Electronic cigarette free trial ads seem to be on the rise. I monitor a lot of news sources to get stories for my e-cigarette news updates. Some are good, and others not so much. I’ve noticed that “articles” touting the benefits of “free” trials for e-cigarettes seem to be on the rise. This probably means some company somewhere is providing a pretty handsome affiliate fee to marketers who refer customers to sign up. So, I figured it might be a good time to tell you to think twice before signing up.
Free e-cig trials are seldom a good deal, and here’s four reasons why (and one exception). Keep in mind, there very well could be a good trial offer out there somewhere, however your odds of getting screwed are much higher than getting something for free.
1. A (Rigged) Race Against the Clock
Usually the way these trials work is that you hand over your credit card details and they send you a shiny new e-cigarette kit. The terms vary from place to place. Some give you only a week, maybe two. Other places may be more generous and give you a whole month.
Except. The clock doesn’t start ticking when you get your shiny new electronic cigarettes. Usually, that limited time trial starts the second you click order. Naturally, it takes a few days to a week for the thing to show up in the mail, so you’re already against the wire to return it.
Often times, the same thing works in reverse. They might not consider your unwanted kit return until after they receive it and verify everything has been returned (better hope you didn’t lose the box). Of course, there is likely to be a day or two of delay for them to get around to processing your order.
Suddenly, that 30 day trial period ends up closer to 14 days, and the shorter trials are pretty much setting you up for failure.
Other ways they can screw you: The free part didn’t say anything about shipping. Your refund might not include shipping charges, and of course return shipping is on your dime. I’ve also seen some trials that charge you an outlandish fee if you use more than 1 cartomizer even if they include more. And let’s not forget some places charge a “handling” or “processing fee”
2. Expensive Free e-Cigarette Starter Kit
In the intro I mentioned that I think some company, or companies are offering high commissions to sleazy marketers willing to push these free e-cigarette trial scams. For that to work, a company needs to make both enough money to pay their army of slick salesmen and still turn a profit. Probably a quick profit since this is the internet and word tends to spread quickly about such shady tactics.
That means there needs to be a pretty sizable profit margin in these products so everyone can make some cash quick and get out. And where does that profit come from? That’s right, the suckers who buy into these scams.
While there are other ways these companies fleece unaware consumers we’ll talk about in the rest of the article, you can bet these places make a bunch of money on the actual starter kit sales as well.
Basic e-cigarette starter kits, even from the big “name brand” e-cigarette companies generally range in the $50-100 neighborhood, even less if you buy a generic version. When you read the fine print on these free trials, the amount you spend for the basic kit usually begins well north of that $100 figure. I’ve seen prices at twice that and even more.
To make matters worse, sometimes those kids are even more anemic than a basic starter kit. Perhaps it only comes with one battery, or only a couple of cartridges. A regular kit you buy outright typically has at least two batters, five or more refills, chargers and maybe some other goodies thrown in. Shameless plug: you can check out my starter kit reviews to get an idea of what to expect.
This is probably the biggest gotcha of all the items in this list. Autoshipping is simply when a company sends you a product automatically at preset intervals, say once a month.
In the case of the free e-cigarette deals, it’s usually refills. They’re consumable, so you’re going to need some after all. Most of these companies do some sort of program, with a fancy name that makes it sound like it’s a secret club or something.
As you might imagine, a company that would tease you with a free trial and then end up selling you an overpriced kit probably wouldn’t hesitate to keep shaking you down for as long as it can.
You can bet that the refills are going to come at a premium. It varies from place to place both on price and quantity, though they seldom do more than 10 replacements in a month (you will run out). Prices also vary, though they are more expensive than typical refills. I’ve seen one company that charged $75 per month for 5 measly cartridges. Compare that to even the more expensive name brands for around $15 bucks, or less expensive aftermarket refills.
Heck, get blank cartomizers and e-liquid from somewhere like Halo E-Liquid and fill them yourself for even less than that.
Other ways they screw you: Just like the free kit, you can bet you’re going to be up against a deadline to cancel the “amazing benefit” this company is offering you. That’s assuming you can cancel…
4. Good Luck Trying to Cancel
This one will vary from place to place. This is a particularly shady tactic, so not all vendors do this even if they try to put you over a barrel on the starter kits. However, some companies seem to have a hard time getting your cancellation order straight.
My wife used to work for a company that sold shady products like herbal pills and other crap that generally didn’t work. She worked in the customer service call center. You know, the place you call to cancel your order. Only, they didn’t have the power there to cancel anything. Only a written request to the corporate office would let the poor saps cancel their orders. And for some reason, those requests had a habit of getting lost during the process.
This example goes to show it’s not just the e-cigarette industry where this sort of nonsense happens. In fact, pretty much everything I described can happen with all kinds of products that aren’t e-cigarettes.
Similarly, not all free trials probably do the same thing. Like I said, there may even be legit free trials that I’m not aware of. That’s not to say free e-cigarettes don’t exist. I have seen them myself, which brings us to item #5.
5. Actual Free e-Cigarettes do Exist
There are some situations where a perfectly legitimate company does give away electronic cigarettes. Now, typically they’re nothing special. Most of them are disposables, or very basic introductory kits.
For the most part, those freebies are used as marketing by the bigger companies. They may hand out samples at events like concerts, or maybe offer something on their website to get you to sign up for their e-mail newsletter or they give you a free disposable you can send to a friend.
You know, stuff that’s very obviously a marketing gimmick.
One big vendor I deal with is thinking of launching a huge publicity stunt which involves them giving away a crazy amount of disposable e-cigarettes. Another, a small one-person shop I know will give freebies out to new vapers just to help spread the word about e-cigarettes.
The trick with those is to read the fine print and make sure there’s no strings attached. The thing I hope you take away from this article is the realization that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Disclosure, this article contains an affiliate link for Halo and some of the linked articles may contain affiliate links