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There has been a spate of posting links to free gift referral schemes recently- the "get 8 referrals and win (piece of consumer electronics or gift vouchers)" type of thing. In this quick 'Tible I will show you how to use these to your advantage.

Disclaimer: I make a few tongue-in-cheek references to communism and related topics in this Instructable. I don't endorse it as a way to run a country, I'm not getting into a political discussion but where I make these references they are merely meant to amuse. inb4 "pinko".

DIsclaimer 2: it is entirely possible that some of these reward schemes will be scam and no-one gets any free shinies. In this case my method won't help, but I will leave it to your discretion to find a scheme that seems genuine. Bear in mind you are giving away personal details on the internet in exchange for the promise of free stuff, and act accordingly. If you are at all unsure about the trustworthiness of a scheme, don't give them your credit card number, home address or a valued email account. It goes without saying that details like your social security number etc. shouldn't even cross your mind to divulge under these circumstances.

Step 1: How They Work

The general model of the schemes is that you fill in a "referral" to get into the scheme. Usually this involves some trial offer with a company trading online in an attempt to get you as a customer. Referrals vary from "sign up for this video rental service" to "spend at least X money in this online store". You are contributing to the person who you are a referral for (ie they are "referring" you to the scheme).

If you get a certain number of your own referrals, ie. you get people to join the scheme, as a reward for providing the scheme with 9 fresh new consumers you are eligible for a free gift. Usually between around 8 and 25 referrals are required, for gifts of varying values from mobile phones to flatscreen TVs, games console packages or gift vouchers. If the people who you referred get their own referrals, then they too get free gifts and so on ad infinitum.

In these examples I will assume you require eight referrals to get an unspecified "shiny gift".

EDIT: the editor seems to be persistently losing my comment boxes. "Diddly squat" means "nothing".

Step 2: Why They Will Only Ever Benefit a Minority

Yes, like feudalism, these schemes only ever reward the people at the top. The model is effectively the same as a pyramid scheme, in that In theory anyone can get to the top, but in practise you run out of people to be the bottom level of the tree.

If you require N referrals to get a gift, that means for every gift given out there are N people without one, who have already signed up for some referral scheme. In the case of large trees this means that approximately (N-1)/N of the people involved lose out because they don't get a gift but have already signed up, and 1/N of the people get gifts so benefit.

The way that these schemes differ from traditional pyramid schemes, however, is that the reward for people on higher levels is of greater value than the sum of the contributions that led to it being given out. You might get a moderate value free gift with just nine people signing up for a scheme and not necessarily paying any money- perhaps 20 minutes work each. Unless you are in a hideously well-paid job and twenty minutes of your time is worth a lot of money, in which case you can buy your own dang console.

This is the fact that we will exploit in the next step. The gifts that work for my method are consoles and to a lesser extent other similar items- huge TVs, mobile phones, etc. don't work so well. The gifts on the site pictured in the intro step wouldn't be great as they are hard to share.

Step 3: How to Beat the System

I should add at this point that you are not "cheating" the system in any way. If they give you a free gift for nine referrals, then that's exactly what they get. They are perhaps making an implicit assumption that your eight referrals will then go on and recruit their own, but that's not in the rules.

YOU WILL NEED:
- an internet connection
- a number of friends, equal to the number of referrals required for your chosen gift, who live locally to you
- trust and common sense
- A large piece of paper and a pen

Firstly, you need to choose a gift that can be shared. Obviously mobile phones don't work too well in this- a console such as a Wii would work well, that was what I chose for my (sadly failed) attempt at this. If your scheme doesn't have any suitable gifts, ditch it and find another.

Secondly, make sure that the scheme you have chosen has a non-onerous option you can sign up for. Ideally it should not involve spending any money, or signing up for excessive spam. We found one that just involved signing up for a trial video rental scheme, and rent one video that could be cancelled before it was shipped and your money would be refunded. If the scheme doesn't have a quick and cheap or free referral option, ditch it and find another. There are plenty around.

Thirdly, you need to write up an agreement. This should be something along the lines of

"We, the undersigned, agree to partake in the below mentioned free gift referral scheme in order to get one _(gift). _ (organiser) will keep said gift but it will be made available to any member of this agreement on request.
We agree to partake in _(easy referral option). In the event that any members of the group do not fulfil their referral requirements, they shall be liable for the cost of buying an equivalent _(gift) to be split equally between them."

This means that if only one or two people don't bother to do the referral, they are required to split the cost of buying the item between themselves, and the more people who sign up, the more it would cost them not to sign up. If the terms are made clear at the start, this isn't an onerous requirement, and surely they would rather spend 20 minutes filling in an online registration form and maybe registering a free email address than paying for half of a PS3?
Missing out this step was the crucial part I missed when I tried this. I got five people to refer, but three lamed out and said they couldn't be bothered to spend ten minutes filling in a form for a part share in a Wii, then the rest got disillusioned and I was left with a shattered dream and an inbox full of marketing spam about video rental. (sniff)
Moral of the story is, have a firm agreement to all sign up for the scheme, don't just say "hey you guys, wouldn't it be cool if we did this and got a Wii for the house?"

If you write up this contract, and everyone goes away and does their referral, and the scheme you chose was genuine, the scheme organiser should receive one shiny gift in the mail. Take the money you saved on not buying the item new, get some beers and have your friends over to enjoy your new shiny consumer electronics.
what! this instructables was a bigger disapointment than me not getting my free stuff yet. I have an evene better idea to not only cut out the company!! But each person also gets a shiny new thing!!!!!! step one, first find a group of friends, must be as large as the most number of referals, dont go for laptops, they are like 20 referals. step two, first person signs up and refers the number of people needed. They do what they need to do for it to count. That person gets the prize and hes all happy! step three, everyone, except the next person, cancels their account. He sends out referals, and then they all sign up again, he gets his gift, and it keeps moving on throughout the chain. keep doing it until everybody gets what they want! and if some one needs less referals, than less people are needed for that referal. EVERYONE WINS!!! and the company wont be suspisicious, cuz you wont be in the data base if you cancel the account. BUT!!!! please make sure you get your prize before you start cancelling tat persons account.
I think the problem is your assumption "cuz you wont be in the data base if you cancel the account" Often you need to sign up with some kind of personally identifiable information such as a postal address, so you can only sign up once per scheme (the idea about finding nine different schemes still works). Otherwise, everyone would be doing this. If you find a scheme where you can use throwaway free email addresses and pseudonyms then go for it, but I'd suspect they would prevent this from happening.
Hey PKM, The reason for my post is to quash the point of your Instructable here. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not a bad guy. I don't go around ending people's fun just for fun. But, I do see one fatal flaw here. This Instructable requires you to find a legit referral scheme. That's the problem... How do you find a legit one? Now, you could go to each site in turn and look at it, but how do you tell if it will yield a prize? There is no way to tell without signing up and waiting for your gift. And, hypothetically speaking, let's just say that you actually do get a prize, and you want to go in with some friends and earn a Wii. So you log in, and you click "Refer a Friend", you find a problem. You've already won a prize with this site, and they won't give you anything else no matter how many friends you refer. Now, there is a way around this... You could always create a new Email address, and use somebody else's mailing address... But think about it... Was it worth the work? HECK YES!!! But only if you can actually find a legitimate site that won't scam you, and let's face reality, here... What are the chances of that?
but the thing is, if you resign up for something else, or cancel the account,it just means you have to keep doing the offers and you lose any referals, im sure u could keep signing up, but u can only have one item shipped out. i'll try it, but anyways, if it doesnt work, at lest one person will still get the prize
What you are missing here is that when you cancel your account to create a new one, you are not out of their system. If they go to these great lengths to get referalls, they surely keep records of all past and present members, wouldn't you say?
you could take it a step further: find 9 sites that each require 8 referral details...<br/><br/>then each person picks a thing off each site<br/><br/>then you all get an item you want.<br/><br/>(i'm sure there are more than 9 sites around to do this with)<br/><br/>==free stuff for everyone, and if you use throwaway email addresses, it's awesome!<br/>
<a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.spambox.us">http://www.spambox.us</a><br/>
That is the best post I've seen ALL DAY!
I had thought of that- it seems like you'd have to find a lot of sites offering similar things, though, or then there would be arguments because presumably some sites give better gifts than others. Now you've got me wondering if there is a scheme where one person can enter multiple times, because then you could just go round the group, you refer for everyone else in the group and everyone gets a gift.
Good instructable but can you link to a couple (pref about 10) schemes please?
Silm ov Derby?
Erm.... yes? I have no idea what you just said.
You remind me of someone from a much more shady site than ibles. I was mistaken.
so you would share the thing between several people??
Yes, that's the idea- that's why I said it works best with consoles or something you can easily share. Some of the schemes give out money to paypal accounts, which would presumably be pretty easy to share as you just paypal your friends their share of the money- it wouldn't work out as very much each, though.

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