Election 2008

Free election day stuff, free coffee election day
Chitose Suzuki/AP

Election Day Marketing Means Free Stuff for Voters

November 04, 2008 12:38 PM
by Josh Katz
For many, Election Day means free stuff: coffee, doughnuts, music and even sex toys are up for grabs from local and national businesses looking to attract voters.
Babeland, a store defined by spokeswoman Pamela Doan as “a sex-positive, women-friendly retailer for sex toys and accessories,” is just one of many businesses offering voters an incentive to go to the polls Tuesday. The sex chain, with stores in New York, Los Angeles and Seattle, offers free toys to those who can prove that they cast a vote, MSNBC reports.

The “Maverick” is a “sleeve” meant for men and the “Silver Bullet” vibrator is available for women. The Maverick is “always there to lend a hand,” Doan explained, and the Silver Bullet is a “great stress-reliever during these troubled economic times!” Summing up the promotion, Doan said: “Sex crosses party lines.”

Babeland joins the swath of businesses throughout the country that are offering special deals during the election. Starbucks is providing voters nationwide with a free cup of coffee if they reveal a ballot stub or “I Voted” sticker. Voters in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia can also earn a cup of coffee at a local Eat’n Park outlet.
Krispy Kreme is offering star-shaped doughnuts topped with red, white and blue sprinkles to Americans who make it to the polls. Meanwhile, ice cream chain Ben & Jerry’s is handing out ice cream on the house from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. today, though proof of having voted is not required.

If doughnuts and ice cream are too fattening and sex toys are just not your thing, you can still cash in on voter swag. According to an article from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, MTV’s Rock the Vote is offering music downloads free of charge to anyone who pledges to vote.

Chicago restaurants aren’t going free, but some are offering themed, discounted menus, a Wall Street Journal blog notes. “At Viand, the prix fixe menu is $20.08 featuring such entrees as Obama & Hillary’s green plate with grass-fed beef or McCain’s big barbecue ribs (the dessert is Baked Alaska).”

But MSNBC reminds voters to read the fine print, because even Election Day deals may sound too good to be true. At Zov’s cafés in Southern California, an ‘I Voted’ sticker could yield a complimentary slice of “All-American Apple Pie.” But, even voters must “buy any menu item, or order Zov’s family take-out dinner for 2 or 4.”

Patriotism is probably not the reason for such business generosity, either, particularly with the troubled economy, USA Today reports. “They want you to buy something else to go with the coffee or doughnut,” says Allison Cohen, president of the market research firm PeopleTalk. “It’s to stimulate business.”

Furthermore, such promotions might be illegal if voters are required to present verification of their civic act. In Washington state, a statute prohibits “any freebies or cash payments or remuneration for registering, voting or not voting,” the Post-Intelligencer explains. Similarly, Georgia state law says: “Any person who gives or receives, or offers to give or receive, or participates in the giving or receiving of money or gifts for the purpose of registering as a voter, voting, or voting for a particular candidate in any primary or election shall be guilty of a felony.”

Reference: Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Krispy Kreme, Ben & Jerry’s

If you’re looking for a nearby Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Krispy Kreme or Ben & Jerry’s, the Web sites for the companies provide store locators.

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