Cafe Society

Freeosks give out free Rice Krispies Treats -- no human interaction required

I thought the Freestyle Coke machines and touch-screen, meal-ordering systems that keep popping up in restaurants were going to be all the unmanned, automated, de-humanizing product-offering and/or dispensing machines out there for a while.

Nope. After finding a "Freeosk" that dispensed Rice Krispies treats at the local Sam's Club, I am now convinced that human-free kiosk machines are what we will rely on to feed, clothe, entertain and possibly bathe us in the future.

See also: -Milking It: Rice Krispies Treats -Milking It: Frosted Krispies -Welcome to the future: Coca-Cola's 100-flavor soda machine incites confusion, awe

Shopping at the Sam's Club at 7805 East 35th Avenue is always fun for me, because I can buy cases of super-important things like Skittles, beer and heartburn medication. This past weekend, on the way to the check-out stand with my weekly loot, I spotted a freestanding kiosk that advertised free samples of Rice Krispies treats -- all I had to do was swipe my member card.

The Freeosk was about the size of a soda or candy-vending machine; Freeosk Marketing Inc. (an affiliate company of Blue Sky Chicago, an in-store marketing-event company) has been peddling the kiosks since 2010.

These freestanding machines are the the latest technological advance in the field of sample-enticement marketing, which traditionally involves paid employees wearing gloves and hairnets, lots of little plastic cups and those tiny sampling spoons. Sampling is a fairly effective way to introduce customers -- and their expendable incomes -- to new products, and cutting out the middlemen seems like a cost-effective plan for companies. But the middlemen could find themselves out of jobs.

In the case of this Freeosk, I was surprised that Rice Krispies were the free samples being offered, since these are by no means new or exciting. Still, I subscribe to the pervading theory that free food tastes better, so I gently placed my card on the "scan" spot, and then watched as a single wrapped treat plopped down into the "grab" slot. And I also couldn't help but notice -- and admire -- the way Sam's Club had strategically placed cases of Rice Krispies Treats for purchase on the conveniently-placed product shelves on the machine.

While I was devouring my treat, I couldn't help but imagine more possibilities for Freeosk samples -- heartburn medication, beer, Skittles. But I also couldn't help feeling pretty f*cking glad I wasn't currently employed as a person giving out product samples in stores...

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Jenn Wohletz
Contact: Jenn Wohletz