My House in Taiwan is filled from top to bottom with free gifts. I am tripping over them on floor, cursing them when they fall out of cupboards and stuffing them into cupboards when and where I can find a space. Free Gifts are becoming annoying yet there is not much I can do about it. I cannot refuse or ignore a free gift now can I?
Everybody and his dog own a credit card in Taiwan: Visa or Master Card. Most people in Taiwan have more than one Credit Card and many have hundreds of them. Credit Cards are easier to obtain than a pint of milk and are freely available at every store, garage and shop and in any color or design that you wish for. All one has to do is go along to shop in question give an ID number, a current address (that could be false), sign a form and wait a few days for card to arrive.
Once Card arrives, a high spending limit is freely given and a free gift is thrown at you. Get idea? Apply for a credit card and you get a free gift. Once you have Credit Card and Free Gift both are thrown into a drawer and forgotten about until Company offers another free gift. The action of freely throwing Credit Cards at people has caused many persons to run into serious debt and to find themselves in big trouble – but that is another story.
This story is about “freebies”. The shops attract customers in a variety of ways. The latest one at President Department Store was that anybody that spends over 200NT Dollars could buy one handy-sized traveler’s bag for: an additional 290NT Dollars. NB: 100NT Dollars is about 2 UK Pounds or 3 US Dollars, so I must admit that incentive is there. You could of course only get hold of this Superb Bag if you have store Visa Card. Three visible queues where formed on this day that bags where on offer. One for people trying to spend minimum amount of 200NT Dollars at Candy store to keep their children happy. The other queue was for those collecting their treasures and third was for those starting whole purchase off by obtaining Credit Card. Too late for handy sized bag but ready for next time.
Free gifts are a massive attraction and seem to work very well. I am of view that anything that is free must be cheap of quality and have something wrong with it. I do though admit that my new handy sized traveler’s bag may come in useful next time I travel.
Walking around town I am often surprised out of my daydreams by objects being thrust into my hands. It is not normal for me to take note or acknowledge street sellers or hawkers but when “free gifts” are actually freely given I cannot really refuse them. Walking past three or so Department Stores that vie for same customers I can end up with a pile of shampoo sachets, little packets of toothpaste with a shortened toothbrush, a packet of cream biscuits and some things that are only for woman. Walk back down row once again and I am sure that I could do shopping for a week without having spent a penny (sorry Dollar).
I fitted this little notice board in apartment so that we could put on it anything of importance. First of all I have found out that board is far too small, and second thing is that any sized board would still be far too small. The current pin board is ten sheets deep in “free” gift tokens, coupons for free drinks, reductions on anything from a T-shirt to a large TV Set. Ten dollars off this product, twenty percent off that product and three for price of one if you present card on a certain day. Cards that need stamps on them and if you get twenty stamps you can have a member card. Little tokens that need to be used, a token for a free drink from Seven Eleven, a token for a free doughnut from local bakery and a little token for a free massage from parlor down road.
Sad really that some of these tokens will never be used. The Seven Eleven token will be if I ever remember to take it out when I go there. But doughnut one is a bit peculiar as shop that gave tokens away, never made doughnuts since! And free massage? Well that one sits hopefully hidden but wife would never allow it.
The Cheese shop annoys me. They give these cards out and if you can spend, over time, upwards of ten thousand dollars then you get a member card and a subsequent 20% discount on all future purchases. For me that would be great and I have spent well over that amount and probably do so every two months or so. I am a cheese addict and this shop is only good one for hundreds of miles around. Yet every time I am accidentally at shop and in desperate need of a cheese pick me up I do not have card with me. Going back to house is not practical as it is too far away. Waiting for another day when I do have card is also not practical: addicts need their injections then and now. Not tomorrow, not later but now and so into that shop I go, buy my cheese and get another stamp on a brand new card.
I ask and continue to ask if they will take all of my cards and add stamps together, assuming that this would be case. I also hope that because I am a regular and keep their shop alive that they will make allowances for my forgetfulness. No, that is not to be as either my face is easily forgettable or they have a grudge against me. No way will they accept my twenty or more cards with one stamp each – they want to see one card with twenty stamps on it.
Yes, my little notice board is a confusion of incentives. So many freebies, coupons and stamp cards, that would take me a week to unravel and another year to act upon. Goods that are only reduced on a certain day of week, points to collect before a blanket can be freely obtained, meals to eat if we have one first and free months worth of pet food if we first buy a pet! Wow, I was considering placing all of these incentives onto a specially made computer program. First thing in morning I could wake up, switch machine on and check list of things that I must do today and take advantage of all that is on offer.
My Computer tells me this: Breakfast at Coffee Shop first, as I will get a free coffee if I spend over 100NT Dollars. Then I will take my stamp coupons to Cheese shop and buy some cheese, then go to Garage for some Petrol and get some free Tissues (the garage that is miles away from anywhere). After returning with my free box of tissues I would then have to collect correct coupon and go to Seven Eleven for my Free Green Tea. I would drink that on my way to Electrical Goods store where handy sized Food Mixers are on a one-day special offer (even though I don’t need one). Then go and pay my Telephone Bill where I have a coupon for a free shopping bag to add to collection that I have already.