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Like every other person in the world — except for maybe that baby actor in those annoying Capital One commercials — I enjoy free things. I was reminded of that fact over the weekend, as I couch-potatoed out to a free HBO/Cinemax preview weekend offered by my cable company.

Of course, like every other person in the world, I also realize that most free things aren’t really free. You get “free” hors d’oeuvres and wine at Pampered Chef parties in exchange for buying a few kitchen tchotchkes you’ll never use. You get the “bonus” digital camera carrying case — but only when you shell out for the expensive digital camera. And I got free premium cable for a weekend as an enticement to subscribe.

I didn’t upgrade to premium, though. I watched movies like it was my full-time job for two days and then happily went back to watching regular cable. And that’s the danger with freebies, isn’t it? You’re always going to have a certain percentage of people who benefit from the free item or service — and then run. If the vast majority of people do what you wanted them to, though, that small portion of free riders doesn’t really matter. But if most people free ride and few convert? Well, then you have a freebie quandary.

In my experience, insurance agents are passionate freebieists. Over the years, my various insurance agencies have sent me calendars, notepads, pens, baseball hats, Frisbees, reusable grocery bags, chip clips, magnets and even — I’m still confused about this one — nail files.

I’ve happily accepted all of them, but I’m not sure what they achieved … or even what my insurance agents hoped they’d achieve. Sure, my fellow grocery store shoppers now know the name of my insurance agency. And I file my nails while wondering about the sanity of my insurance agent. But did they boost my loyalty? Not really. Did they cause me to bump up my coverage? Nope.

Which frustrates me a little, especially in this day and age. Instead of perusing catalogs from Cheap Plastic Stuff R Us, why aren’t more agents offering freebies that help them connect with prospects and clients in relevant, effective ways?

Not one of my agents is on social media, where they could be offering me free advice — and reminding me about coverage I might be lacking — every single day. Only one of my past agents offered an e-newsletter, and it was sent out on an erratic basis, offered little advice and consisted mostly of blatant sales pitches. I’ve never been asked for referrals, let alone been offered something — a party invitation, an entry in a drawing, a gift — in exchange for a referral. Wouldn’t any of these things be more effective than just sending out a calendar?

Maybe it’s a symptom of the lack of training and support offered to insurance agents these days. Or maybe I’m just plain wrong. Maybe phones start ringing off their hooks when agencies send out logo-covered chip clips.

What’s been your experience? Tell me about it in the comments section below.

 

For more from Corey Dahl, see:

The Power of Peer Pressure

Facebook’s a Fad? As If

Life Insurance Is for Kids