“Free Magazine” Is Not “Now For Half-Price”

Here’s a phone call I had some days ago:

Caller: “Hi, I’m calling from blablabla. We’d like to congratulate you – our loyal customer – by giving you free magazine! Balbal bla bla… isn’t that nice? blabla blah bla…. free …bla blah bla.” (for some time)

Me: “Well, that’s nice…”

Caller: “So, now you can get 6 months magazine subscription for free…”

Me – thinking: “Now that’s really nice.”

Caller: “…All you have to do is to order the magazine for 12 months, and the first 6 months will be free…

Me – interrupting: “No thanks, I already get couple of magazines from you. Good bye.”

How stupid they think we customers are? Free magazine and giving 50% discounts are absolutely two different things. I don’t mind getting ads – I actually like the way for example amazon.com sends me occasionally an email about “books that might be interesting for you” or “the price of a book in your giftlist has decreased”. I think it’s nice that some companies ask permission to give targeted ads which might be actually useful for me. I also like if I get free stuff (who wouldn’t) for being a loyal customer… but I don’t like to be lied at just because I’m a loyal customer.

Two things would have happened if the caller had said “discount” instead of “free”

  • It would have saved caller’s time: he spend lots of stuff trying to explain that they are giving something for free when in reality they weren’t. If he would have told about discount in the beginning, I could have immediately said “Sounds good, I’d like to hear more” or “No thanks, not this time”. It would have saved his time so he would have had more time to call some other people who might been interested.
  • It would have saved my time – now I listened his speech as I thought they were really giving something for me (this is actually first or second time when some magazine caller has made this type of offer – so this is pretty new tactic in my case). When I see something “FREE” in the Internet, I most likely reject it, and I’m heading towards the same direction also with these magazine callers… so they are really just hurting their own business.

I like to order magazines, and sometimes these magazine callers actually call at perfect time – and sometimes those magazine ads are sent at perfect time. I have no problem with that. But I dislike when somebody is saying “it’s free” when in reality it isn’t.

How this works in game business?

The same way.

If you offer something for free, I’d like you to remember what you are offering for free. Giving free games is different from giving free game demos to test.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. But isn’t that exactly the same thing with a lot of game portals and shareware sites? Even with indies?

    Fake call:

    Caller: “Hi, would you like to download and play free games?”
    You: “Sure, but are they really free?”
    Caller: “Yes, you can download them freely. You don’t even need to register on our site!”
    You: “Now that’s really nice.”
    Caller: “…and if you played our games for an hour and if you like it, you have to pay 20 bucks.”

    Just try Google and type in “free games”… I’ll guarantee that 95 out of 100 results lead to sites claiming “Play Free Games” but offer nothing but Try-Before-You-Buy-Products.

    So don’t be upset about some magazine’s marketing technique when you’re generating sales the very same way. ;)

  2. This has happened to me as well and I was very annoyed about it. If you remember company the caller represented, you could report them to http://www.ssml-fdma.fi/ if they claim to “reilun pelin jäsen” (member of fair play) of “Suoramarkkinointiliitto ry”. At least company called “Nikolex” is contracted to do direct marketing and they use that shady tactic, and they claim membership of that “reilu peli” thing.

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