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The Free iPad Ploy

Extra iPadsSo during this holiday season people ordered some new tech gadgets from Best Buy. A new iPad to put under the tree, sure to make somebody very happy.

So imagine their surprise when upon arrival the delivery box didn't just contain one iPad, but five?

And this wasn't just an isolated incident.

So was this an honest mistake, or perhaps a keen marketing ploy?

The Method Behind the Madness

Free iPads? What was Best Buy thinking? Those devices aren't cheap, so why would they simply give them away? Sure, those units weren't ordered and for all intent and purpose completely unaccounted for, but still. The manufacturer, Apple, must be losing out. And if they're not, then the factories at China are. Somebody is losing money here.

So, despite the honesty of those iPad recipients, it seems awfully generous to just let them keep all five units.

Unless...this is an investment towards a bigger scheme.

As news spreads about families ordering one iPad only to receive several, other people start to wonder if perhaps they'll experience similar luck. Order from Best Buy, everybody, because there's a chance (however slim at this point) that you could get extra iPads! The fact that the incident occurred to several different families legitimizes the possibilities; it's not just a fluke.

So for the investment of say, several iPads, maybe even a dozen extra iPads, you possibly gain hundreds of orders from other people. Families placing their iPad orders from your company, not your competitors.

You gotta spend money to make money. Or in this instance, possibly give some iPads away to sell more iPads.

A Subtle Ploy? Or Dumb Luck?

Was this a sneaky marketing campaign by Best Buy? Some sort of marketing conspiracy by a giant corporation at the expense of others? Well, some lucky families got extra tablets, and they are welcome to go forth and give those tablets away to others. And people who were considering getting a tablet are...still going to get a tablet. So was anyone really hurt by this grand plot?

Well, no. But does that make this marketing ploy right? Does this set a precedent where other retailers could now start giving away free products in order to trick consumers into solely purchasing from them? Would this devolve into "giveaway wars" where companies seek to one-up each other by "accidently" giving away more and more stuff just to better attract customers? Well, the consumer base would certainly benefit, but the sellers would eventually suffer.

Or am I getting too ahead of myself here? Maybe this was indeed just a series of mistakes, just this time it was a pleasant error instead of a disastrous one. Perhaps upon hearing news of the free iPads the heads of Best Buy decided to let the recipients keep their extra tablets in an effort to curry viral favor, even if it wasn't originally intended.

It's hard to say what actually happened. And at least in this instance it was a win-win for everyone, people got more iPads and Best Buy got more business.

But still, it's some interesting food for thought. Let's see if any more "happy accidents" occur later this holiday season or in the years to come.

What do you think? Was this all planned out, or purely happenstance? Could this set a serious precedent, or is there no way this could hurt anybody?

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