A walk through the free world

I have seen greed, and he is free samples.

Walking through the Village yesterday, a comparatively quiet Monday afternoon, the free sample booths were easy to identify by the clusters of people drawn to their wares. The handouts - a mishmash of goodies with varying degrees of nutritional value - were being hawked by young, good looking volunteers whose main purpose was to get as much of the product into the hands of passersby as possible. That being said, the more specific and challenging goal was to get the goods into new hands each time, not the greedy claws of repeat offenders. For some volunteers, it was simply impossible.

"One per person please, just one per - please guys!" was the beleaguered, rhythmical cry of Simona and Lucy at the Milk2Go table. "We try to control it but on the weekend kids from the local schools were coming every hour on the hour and filling their knapsacks. Once they do it a few times we can spot them coming but they're determined."

No kidding - everyone loves chocolate milk, especially in re-sealable bottles. For that reason the representatives release the milk every hour on the hour to moderate the flow. Their goal is to hand out 1,500 milks per day, which has been handily attainable. It's not hard to see why - as the clock strikes three, a crowd flocks the table, barely waiting for the volunteers to take the milk out of the boxes before grabbing bottles and running away (literally). Many take more than the one-per-person allowed, despite the careful watch of the volunteers.

"It's for my girlfriend," said one pimply chap of about 20 with greasy hair and an armful of chocolate milk, lying badly when caught by Lucy. "She's over there." He motions with a shoulder and slowly backs away from the table, clutching his treasure like a three-year-old with a toy truck.

It's a little calmer at the Chupa Chup tent, where volunteers are moving around 9,600 sweet little lollipop samples into people's mouths per day. The suckers are quite good - but small enough to bite so mine was gone in a matter of seconds, not exactly the half hour of fun promised by the company. Here's a strange little tidbit - Salvador Dali designed the Chupa Chup logo in 1969. In a way, you're sucking on high art.

No lollipop experience is complete without chips and hot sauce. Across the way from Chupa world seven flavours of Frank's Red Hot sauce in mini bottles are handed out along with a big bowl of sampling chips.

"This girl had your hot sauce and she turned ginger," said one customer, holding a redheaded toddler with a fistful of chips.

That Frank's, it hits the spot - to the tune of 10,000 mini bottles per day. More redheads may now be seen around Whistler. Jack White would be in heaven.

Angling a little more altruism into the giveaway process, adults (18 years and older) wanting a tall can of Monster Energy Drink have to donate to the Canadian Spinal Research Foundation to get their hands on a drink. The big clear donation jug was about a quarter full - mostly of pennies, nickels and dimes but with a liberal sprinkling of fives and twenties on top.

"Some people will come by, toss in a penny and get a drink. Then they'll come by again, toss in another penny or two and get another," recounted Rena, a volunteer running the booth. "Others have been really generous."

Like the milk situation, at the Jack Link's Beef Jerky tent volunteers Bryan and Matt were keeping a close eye on what they had coined "runners" - local kids competing to get as many free samples as possible.

"Once you get to know them you can see them coming, they're not even eating them, they're just competing to fill their backpacks and see who gets the most," commented Bryan, adding they were meeting their quotas of handing out 4,000 to 5,000 samples per day.

With bellies full of chocolate milk, hot sauce, beef jerky and lollipops, it is no wonder the free samples of Men Degree Adrenaline Series antiperspirants were so popular. Volunteers handed out 5,500 on Friday, 9,000 on Saturday, and 8,000 on Sunday but noted people were for the most part respectful of the one-per-person rule.

"Some ladies have taken extras for their grandkids, but they always ask," said Maddie. "Everyone loves it - because it's free."



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