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'Free' Promotions An Easy Way To Get Consumers To Spend Money

LOS ANGELES, November 27, 2012 () – I recently spent $10 to get a free soda.

Currently, the ampm convenience store chain is offering a promotion in which customers can receive a free fountain drink of any size with the purchase of three fountain drinks of any size. A customer doesn’t have to purchase all three fountain drinks at once. Rather, ampm gives you a card that gets punched every time a fountain drink is purchased.

Now normally, I go into ampm once in a great while, and only because many of its convenience stores in California—where I reside—are attached to ARCO gas stations and there’s an ARCO two minutes from my house. But because of the promotion, I found myself going into ampm more often to buy a fountain drink and get my card punched.

And when I went into the convenience store, more often than not I wouldn’t just get a fountain drink. I’d also purchase a candy bar or a bag of chips. I mean, I was already in the store and it was only $1.50 more. Who doesn’t have time for a quick snack?

And then came last Saturday morning. The big day. Why? Because that was the day of the fourth fountain drink. The free one.

It will be a while before I forget the power I felt as I made my way to the fountain drink section. I began reaching for the 44-ounce cups before I stopped mid-reach and instead opted for the 52-ounce size. Why not? It was free! After I put in my cubed ice and Diet Dr. Pepper, I went to the cashier, smug look etched on my face, put the drink down on the table and handed the lady my promotion card.

And you know what she said?

“That will be $4.87.”

I was stunned. Floored. I thought my drink was free. What happened?

Then I looked at the counter…

…and saw that I had purchased a candy bar, a bag of chips, and a protein bar.

And that’s when I fully realized the genius of “free” promotions. They get you in the door more often, you purchase things you wouldn’t normally purchase, and then you buy even more things you wouldn’t normally buy on days when you get the free thing.

I got my free soda.

It only cost me $10.

Well played, ampm. Well played.

Nevin Barich is the Food & Beverage Analyst for Industry Intelligence Inc. If you want him to spend money at your convenience store, offer him a free soda. It works every time. He can be reached at

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