A Web site that gives away free iPod Miniis to customers who participate in promotional offers is being criticized by its customers for failing to get them their promised portable music player and inundating them with additional spam e-mail. The companyis owners are defending their service saying they are shipping mini iPods, but that they canit get enough to fill demand from Apple Computer.
"The wait is 100 percent due to Appleis manufacturing," said Gratis co-founder Peter Martin. "Apple is on back order. The delay is three weeks plus. They sit in the queue and when it gets to the vendor, it goes out the door."
Consumers who sign up for freeipods.com select from 10 different marketing offers ranging from magazine and newspaper subscriptions to memberships to product clubs. Once the marketing campaign for a products ends - which can last from a few weeks to over a month - Gratis then ships an iPod mini to the customer.
The problem is many customers havenit gotten their free product and are getting few answers from the company. As a result, Gratis is fast becoming the complaint of choice. Wired News reported complaints against Gratis are piling up at the Washington, DC branch of the Better Business Bureau.
Mr. Martin said his company has shipped out more than 4,000 free iPods and has yet to ship a thousand more, awaiting shipments from Apple.
Customers have also reported an increased amount of Spam e-mail since giving their e-mail address to Gratis Internet. Mr. Martin and his partner Rob Jewell denied giving customer e-mail information to third-party companies, but admitted customers do receive a small number of messages from select parties.
"We do withhold the right to send some marketing messages to our users," Mr. Jewell said . "Itis not high volume and itis not a big source of revenue for us.... Itis something weire upfront and clear about. We warn our users they may get some messages from our marketing partners."
Gratis runs a number of other free product sites, such as FreeCondoms.com, FreeDVDs.com, FreeFlatScreens.com and FreeDesktopPC.com.