All Episodes

May 2, 2023 45 mins

In the ridiculous aftermath of their series on music samples, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the scrumptious, weird history of everything from free samples in grocery stores to the bizarre evolution of freebies in general. Strap in, Ridiculous Historians: it's much weirder than you think.

See for privacy information.

Mark as Played

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
Ridiculous History is a production of iHeartRadio. Welcome back to

the show Ridiculous Historians. Thank you, as always so much
for tuning in. Let's give a shout out to our
super producer, mister Max Williams. Oh you know him, you
love him. My one and only co hosts, mister Noel Brown.
They called me, they call me Ben Noel. We ran
into uh we ran into an interesting situation with a

lovely two part episode on the history of music sampling
last week. And at the very beginning, man, we we
did the like a classic Ridiculous History joke, right fake out, Yeah,
the fake out, and we didn't one of us always
does one of those fake outs if we can. And uh,
I think we got to our pal mat dude, Oh yeah,

it'll it'll happen. We're pretty Uh, we kind of insist
upon ourselves. We push, uh And yeah, I think we
made some toothpick jokes, tiny cubes of cheese, et cetera.
And we even I mean we literally, Yeah, we had
a little sub conversation before we got into the real
deal about the history of sampling and music, about you know,

the different types of free samples that you get, Like,
say you know, you and I like to go to
a lot of Asian grocery stores out on Beuford Highway
here we live, and they'll have little tiny cups of
noodle soups or like you said, kimchi or whatever it
might be. And then you've got you know, your run
of the mill Kroger, like some new brand of whatever.

It might be thin rice, cracker, free mac and cheese, yeah.

Speaker 2 (02:00):
Exactly, or balls perhaps, And sometimes it'll be you know,
someone actually grilling some tiny portions of meats which had
a little idea. It does feel a little extra, doesn't that.
Like then just getting you know, a cold piece of
cheese or something like that, but a.

Speaker 3 (02:16):
Little George Foreman some kind of hot play.

Speaker 2 (02:18):
It also feels like it has a little bit more
let's just call it, I don't know, grandiosity to it.
It's a little more of an event. And then certain
grocery stores get reputations for being the one to go
to for the best free samples, like our beloved Trader
Joe's Trader.

Speaker 1 (02:35):
Joe's h Mart on a Saturday, which is considered a
Korean grocery stores where you go to get a lot
of cool, fresh ingredients. You might not find somewhere else,
and they do it big with the samples. College Age
Ben Bullen owes you h Mart Empire a huge thank you,
as well as Trader Joe's Good Calinel, because you helped

me not pay for lunch for many years. I'm still
a little embarrassed when I see it, because at H
Mart they're always going to have someone cooking this stuff too,
and I have to I stand there.

Speaker 2 (03:10):
Well, like I said, it's sort of a mark of
a little bit more expertise than someone just holding out
a cup, and you got to give them props where
props are doing. Last little aside about our personal experience
of the free samples, I used to work at a
guitar shop in Augusta, Georgia, and there's this cute little
lady named Miss Tabor, and she would always send us
across the street for us young young fellows who worked there.

We were like, you know, in high school. To get
She would describe, go to fresh market, give me one
of those little cups of coffee.

Speaker 3 (03:39):
Yeah, you know what I'm talking about.

Speaker 2 (03:41):
At the fresh market, their whole thing was sampling all
of their different coffees and these tiny little mouth wash
cups and she wanted us to fetch her one in
our car, and I mean to transport one of those,
you know, like the cup holders. I hate to tell
you are not meant for these little cups of coffee.
So we'd be lucky if we and scald ourselves, you know,
on the journey back.

Speaker 1 (04:02):
And so a few days after we do these jokes,
a few days after we have recorded our two part
episode on sampling shout out to our research associate Jeff Bartlett,
Max comes back and says, hey, guys, this, Uh did
you didn't out out and out say it got to you,
but you said, hey, guys, recently when we talked about sampling,

you kept joking that the episode was not about music
but free samples. So you know what, Max, beat me here,
here's your freaking episode on free samples.

Speaker 3 (04:36):
Man. Nobody directly you do this, No one did.

Speaker 2 (04:40):
I want to just say I finished editing and then
I immediately sat down.

Speaker 3 (04:44):
And wrote this brief out. There was no period between, like,
I didn't do anything between. It went one to one
right there. Well, I love that.

Speaker 2 (04:51):
And the last thing before we really dive into this topic,
which is is a lot deeper than you might think,
I just realized we never said one thing in the
history of sampling. In music episodes, we talked about the
fair Light sampler or the fair Light you know, music
computer that a lot of luminarias used in the eighties,
big old touchscreen thing with like a light pen they
called it. That is where the term sampling came from.

Was that company. Basically the creators of the Fairlight started
using the term sample as referring to the little units
of sales.

Speaker 3 (05:23):
That's good.

Speaker 1 (05:24):
Yeah, yeah, I rewatched the Quest Love hip Hop stuff,
and we talked about cool Hirk. But really, if you
want the full story, to check out that drunk history.

Speaker 3 (05:33):
It's just a it holds up. He's such a good storyteller. Okay.

Speaker 1 (05:37):
Free samples as food, everybody knows the score. I think
these days they're considered one of the most reliable tactics
you can use to bolster sales of a product, especially
if it's a new thing on the market and people
might not want to spend you know, five, ten whatever
dollars to purchase it. And Carl Small, writing for Today

I found out dot com says, quote, you see, free
samples don't just work because they give customers a chance
to try something without the barrier of cost stopping them.
But they also take advantage of the fact that humans
seem hardwired to and this is true. Guys feel like
we should do something in return when someone does something
for us. This is why if people sell you stuff

on the street, they try to hand you something and
get you to hold it. At some point, there was
a I don't maybe want to use the hard sea word,
but there was a commune that used to send operatives
out in little Five Points, kind of bohemian esque area
in Atlanta back in the day. This place was called

Zendig Farms. And what Zendic Farms would do is they
would send people that they thought were charming or attractive
and already in their organization that I'm not explicitly calling
a cult. They would talk about how great Zendic Farms
is for creatives and so on. It would hand you
a CD. They would hand you like a newsletter, zine
or something, and as you said, okay, well that's great,

I hope you have a great day. You know, super
interest I'm going to go, they would say, oh, and
it's a donation of twenty five dollars for the CD.

Speaker 3 (07:15):
Right, it's not a donation.

Speaker 2 (07:17):
Yeah, sort of like a in theory, a pay what
you will thing, which is even you know music, right,
Like when Radio Ahead came out with In Rainbows, they
did like a pay what you will model, and I
don't think they released the amount of money they made
on it, but I would be willing to bet that
most people, if they had it and were a fan
of Radiohead, would give a little bit, you know, chip

a little bit in just for the for the privilege
of having this basically free album.

Speaker 3 (07:44):
It's also a tactic that's used pretty.

Speaker 2 (07:46):
I don't know, arguably for better or for worse, spending
on you who you are with, like NPR pledge drives
the sort of make you feel like, hey, you know
that whole year of stuff we've been giving you for free, Well,
now's the time to pay it forward or to pay
back into the system.

Speaker 3 (08:02):
You gotta give, You gotta.

Speaker 1 (08:03):
Give, a lot of people give. So the other sith
Lord version of this would be unscrupulous actors like timeshare salespeople. Right,
they offer you a free vacation so they can get
you for four or five hours. But yeah, there's a
weird psychological thing that works pretty much across humanity. Sampling

or giving out free samples is a pretty innocuous way
to leverage that psychological phenomenon. And what's really cool here
is that there's more history to it than you might imagine.
There's quite a story. Let's go back to Carl Smallwood,
who says, Carl is arguing that our modern concept of

free samples, you know what we call free samples cheese
at the grocery store and so on, It seems pretty recent,
but the concept of free samples has been around since
what was that noll, like the fourteenth.

Speaker 2 (09:00):
Century, Yeah, the fourteenth century indeed, And it is referenced
in a poem by William Langland called Peer's Plowman, which
refers to the concept of a test for a newt,
which in modern English would probably translate to something like
a taste for nought, you know, or for nothing. I

said a newt. I kind of knew it was pronounced not,
but it's spelled differently. It's spelled nou h t. And
we know in those lilting old English poems they love
a newt in a boot in the discute, you know,
and youth and youth and all that good stuff.

Speaker 1 (09:36):
Yeah, so you would In the poem, there's this line
about all these all these bar fires, basically going up
to get a taste for nothing, with the idea that
if you wet your whistle a little bit, you'll say, okay,
I'll pay for the full pint or whatever. And this
shows that for a long time, salespeople throughout different cultures

have known you give a little to get a little
bit more right, And because it's so old, we as
a civilization have no idea who first came up with this.
Was there like a caveman who needed to sell some
rocks and said, I'll give you a small rock for free,
you know, like it's so basic and primal. But we

do know there is one guy who could consider kind
of one of the fathers of the modern version, Benjamin T. Babbitt,
which is a fun name, Babbitt.

Speaker 3 (10:37):
It's very it's a very fun name.

Speaker 2 (10:38):
He was born in the early nineteenth century, was an inventor,
a you know, forward thinker, a business type, was very wealthy,
and was you know, quite highly regarded because he was
really good at promoting his ideas, which I think, you know,

it's one thing to be an idea man, you know,
or an idea person. But it's another thing to be
able to single handedly have an amazing idea for an
innovation or whatever it is, but also then know how
to market it. And it's the rare combination of both
of us skills that lead to like luminaries in this
world like P. T. Barnum, you know, and stuff like that,
or perhaps Thomas Edison. You know, he also had a

flair for the the the grand you know, in terms
of like putting his product out there and being insisting
that he be the center of attention regarding all of
that stuff Edison that is.

Speaker 1 (11:35):
Yeah, Edison also is far from a perfect guy. You
could say he's a very effective popularizer, right, and that's
those are similar observations have been made by critics of
folks like Steve Jobs. But you're right, Selling the thing
is an entirely different skill set to creating the thing,
and it's fairly rare to see somebody who can do

both of those skill sets very well. This guy Babbitt,
he's a soap boy who makes a name in the
soap industry, but he has a lot of other patents
because he's always working with a beautiful mind of his
and you can see that He's respected for a ton
of his prolific inventions, Like he worked a lot with powders.

The way Danny DeVito and Always Sunny in Philadelphia is
into sledges. This guy was into powders. He made baking powder,
soap powder, other varieties of soap.

Speaker 2 (12:30):
And there was a time where powders was like the
way of the future, you know, was like, oh, it's portable,
it's powders.

Speaker 3 (12:36):
You know, my god. It's sort of like the idea
of like a meal in pill form. H we should
do a history of soap.

Speaker 1 (12:43):
Oh man, that's a weird one for a device, for
an invention meant to keep you clean.

Speaker 3 (12:48):
Soap has a dirty past.

Speaker 2 (12:50):
No questions, I mean them, not to mention, you know,
the whole how it was made. Yeah, human bodies and
stuff like that.

Speaker 3 (12:57):
But we digress.

Speaker 2 (12:58):
The idea here for something is so here's you make
a good point, Ben, because soap is an age old technology,
let's call it. So how does someone set their age
old technology aside from like the millions or however many
you know, many dozens at the time of other available
products that are exactly the same on the market. You know,

a lot of bluster can help you know, marketing, let's
call it right, Maybe I'm maybe How do I really
feel about marketing?

Speaker 3 (13:27):
Yeah, it's a little bit.

Speaker 2 (13:28):
Yeah, there's some bravado involved in, like, you know, talking
a big game about your product. But it's another thing
to literally, maybe not literally, but put your money where
your mouth is say well, hey, you know I've said
these things. You can believe me or not, but the
proof is in the pudding or the tiny cube of soap.

Speaker 1 (13:45):
He really did it. I think your other money he
literally did it. He is now credited as the first
person to not only sell soap in individual bars, but
to do like an ice cream truck with it. He
would make these really visually striking, bright colorful street cars
and they would drive around town and they would be

followed by these musicians who had these custom songs about
how amazing babbit soap was. And then as people would
come out into the streets to see what the hubbub was,
he would give away bars of soap, literally hand them
to people, and they had different packaging than the ones
you bought in the store. All the packaging had was

a tagline that you know, like words of Babbit that
said a.

Speaker 3 (14:31):
Fan trial is all I ask.

Speaker 1 (14:33):
And then you know, people aren't gonna throw the soap back.
It's free soap.

Speaker 3 (14:36):
It's free soap.

Speaker 2 (14:37):
And also you got to think, now we think of
these kinds of let's call it a marketing stunt, you know,
as like annoying.

Speaker 3 (14:44):
Oh god, you know what I.

Speaker 2 (14:45):
Mean, We get it. We know what this is about.
You're trying to sell us something at the time. This
is like a free parade, you know what I mean,
like with the accompanying free stuff. I always think of
like the Joker and the Tim Burton Batman, you know,
like throwing Joker bucks out to the crowd.

Speaker 3 (15:01):
Of them all. See. I have a very dark view
of my marketing strategies.

Speaker 2 (15:07):
But it's interesting, right because he really was you know,
he had he had a service that was readily available
in many other you know forms in terms of soap,
but he differentiated it. And he also you know, was like, here,
try it out for yourself, see what you think.

Speaker 1 (15:21):
And people people loved it because he knew one of
the number one things that happens when you are shopping
is the association of familiarity. Right, we already I'm spending
my hard earned Cheddar. Maybe on some Cheddar, I want
to go with the cheese I recognize. So now he's
giving people a free experience. They're going to have a

positive association or connotation with this, and he is also
going to hit them. He's got to love bomb them
with other advertising techniques. You know, he's got stuff like
a he kind of rips off cleanliness is godliness, or
puts a riff off and says cleanliness is the scale
of civilization.

Speaker 3 (16:02):
On packaging.

Speaker 1 (16:03):
If you're a customer, he will let you have a
tour of the factory. And guess what that tour ends
with free samples? Bro Can I just say those.

Speaker 2 (16:11):
Taglines are very of their era, you know, because now
they're just I mean, they're just not pithy or zippy
at all, you know, they're just they don't they seem
very like I am providing a valuable service to you,
you know, like that is the that's that's the selling point,
that's the elevator pitch. Now you gotta dress it up
and make it a lot more wow factory. But this

worked and to the point where the name t BT
Babbitt became so ubiquitous that there's this you know, it's
these kinds of stories or of the stuff of marketing legend,
let's say, and you know very much, probably used by
the company for a long time and proliferated. But this
idea that Babbitt came upon a humble shoe shine lad
whose name was also BT Babbitt. And the kid, apparently,

when told by BT Babbitt himself that his name was
also that said.

Speaker 3 (16:59):
Did your mama gets your name off of soapbox too?
That cute story, what a cute store.

Speaker 2 (17:04):
But it's also like, nope, I'm a soap mogul and
you're poor.

Speaker 3 (17:08):
Now shot in my shoes. I hope you tipped them,
ben Go.

Speaker 2 (17:11):
Probably true, Yeah, exactly. I'm the word that's used in
the in the article that we're citing. Also from today
I found out article.

Speaker 3 (17:20):
I do want to.

Speaker 1 (17:21):
Say that anecdote we weren't able to confirm it. It
does have the air of one of those off the
cuff anecdotes that corporate types give when they're doing a
conference or a speech, like you know, what's what are
we really selling? We're selling stories, right, and I'd like
to tell you, well, oh, come on, they're not all lies. Uh,

let's go to another version Coca Cola. Before we get
into the grocery store, we're still not in grocery store
free sample days. Before we get there, we got to
talk about Coca Cola, which is an absolute juggernaut in
the world. And of course the hometown of Coca Cola
is the fair metropolis of Atlanta, which is I think
a little bit more famous for being the hom of

ridiculous history. But good hustle Coke.

Speaker 2 (18:07):
Good hustle Man said thanks, Yes, this is all the
way back in eighteen eighty six, I think many you know,
we've all heard the story. It was created by a
pharmacist named John Stith Pemberton, which, of course the original
formula I believe contained some amounts of cocaine, if I'm
not mistaken.

Speaker 3 (18:27):
And also, yes, you heard that correctly.

Speaker 1 (18:29):
It's not Sith, it's Stith st I t h exactly.

Speaker 2 (18:34):
But he was definitely the lord of coke, the lord
of syrup, because the recipe was syrup carbonated water. And
again in the early versions of it there there were
some stimulants. But like anything new, you know, people aren't
immediately you know, drawn to new things. Maybe that's the
case now everyone having to have the latest tech or

the fastest thing or whatever. But back then there was
a lot of suspicion around new things.

Speaker 3 (18:59):
You know, people like new things. They wanted the old ways.

Speaker 1 (19:03):
Well, also, this is a new kind of drink too,
with this carbonation, these these different flavors. And yes it did.
It did contain a little bit of a little bit
of cocaine, I believe. But the thing is, because this
is so new, and because there's so many other beverages

that people are familiar with, he's not able to sell
a lot of this. It costs a nickel for a glass,
and you know, they're much smaller than the modern cans,
twelve ounce cans they would see today. But still he's
only selling like nine drinks and a nickel a pop.
He says, it's not sustainable. And here we see the

interaction between the inventor and the marketer, right between the
Tesla and the Edison, as it were. There's an eighteen
eighty eight. Two years later, a guy named Aza Griggs
Candler buys the Coca Cola company and he says, you
know what, I remember the idea of free drink tickets.
It's something Pemberton's numbers guy introduced earlier, and he says,

let's run with it, and there's a cool article you
can read and wired about this. Candler is believed to
have created the first ever coupon, and the coupon was simple,
go wherever Coca Cola is sold, hand them this little
piece of script and boom, you saved yourself a nickel.
You got a glass of Coca cola. We'll see you

again soon.

Speaker 3 (20:32):
Goodwill earned ching.

Speaker 1 (20:35):
Just so and these like They continue this program from
eighteen ninety four to nineteen thirteen. They mail out coupons
to drug stores, random customers if they had their addresses,
because remember this before the day of big data and
Coca Cola itself estimates that during that two decades, one

in nine people in the United States were given a
free drink because of these coupons. And although they were,
you know, sensibly losing a nickel every time, they were
making so much more money because people kept buying. And
you know what this reminds me of now, I don't
know if they had this, because you grew up in Augusta, Ray,
I don't know if they had this there. Coca Cola

always in the Georgia area would do these things where
you could you could twist off the top of a
soda bottle, you might get a free coke, or you
would get a code that you could put on a
Coca Cola account that would earn you stuff in the
Coca Cola co store. Online they would give you free
Six Flags tickets or discolates. You've got a can. They're

still doing it. It's still a coupons.

Speaker 3 (21:40):
They're in league.

Speaker 2 (21:41):
They're in cahoots the six Flags and the Cokes of
the world. Not to be confused with the Coke Brothers,
but it's true. I mean that idea of the coupon
is also a way this is a little bit more modern,
but that a lot of breweries here in Atlanta got
around being able to sell beer directly of the public.
They would have this little coupon s that's right, you know,
And that's actually something that's still used in places where

marijuana sale is like somewhat legal but not fully legal.

Speaker 3 (22:07):
They'll like give you a little card.

Speaker 2 (22:10):
And then you kind of like get the marijuana product
as a free.

Speaker 1 (22:14):
Gift or like yeah, yeah, I remember those. There's another one.
Because these kind of strategies happen all around the world.

Speaker 3 (22:22):

Speaker 1 (22:23):
There's another one in the Netherlands where cannabis laws are
a little bit less restrictive, but they still have these
strange legal hoops that.

Speaker 3 (22:33):
Folks have to jump through.

Speaker 1 (22:35):
You can go to what's called a cafe where you
can get drinks like coffee, alcoholic beverages, juices, whatever, and
then you can also consume cannabis in that cafe. But
that cafe can't sell you cannabis. You literally go across
the street to this other place that only sells that.

And the same guy owns both of them, right that
the same staff, you know. So back to these coupons,
we know they work. By nineteen thirteen, and this is
again per Coca Cola themselves, eight point five million people
used these coupons, eight point five million free doses glasses

of Coca Cola servingst's servings. There we go and fast forward.
This is a huge part of the engine that drove
Coca Cola to sell one point nine billion drinks per
day in over two hundred countries by twenty twenty. Geography nerds, Jeff,

if you're listening, I clocked it as well. You'll find
this interesting. The United Nations only recognized as about one
hundred and ninety two or one hundred and ninety three countries.
So Coca Cola is selling in countries that the UN
doesn't recognize.

Speaker 3 (23:53):
That's the same.

Speaker 2 (23:55):
That's pretty interesting, not to mention, you know, the fact
that remember how Cola kind of got around like even
like war issues by making Fanta in Germany because of
these like apple scraps.

Speaker 3 (24:07):
Anyway, we're just Coca Cola's figured it out.

Speaker 2 (24:09):
They cracked the code, and they did that partially with
the help of free samples. Another empire, a product empire
that did that is the Wriggly Empire. You may know
it because of the titular field in Chicago, or you
may know it from like a stick of juicy fruit.

Speaker 1 (24:33):
Okay, so we'll start in the late eighteen sixties. This guy,
William Wrigley Junior, he's a little bit of a Denis
the Menace character, Grow it up. He's a rap scallion.
He runs away from home, he gets expelled from school
when they pull him back, and so he gets sent
to work in his father's soap factory. Soap has done

a lot for free samples, and he eventually says, look,
this isn't for me. He's very young at this time,
by the way, he's like thirteen. So he says, look,
I'm not a soapman. I don't need to be out
here stirring vat's all day, old man, Wriggly Junior. I'll
stay in the system, but I'm an agent of change.

So he becomes a child soap salesman for his dad
and he creates like he just liked Babbitt before him.
He has a flair for this. He knows how to
put on the show that results in the sale.

Speaker 2 (25:31):
Yeah, there's another one of these apocryphal kind of stories
of the idea that Wrigley Junior, who started the William
Wrigley Junior Company in eighteen ninety one, had a smile,
you know, a song in his heart and thirty two
dollars in his pocket and he founded a company off
of nothing but good old fashioned you know, stick to
itiveness and moxie.

Speaker 3 (25:52):

Speaker 1 (25:53):
Yeah, I mean whether or not that is true, and
it's probably not. He definitely had other money, right, because
it's kind of like when you hear a lot of
business moguls say, hey, I started from nothing, you know.
As a matter of fact, I had to sell off
some of the class A stock that my grandfather gave me.

These were tough times. It's not quite the same, you
know what I mean. Drake didn't really start from the bottom.
And that's not to take away from their success. It's
just the thing that needs to be acknowledged. As we found.
Wrigley Junior may have had his thirty two dollars, but
it was definitely added to the five thousand dollars check

that his uncle gave him, which if we want to
inflation calculate, runs to about dude, moot one hundred and
thirty thousand dollars today.

Speaker 2 (26:50):
Yeah, that's like you know Trump startup money, right, you
know he anyway.

Speaker 3 (26:57):
It's no, but but he didn't. But he made it.
He made made it go, He made it go go go.

Speaker 1 (27:02):
No, but he didn't start with gum, right, because if
you're if you're a sportsperson, you associate Wrigley with Wrigley Field.
If you're not, you I always assume people associate them
with the.

Speaker 2 (27:11):
Gum oh one hundred percent good old juicy fruit good stuff.
And it's basically the same branding and I think roughly
the same recipe is it's always been, you know, for
a very very long time.

Speaker 3 (27:25):
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Speaker 1 (27:26):
In all of that, but he didn't start with gum.
He started, and this is almost I wonder if his
dad took it as an active betrayal. He started selling soap,
and it's like, hey, come on, son, I own a
soap factory.

Speaker 3 (27:39):
What are you doing.

Speaker 1 (27:40):
He followed in Babbitt's footsteps a lot, and he also said, look,
I know that people might not want to carry my goods.

Speaker 3 (27:49):
I'm the new.

Speaker 1 (27:50):
Kid on the block, and I am in a market
that has low profit margins, and there are a lot
of other soap makers out there. There are a lot
of other people and soap. So he starts giving away stuff.
But he doesn't just give away like bars of soap
that say, hey, give me a fair shot. He gives
away baking powder. People still love powder to your point,

for sure. He gives away umbrellas. Uh he's a weird turn. Yeah,
I guess he just got a good deal on some umbrellas,
you know. And so the thing that really helps him
is that baking powder is experiencing this vogue.

Speaker 3 (28:29):
It's in the zeitgeist.

Speaker 1 (28:31):
If you're giving away free baking powder, quite by accident.
Probably you're giving away something that is now seen is
pretty neat and valuable.

Speaker 2 (28:39):
Well, he was a good way of market testing, right
like you would see which giveaway was the most popular,
and then ultimately figured out how to kind of pivot,
as they say, you know his business, right, yeah.

Speaker 1 (28:51):
Yeah, and that's a great way to put it. So
the baking powder became a huge hit, and people were
requesting the baking powder more than they requesting the soap.
Like in the story about ranch dressing, how people would
go to Hidden Valley and say, hey, we don't want
a vacation at your dude ranch, but we want some
of that special sauce. So he goes like, just like

you said, man, he says, okay, we're not gonna make soap.
We'll have some soap if people want it, but now
we're baking powder people.

Speaker 2 (29:23):
Okay, So now he's making baking powder, but he's also
still looking for other giveaway items. You know, you mentioned umbrellas.
Chewing gum became very popular one, in fact, so popular
that he decided, you know what, maybe this baking powder
thing isn't quite what the hot new buzz on the
street is.

Speaker 3 (29:41):
It's chewing gum.

Speaker 2 (29:43):
Now, so he flipped once again and entirely pivoted his
business to chewing gum.

Speaker 3 (29:48):
And that's the Wrigley company that we know today.

Speaker 1 (29:51):
Which is a strange story, right, it's not one that
I think a lot of people know when they buy
chewing gum. And the gum that he was selling was
manufactured by a place called Zeno Company. And Zeno was
doing the typical manufacturing process for chewing gum at the time,
which is they used paraffin and spruce and then they

would add other ingredients. Right, he changed the game, and
he changed the recipe, said let's stick out.

Speaker 3 (30:18):
He sure did.

Speaker 2 (30:19):
And I mentioned juicy fruits because that was the kind
of first I mean, if you hear about you think
paraffin and spruce. I guess the spruce is gonna be
kind of a minty vibe perhaps, but that doesn't sound
super appetizing. It sounds like to me more the chewiness
of the gum was the novelty that stuck. Yeah, for

you know, to leave no pun behind this, we always
tried to do. The flavor was kind of secondary.

Speaker 1 (30:46):
Yeah, yeah, it's more like the experience, right, Like the
chew of it and this spruce sap is, you know,
not super great. You don't see a lot of flavorings today.
And paraffin wax was petroleum derived, so not the missile. Yeah, no,
interesting story about juicy fruit. This is a TANGI I
can't remeber if you mentioned on air the reason it's
called juicy fruit is because that flavor does not exist

in nature. Early food scientists made it up and were like,
tastes like something.

Speaker 2 (31:16):
It's vaguely fruit flavored. It's not exactly citrusy, you know.
And that's the funny thing about it, is it like
it's juicy fruit. That's what it is. And I don't know,
it's a very image rich kind of name too. You
think of juicy, and you think of it like, you know,
a nice, chewy, juicy piece of gun. It's kind of gross, actually,
but I can see how it worked. A few months later,

he decided to give the folks still using uh spruce
sap a run for their money and came out with
spear mint, a much more pleasant tree derived products.

Speaker 1 (31:46):
Yeah, I god, I hate spearmint.

Speaker 2 (31:51):
I don't know why, but it's just I mean, comparatively though, yeah,
comparatively to like spruce and oil.

Speaker 3 (31:57):

Speaker 1 (31:58):
So from the World's Columbia Exposition eighteen ninety three, all
the way of the twentieth century, William Wrigley Junior is
going hard on the paint. He's traveling back and forth
across the continent. He is promoting these gums, and then
he's also still promoting these giveaway things. You thought umbrellas

were a big deal, folks. Ridiculous the story. It's this
guy's given away like pocket knives in Saint Louis, lamps
in uh Poughkeepsie, fishing tackle over at Albuquerque, measuring scales,
because why not.

Speaker 3 (32:33):
I feel like, oh, yeah, exactly, why not.

Speaker 1 (32:36):
Deal on something like he had newsome random wholesaler or
some guy who is crooked at the ports.

Speaker 3 (32:43):
It does kind of feel like that to a degree.

Speaker 2 (32:46):
Yeah, sort of like you know, this is the story
you hear about Tommy Wiso, the guy that created that,
you know, cult classics, the room that he was like
selling leather jackets.

Speaker 3 (32:55):
You know that seemingly maybe fell off a truck. Yeah,
that's right. Oh, and there's still a mystery about him,
isn't there? To some degree.

Speaker 1 (33:04):
Yeah, this guy Rigly, somewhere around this time he said,
I need to know more about the mind of the customer.
I know people will spend money when they feel that
they have been given something and they feel a familiarity.
They like stuff that they already recognize. But I'm starting
to think that because it's not a huge purchase like

a car or even like a stake, I think people
just buy this on a whim. So he would go
to the people who sell gum, and he's the one
who figured out that you should put gum at the front, right,
gum at the register, So as people are leaving, they've
already spent money, right, and they're already paying money out.

Speaker 3 (33:51):
Well, that's interesting.

Speaker 2 (33:52):
That really is an innovation that you know, somebody had
to come up with that imagine. But like all of
those kind of low ticket items that are just sort
of like a casual buy, you know what I mean.
It could be whether it like a candy or whatever,
but it's all the things that you're waiting to check out,
and you see.

Speaker 3 (34:08):
You know, why not, why wouldn't I Why shouldn't I
have it? You know, I've done well today.

Speaker 1 (34:13):
M h.

Speaker 3 (34:14):
I'm gonna give me a package juicy fruit.

Speaker 1 (34:16):
And it's funny because you know what This makes me
wonder a question for everybody listening, for the three of us,
how frequently or how rarely do you go into the
grocery store and just get the one thing?

Speaker 2 (34:31):
Now, you know, we know the psychology of the layout
of the grocery store, and knowing it and grappling with
it psychologically are two different things, because you know, I
am a sucker for just passing the Oh look at
that dinosaur shaped sippy cup, you know, like look at that,
or like, oh, look a foam football with a little

fin on the back that you can I'll throw that to,
you know, the the neighbor kid. You know, sure, I know,
it's just why not, It's just silly, goofy stuff like that,
or you know, some cereal or snack innovation item.

Speaker 1 (35:07):
I'm bad with produce that I've never tried before. I'm
the guy walking through and saying, dragon fruit. I bet
I could do something with it. I can figure that out.

Speaker 2 (35:17):
Well, we've kind of come back around full circle to
the supermarket.

Speaker 3 (35:21):
You know.

Speaker 2 (35:21):
That's sort of how we that's how we all in
the in the modern day. I guess experience free samples
is a lot of times it's like, you know, because
We don't go that many places, and we certainly won't
have door to door salesman coming knocking on our door
trying to offer us a free sample of some you know,
wild new product.

Speaker 3 (35:39):
Not typically.

Speaker 2 (35:40):
Usually it'll be like maybe at a trade show or
like some like a you know, a con of some kind,
or maybe you know a fair, perhaps you might or
you know. Another example is at the mall. You ever
see those free orange chicken samples?

Speaker 1 (35:54):
You know, I'm thinking, yeah, for through courts to come
in because what our office was in a different part
of Atlanta is very close to a mall that had
a heck of a food court, and I would just
go to the food court sometimes for lunch, which is
an experience. It's an experience I wouldn't do every day today.

But yeah, free samples are important. Before we wrap up
this story, let's shout out some of the other crazy
stuff Wrigley did. He put all of his money into
this in nineteen oh seven when the economy was dodgy,
so he made a real gamble and it did pay off.
Between nineteen eleven and nineteen fifteen, he bought out Zeno,

the folks who have been making the gum. He was selling,
and then he did some He did some absolutely bonker stuff.
He mailed free gum to every address in the US
telephone books. He sent every kid two sticks a gum,
not on their first but on their second birthday. Like
the specificity of that is brilliant. Wait, why on their

second birth the kid?

Speaker 3 (36:59):
How does this?

Speaker 2 (37:00):
He's trying to make a lifelong like gum shoer. I
guess that's more for the parents, really, right.

Speaker 3 (37:06):
Yeah, I think you're right.

Speaker 1 (37:07):
But then also he probably was thinking two years old
might be old enough to establish a sense memory, even
if he didn't use that language.

Speaker 2 (37:15):
Well, that's interesting, Ben, because we you know, the same
year Ringley Actually, you know, he did some kind of
benevolent stuff. He offered stock back to his employees, which
was a pretty interesting thing to talk about, free samples
to help make somebody feel committed to your brand, right, Yeah.

Speaker 1 (37:32):
And that's why he took the company public. He became
chairman of the board. He did like a succession thing,
and turned the presidency over to one of his children.
In this case, it was son Philip in nineteen twenty five.
He passed away in nineteen thirty two, seventy years old.
He was worth about thirty four million dollars at that time,
so he's quite successful and he is definitely studied in

sales and marketing classes. Is today right because people want
to be that kind of maverick, that pioneer of the
hearts and minds and uh now you know, now we
come to it like the lesson if lesson there be
is that free samples absolutely one hundred percent do work. Oh,

Costco guys, we should get a group Costco card.

Speaker 2 (38:23):
I've always thought it was too exclusive, Like don't you
have to like, you know, have some clout or something
to get into Costco?

Speaker 3 (38:29):
Can anybody join? Anybody can join?

Speaker 1 (38:31):
And just got Tony up the capitol and I guess
you got to need like twelve pounds of uh, you know,
Vegas at.

Speaker 3 (38:38):
A time or vegas. Yeah, what even is a root
de bega? Is my question?

Speaker 2 (38:42):
So yeah, I mean, throughout this whole thing we're talking
about psychology, We're talking about I give you something, You
give me your money.

Speaker 3 (38:49):
For the rest of your life, you know what I mean.

Speaker 2 (38:51):
But you're getting something in return, and there is this
sense of goodwill that comes along with that exchange. And
again we see it every day in modern times it's
stuff like a money back guarantee maybe, or like these
mattresses that you get online, like you know, Casper or whatever,
not a sponsor that you know offer you, you know,
no questions asked return policy. That is sort of an

equivalent of a free sample. We're giving you the thing.
Obviously the barrier of entry there becomes you have to
package it back up and send it, you know, and
do that. That for some people is going to be
too much trouble and they'll just end up keeping the
thing that may they maybe didn't love. But if people
do it right, they'll make it really they'll make it
so easy for you just to try it that you're

not going to be worried they're trying to put one
over on you. That's sort of the bargain or the
agreement where you're like, I trust you because you've given
me the opportunity to decide for myself and to not
feel like I'm being tricked, but also to kind of
maybe be tricked a little bit too.

Speaker 1 (39:49):
You have manipulated me by making me feel as though
I have agency, which I do or do I Uh,
there's I think we could wrap up your It's a
great point something cool that Max found from a trade publication.
Sampling also is a tide that carries all vessels. If

you're giving away cheese samples, you know, like brie or
maybe like a Bagel's little smear cream cheese on them
by the dairy cheese ales, then not only will that
brand experience higher sales, but all the other cheese around
there will.

Speaker 3 (40:29):
So you're kind of just raising the steaks for everyone.

Speaker 2 (40:32):
And also it's a really good play for the store itself.
You know, they don't necessarily care which cheese you buy
as long as you buy it from them. So if
a place like we were saying with Trader Joe's great
strategy with free samples, also it's always free samples of
their own stuff that they make, so they're you know, yeah,

it's super smart. So you're like, you've got this brand
loyalty to Trader Joe's the store, and then you have
this brand loyalty within Trader Joe's to Joe's own products.
They also sell some some non Treader Joe's products, but
you know that that place is really designed to buy
the stuff that they themselves make. We've got a pretty
cool perspective on this from Todd hollings Head from Brigham

Young University.

Speaker 3 (41:15):
He had this to say.

Speaker 2 (41:17):
Eating free samples at big box stores like Costco has
become a weekend tradition for many shoppers. For adults with children,
it's often the only way to get shopping done while
maintaining sanity. But just how effective are free samples when
it comes to actually attracting purchases and loyalty? After all,
marketers spend more than two billion dollars annually on sampling.
New BYU Research discovers the answer is a definitive yes.

Speaker 3 (41:39):
Just just in case you.

Speaker 2 (41:40):
Needed non anecdotal you know, kind of we know it
works because it works on us, right, Well.

Speaker 1 (41:47):
We know it works because it doesn't. I mean, this
is a good segue. We know it works because it doesn't.
Just stay in the realm of food. You can get
free test drives right for at car companies. Tesla will
give you a free time drive. All you have to
do is sign up at their website. You can get
all kinds of free stuff, especially if you're if you're
scamming like I was back in the day. Because companies

want first off, usually have to give them your email
or mailing address. They'll send you stuff, They'll keep sending
you stuff, you know what I mean, offers, sales and
so on. This is I used to have a pretty
big system for this, but at this point, maybe we
ask people to visit us at Ridiculous Historians and give
us some of their favorite free sample.

Speaker 3 (42:31):
Stories, that being the old Facebook group.

Speaker 2 (42:34):
One last thing from the BUYU study though, and I
think this is the good kicker here is. You know,
companies spend tons of money on marketing of all varieties,
whether it be like billboards or you know, ads on
bus stops or whatever, like displays in the grocery stores.
The BYU research indicated that not only do free samples work,
but the positive associations that you get from getting a

free sample linger much longer than those in.

Speaker 3 (43:01):
Store displays, however elaborate they might be.

Speaker 2 (43:04):
You know, we've seen like stacks of Coca Cola cans
spelling out go dogs or whatever, you know, and that's
really impressive and everything, but that's not going to linger
nearly as long as if they gave you a free
can of coke.

Speaker 1 (43:17):
Well, it's because the sense memory is so much it
is a much more powerful pathway for encoding long term association. Right,
A display is visual and maybe sound, but if you
can get like not for nothing did Proost become famous
in literature for a taste of things remembered. It's all

about how eating a madeline puts him in this crazy,
crazy past experience. So yeah, when you're eating, when you're drinking,
when you're consuming, remember, that's the way a memory can
stay with you. You can also have your own memory
by doing this, folks, So play along at home, tell
us how it goes, big, big, thanks to super producer

mister Mac Williams.

Speaker 3 (44:01):
Also thanks for the.

Speaker 1 (44:02):
Thanks for the surprising deep dive into free samples, and
and of course thanks to Jonathan Strickland aka the Quist.

Speaker 3 (44:11):
Do you think he likes free samples? I don't know.
Of course he does. He does. Who doesn't.

Speaker 2 (44:16):
If he doesn't, then he's even more of a reptilian
creature than I give him credit for.

Speaker 1 (44:22):
And thanks all suit to Chris rossiotis Eve's Jeff Coat,
all the hits, Gabriel Lucier are Research associates, doctor Z
and Jeff.

Speaker 3 (44:31):
B and Noel. Thank you to you. I guess a
podcast is always kind of a free sample? Is it is?
It really is?

Speaker 2 (44:40):
You get the match, we will give you the podcast.
You got to buy the mattress. We'll see you next time.

Speaker 1 (44:46):

Speaker 2 (44:53):
For more podcasts from iHeartRadio, visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts,
or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

Ridiculous History News

Advertise With Us

Follow Us On

Hosts And Creators

Ben Bowlin

Ben Bowlin

Noel Brown

Noel Brown

Show Links


Popular Podcasts

Stuff You Should Know

Stuff You Should Know

If you've ever wanted to know about champagne, satanism, the Stonewall Uprising, chaos theory, LSD, El Nino, true crime and Rosa Parks, then look no further. Josh and Chuck have you covered.

The Nikki Glaser Podcast

The Nikki Glaser Podcast

Every week comedian and infamous roaster Nikki Glaser provides a fun, fast-paced, and brutally honest look into current pop-culture and her own personal life.

Music, radio and podcasts, all free. Listen online or download the iHeart App.


© 2024 iHeartMedia, Inc.