the phone? Nope. Not gonna happen.

Not a Scam

All of these requirements are clearly spelled out in easy-to-find documents. They’re not trying to rip you off. But they are putting you into a marketing maze that you have no chance of exiting without spending money. Maybe a lot of it. I’m willing to bet that 99.5 people out of 100 that begin the process never complete the stated requirements.

Meanwhile, the owners of the various sites are raking in the affiliate commissions for all the trial memberships and products you’re signing up for. It’s brilliant from the marketer’s point of view. The house never loses.

But Isn’t It Worth It?

You might well ask. These trials might cost me a couple hundred bucks, but a Macbook costs ten times that much. True enough. If you’re willing to go through all of that, understanding that you’ll probably never finish the offers successfully, then more power to ya. Let me know how it works out.

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Join the Discussion

  • Jim

    I’ve done two such offers for free TVs. A lot of work? Yes. A lot of careful record keeping to cancel subscriptions? Yes. Working TV sets in my house from that work? Two. One 42″ plasma and one old one that needs replacement

    Definitely not a game for disorganized or procrastination. Treat it like a game you only win by reading and following EVERY rule exactly.

  • no kidding
    no kidding

    Is hillariuous to think that in a consume driven economy you will get anyting for free. Some people believe it.

  • Joe

    Exactly, Paul. And the line in the T&C that basically says we’ll use your info however we see fit should be enough to scare away most people.

  • Paul Schlegel
    Paul Schlegel

    Yeh, I’m pretty much convinced it can be done and people have done it, but like you I have to ask is it worth it both time-wise and risk-wise since people need to be VERY careful about what companies they take the offers from.

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