On the next screen, I was directed to complete an offer. There were 30 offers to choose from, including Blockbuster Online, Maxim, Entertainment Weekly and Newsweek magazine subscriptions, and a myriad of credit-card offers. I chose something called BocaJava.com because it offered two pounds of coffee for $9.95, a free mug and, most importantly, instant credit to my FreeiPod account.
Oops. Upon further reading, I saw that the coffee offer is a club sign-up and I'd have to make another purchase of "at least $30" before I could cancel. So I went back and decided on the "Passport to Fun" club for a $1 nonrefundable fee plus $19.95 after my free seven-day trial period. OK, I can cancel before then, right?
The next step sounded more difficult: Refer friends. Ugh, and now I didn't even have coffee to bribe them with. I decided to play it safe and sent five e-mails (that's how many I needed for the 30gb iPod): my mom, two sisters, brother and husband. I briefly considered the editor who gave me this assignment, but he does have the power to fire me. (Is "annoying" a fireable offense?) My mom called first, asking, "Now, what's an iPod again?" I started to explain, but in the end up just told her I had to do it for my job.
The next day -- make that the next minute -- I began to obsessively worry about all the information I had handed out (even though Peter Martin from Gratis assured me the company doesn't do e-mail marketing. I do believe him, but paranoia is well, paranoia.). I decided I just didn't have the nerve and canceled my "Passport to Fun" -- literally.
Hey, even Andru Edwards, CEO of Gear Live Media's gadget guide GearLive.com told me he stopped applying for free offers about six months ago. As he put is, "Everyone's just getting tired of it." Yeah, right, that's why I quit, too.