Recently, a company I am friendly with received a request from a guy asking for a sample to test. He wasn’t even picky about the product he was interested in. It just had to be free. The company and the guy went back and forth and eventually it came out that the guy was with a large government agency, who will remain nameless in this article because, in my opinion, his actions did not represent the agency.
I’m sharing this because it is from an industry standpoint and explains their point of view when dealing with the rather frequent requests for “samples”. This is their final response to his request.
“With your initial approach, I was *hoping* that this whole thing was a joke. When your rationale for us sending you a free piece of gear was “a couple of guys with XXX”, I felt sure it was a joke. Since it appears that you’re not kidding, let me lay it out for you.
Gear costs money to make. So anything that we have in stock, it cost us money to get. Particularly our gear which is made in the USA and not marked up very much. So when we send out something “free” for someone to evaluate, we’re actually spending money to do that and we have to believe that there is a good chance for a return on our investment. There are two types of evaluations that we typically send gear out for.
The first type of evaluation is to a journalist of some type. In that case, we look at their reach (how many people are reading their articles) and also their experience base. We want guys evaluating our gear for the public who actually know something about what they’re talking about. And we want to know that they are reaching thousands of people with their opinion. Or at least tens of exactly the right kind of people. When these people approach us they introduce themselves, cover their background, and then go on to talk about what publication they are writing the article for and what that publication’s reach looks like.
The second type of evaluation is an official unit or agency evaluation. This is where a police department or military unit or something like that reaches out and says “I’m so and so with such and such military unit and we are going to be buying 120 patrol packs this year and yours is one of the three we would like to consider”. The language is often quite formal, always comes from a government email address, and includes a signature line so we know exactly who we are dealing with and what their rank and position within their organization is. Usually these are structured in such a way that there is a limited evaluation period and they return the gear after evaluation.
That pretty much covers it. And I’ll give you another hint — the highest level most legitimate users of our products never reach out and ask for a free evaluation. They buy them off the shelf at no discount and we don’t even find out about it until we notice a spate of similar orders all going to addresses in the same military town. Or until a supply guy reaches out and says “hey, we’ve been testing your gear and now we need a quote for 20 of such and such”. Many journalists also follow a personal policy of paying full retail for items to avoid conflict of interest. So a whole lot of people who could be getting free gear — choose not to.
I hope you can see the difference between these very legitimate requests for evaluation and yours — both in the approach and in the rationale.
Good luck in your future endeavors.”