Freeride.com Says It Offers Free Baby Stuff — But Where Is It?

January 7, 2009 · 0 comments

“Free baby stuff” is the phrase repeated over and over in the press release Freeride.com put out yesterday. I thought that was a little strange a) because I wasn’t aware that Freeride was indeed offering any free baby items — wish they were because my SIL could use ‘em, and b) because it seemed like the use of the phrase over and over was a bit gratuitous…like perhaps an SEO tactic. (To my friends unfamiliar with the term SEO, it means Search Engine Optimization — one of a number of activities designed to improve your search engine ranking.)
“Today, FreeRide.com is thrilled to announce that free baby stuff is now available as part of the excellent rewards members can earn when they complete paid surveys,” says the press release.
Freeride has some new redemptions? I went to check. No, they don’t. Not only are there NO “free baby stuff” related redemptions, but there’s a note up saying that their old redemptions are running a week late in being fulfilled due to the holiday.
But this promise of redemptions that don’t exist, solely for the purpose of repeating the phrase “free baby stuff” NO LESS THAN EIGHT TIMES (and that’s not including the Technorati tags), isn’t the only disingenuous part of the press release. Its claim that Freeride has “more than 14 years in the business” is easily disproved by a visit to the Wayback Machine at Archive.org. In December of 1996, the site was “about to take off.” It appears to have launched in January of 1997. I remember it being one of the first programs I joined, in 1997, for the free CDs in their redemption catalog. Anyway, 1/97 – 1/09 = 12 years in the business, not 14. But there’s another little bitty detail this leaves out: Freeride.com was not up continuously all that time, and was owned by different parties during its tenure.
Here’s a blast from the past from April 2001: “Freeride goes back to the drawing board. While you’re out there enjoying the summer, FreeRide will be busy rebuilding our business model. If that has an all-too-familiar ring [note: that's because the site had only just recently gone back online after the LAST time it was taken down], we share your frustration… What’s the problem? It’s called cash flow… FreeRide doesn’t have deep enough pockets to play this game indefinitely. Therefore, effective Monday, April 30, we’re taking a giant step backward by taking the FreeRide site down…”
Not the first time. Nor the last. The site stayed down not just through the summer but through November, and it was up until it went BACK down again in June 2002.
In October 2002 they sent an email to their former members: “To those of you who were part of our test relaunch earlier this year, thanks again…As FreeRide struggles for its future, one thing has become clear: Either we quickly re-invent ourselves, or we join the dot-com scrap heap…” They were still not sure what their business model was going to be.
They finally went back up again in July of 2003 — a year after it went down the last time. They zeroed out everybody’s point balances and made everybody start from scratch. And finally, they had found a business model that stuck. It’s been operating continuously since then.
Not that it’s been smooth sailing by any stretch of the imagination. They were way behind in redemptions at one point — when I posted about it in September of ’06, I mentioned that “The buzz on Freeride from the message forums is overwhelmingly negative, and it has been for months. Freeride is showing many of the classic signs of a rewards program in trouble: longer waits for redemptions, poor communication with members, and now, increased redemption costs.”
To their credit, Freeride stuck it out and caught up with their backlog. While they do give out some points for free, without any spending required, they subsidize their value by offering pathetic shopping rates: at or near the bottom in my 2006, 2007, and 2008 shopping rate comparisons.
Let me circle back to my point. FreeRide’s press release from yesterday was misleading to say the least. There is no free baby stuff on their site, and the program doesn’t have “more than 14 years in the business.” It went live 12 years ago and has changed hands and changed models multiple times since then, only operating consistently since July of 2003. I guess 5 and a half years doesn’t sound as good in a press release.
“FreeRide has earned one of the best reputations in the industry,” says the press release. Says who? Which industry? Reputations for what?
I could go on and nitpick this thing further, but I think I’ve made my point.
Let me just add that I am very disappointed in the editorial staff at PRWeb.com for allowing this so-called press release to go live. The repetition of the “free baby stuff” keywords is clearly done for the sole purpose of SEO. This wasn’t a newsworthy press release. The “thrilling” announcement was for redemptions that don’t exist, which should have been suspected by the vague wording in the release. I’ve used PRWeb for three different press releases and my first one was dinged and sent back to me after editorial review as not being newsworthy enough and I had to revise it and resubmit it. Yet this crap gets okayed? Something’s wrong with your system there, PRWeb.
And FreeRide (aka Endai Worldwide) — shame on you. It’s obvious what you’re after with this silly press release. This page on your site didn’t go unnoticed. If you don’t get some kind of new baby items up in your redemption section ASAP it’s going to be obvious to everybody that roping in new members is all you care about, even at the cost of what scant integrity you still have remaining. Maybe instead of pulling out all the stops to bring in new members, you should work on making a program worthy of word of mouth. There’s a reason your members aren’t referring their friends. Take a good look in the mirror.

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