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What is a Gift with Purchase?

Tricia Christensen
Updated: May 16, 2024

A gift with purchase is a familiar marketing technique to many. It is meant to encourage people to purchase items, in order to receive a free gift. This advertising technique is used in many different industries. It’s quite familiar to people who routinely shop for cosmetics; most major cosmetics lines in department stores have annual gift with purchase deals. You usually have to spend a set amount in order to get your gift, which can vary depending upon the cosmetic line. For instance, you might spend $20-50 US Dollars (USD) on a product to receive a cosmetics bag, sample sizes of moisturizer and a couple of shades of lipstick in smaller sizes.

Other companies, like Sephora, always offer free samples with Internet or catalog purchase. Sample sizes are very small, but you usually have about 10-20 choices of samples and get to select three. It can be a nice way to try out products you might be interested in buying at a future date, but you can’t always depend upon the company offering a sample of the product in which you’re most interested.

Another familiar marketing technique occurs in many infomercials. In addition to purchasing whatever the infomercial is selling, you may be given the opportunity to receive several free “gifts.” These are, in fact, not entirely free. You usually must pay shipping and handling for any extra “gifts” you receive, so they don’t constitute quite the same gift with purchase as one that would be available if you were purchasing cosmetics. Sometimes handling fees on these gifts can be very high, so you may want to weigh whether the fees are worth the gift.

Instead of offering a gift with purchase, a retail store might offer a reduced rate on other items. For instance, department stores frequently have large stuffed animals they’ll sell at a reduced price if you spend a certain amount of money during the winter holidays. Quality on these varies. Also since you must pay for them, they don’t really constitute a gift.

Other gifts with purchase don’t depend upon a purchase, but might depend upon your time. For instance, some auto retailers offer gifts to people who test drive their cars, or you may be offered free trips to places, which are interested in selling you time-shares or real estate. In most cases, you won’t just walk out with your gift that easily. You’ll have to listen to a sales pitch; in the case of time-shares this can take several hours or a whole day. The auto retailer will definitely try to sell you a car; so do be certain the value of the gift is worth your time.

A twist on the gift with purchase is the buy one, get one free deal, that many different stores may offer at different times of the year. Prices usually reflect mark-up, so that the value of such a gift is minimized by higher prices. This may matter little if the items you purchase are still relatively inexpensive.

The types of gift with purchase that you should attempt to avoid are usually things like free gifts from auto retailers, time-share dealers or health clubs. Unless you want to listen to a sales pitch, these are not true gifts. For example a free month’s membership at a gym as a gift is usually an invitation to hear a hard sell sales pitch on joining the gym, and there are sometimes hidden fees associated with the supposedly “free” month. The gift with purchase that makes most sense is when you are already planning to purchase something, like cosmetics, a massage, or the like. In other cases, the free gift is simply not worth the purchase, and you still are not getting something for nothing since a purchase is required.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a SmartCapitalMind contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By oasis11 — On May 26, 2011

@Cupcake15 - I love shopping during these times because there are so many promotions it is hard to decide. You really can become a gift with purchase addict and not buy anything unless there is a gift attached.

I know that online gift purchases also work and you don’t have to wait in line. During the gift with purchase promotion, I will buy a gift online and get the free gift shipped to me. Sometimes they even offer free shipping if the order is large enough.

I usually shop this way because the stores can get a little hectic for my taste. This way I can shop whenever I want and I don’t have to worry about things being out of stock or waiting a long time in line.

By cupcake15 — On May 23, 2011

@SauteePan - I love those free gifts and I have to say that the lipsticks in those cosmetic gifts with purchase are usually full size which is like a $15 value.

I know that during the holidays the stores will have promotions in their cosmetic departments that will offer a free stuffed animal with a purchase of a fragrance or a free bag with a purchase of a fragrance.

The cosmetic companies also offer a purchase with purchase or a special value item. For example, many of the cosmetic lines offer a purchase with purchase meaning that if the customer purchases about $50 worth of merchandise they would be allowed to purchase the makeup blockbuster which is amazing.

In fact this is the only time of year that you can get it. The value of the blockbuster is about $240 but they sell it for only $45 with a $50 purchase. It is a great deal and they usually run out fast. Other cosmetic companies offer a special value set for considerably less in order to entice customers to buy.

They will offer for example, a set of four lipsticks for $25 when each individual lipstick costs $15 by itself. It is a great time to buy a gift of cosmetics.

By SauteePan — On May 23, 2011

Anon87601 - I don’t think that your parents lied to you because these promotions state that they are a gift with purchase. In other words if you don’t buy anything then you will not be getting the gift.

These cosmetic gift with purchases are huge promotions for the cosmetic companies. As a matter of fact, I used to be an Account Coordinator for one of the major cosmetic lines and every time we had a gift with purchase promotion we had to schedule additional staff along with make up artists because it was an all hands on deck situation.

Usually the beauty gift with purchase was twice a year and the promotion ran for about ten days at a time. It was great because the customers got to try additional products for free in the gift and sometimes they would come back to the counter and purchase the item that they sampled in the gift.

By anon87601 — On May 31, 2010

From childhood I was always thought that free was free and that a gift was a gift. And that when you gave something to someone you did not expect to get something back in exchange for it. Did my Mom and Dad lie to me, or are these false ads.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a SmartCapitalMind contributor, Tricia...
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