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Gadget Corner: A note from your spam folder

Some Internet deals are for real

 by Stephanie Berger
 published on Thursday, January 19, 2006

<em>Photo illustration</em><br>
Hey! Your spam folder is trying to tell you something. Pay attention -- maybe that
Tiffany Tcheng / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Photo illustration
Hey! Your spam folder is trying to tell you something. Pay attention -- maybe that "free iPod" isn't a scam after all.
 

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Dear ASU Students,

Hey everyone, it's me, that annoying spam folder that sits at the bottom of your e-mail box. Although I have a tendency to collect important e-mails that you do need from professors and co-workers and to fail to weed out the advertisements for "Viagraaa," I have some important news for you. The next time you're browsing through my contents and deleting all the offers for free stuff that you think can't possibly be real, be careful: you may be deleting your chance at a free flat screen computer monitor or a Starbucks gift card.

There are at least two online companies that offer free goodies as payment for your time. Both Harris Interactive and Gratis Internet are legitimate companies that will repay you with material goods, as long as you are willing to put in the energy it takes to complete their surveys and offers.

Harris Interactive is a market research firm based in Rochester, N.Y., that publishes polls on topics ranging from politics to designer purses. According to their Web site, clients from different companies and organizations pay Harris to do research on topics that interest them, and Harris conducts online polls of a diverse group of millions of respondents from more than 125 countries.

In order to become one of Harris' online survey takers, you need only to visit www.harrispollonline.com and provide some basic information in order to start receiving surveys in your e-mail.

The good news is that Harris doesn't expect you to provide such a service out of the goodness of your heart. For each survey you take, you earn between 30 and 100 HIpoints, which can be redeemed for prizes. Prizes range from $5 Starbucks and Barnes and Noble gift cards for 800 HIpoints to George Forman Next Generation Jumbo Grills for 10,000 HIpoints. Just be aware that since a 100-point survey might take half an hour to complete, getting your grill might take away some serious time from studying.

While Harris Interactive asks for your time, Gratis Internet wants your money -- for the companies that pay for its service, anyway. Gratis Internet runs a service called Freepay, which operates several Web sites including www.freeipod.com, www.freeflatscreen.com and www.freehandbags.com. On each of these sites, a user has his or her choice of free products that are often more than $300 in value.

Matthew Voogt, a 19-year-old film scoring major at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, says he has completed the process and it is fairly simple. First, Voogt says you must complete a certain number of offers from companies such as Blockbuster.com and BMG Music, which usually involve signing up for a free trial membership that you have to remember to cancel before you get charged. Then, you must get a certain number of people to sign up for offers under you in order to get your free product. For example, it takes five "friends" to get the iPod and seven to get a flat screen computer monitor.

Voogt and a fellow student at Berklee started a Web site to help users get the referrals they need, and can attest to the legitimacy of the Freepay websites. Freeipodsandflatscreens.com charges $10 to post your referral number on its site for 24 hours to get you the number of referrals you need.

"I've gotten an iPod from the original free site, and then a flat screen," says Voogt. "The other ones I haven't done personally and John [Sauer, co-founder of www.freeipodsandflatscreens.com] hasn't either, but we know that they work because we've had other people post stories on our Web site."

Voogt says he and Sauer got the idea for their site in August 2004 and that they have since made more than $18,000, though Voogt adds that there are lots of other websites that now offer the same service.

"The process is a little hard and time consuming, but if people are willing to put in the time, it does work," Voogt says.

Voogt adds that once you complete the online offers and get the required number of people to do the same, it can take from two weeks to over a month to get your free item.

"The Gratis company is trying to convince people that this is a way to pay for things online," he says. "You're paying for the iPod by doing these offers. Instead of paying cash you're doing it in free trials."

So happy survey-taking and free offer-hunting, ASU! And remember, your spam folder deserves some respect!

Sincerely,
Spammy


Reach the reporter at stephanie.m.berger@asu.edu.



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