MONEY deals

Freebie Frenzy! It’s Peak Season for Free Stuff

Crowds watch the eruption of Castle Geyser in Yellowstone National Park.
Lisa Corson—Gallery Stock Crowds watch the eruption of Castle Geyser in Yellowstone National Park.

If you love getting free stuff—ice cream, pretzels, milkshakes, cookies, burgers, coffee, park admissions—you are loving life right about now.

Freebie promotions pop up throughout the year. Donut Day giveaways are always in early June, free Slurpees are slurped up on 7-Eleven Day (held, of course, on July 11), National Coffee Day is in late September, IHOP hosts a free pancake day every March, and so on. The calendar is sprinkled with all manner of fake holidays and their corresponding giveaways and marketing promotions.

But sometimes the deals are clumped together in what amounts to a freebie frenzy. Were are in the midst of just such a period—Peak Freebie if you will.

Freebie momentum began ramping up roughly a month ago, with Dairy Queen and Rita’s dishing out free ice cream and free Italian ices, respectively. Things really picked up steam last week, with back-to-back-to-back giveaways of ice cream (at Ben & Jerry’s), coffee (Wawa), and all manner of foods and services (to soften the blow of Tax Day).

And the fast and furious freebie gravy train isn’t over yet. Not by a long shot. Here are more freebies to take advantage of in the very near future:

• The National Park Service kicks off National Parks Week with free admission for all visitors on Saturday and Sunday, April 18-19.

• In honor of Earth Day (Wednesday, April 22), the giveaways include free organic milkshakes at the chain of Evos cafes and free kids crafts at Anthropologie stores.

• Between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Thursday, April 23, all Jamba Juice customers are welcomed to order their choice of a free classic smoothie or juice.

• National Pretzel Day is Sunday, April 26, with freebies available from Pretzel Maker, Auntie Anne’s, and Wetzel’s Pretzels.

• Tuesday, April 28, is being celebrated as Hero Appreciation Day at Krispy Kreme, and anyone who purchases a dozen original glazed donuts gets a second dozen for free. The Krispy Kreme offer is being promoted as a way to celebrate the heroes in your life. But if you show up at home or the office with two dozen donuts, we all know who will be looked at like the real hero.

TIME China

Why This Chinese Startup Just Bought a Company Americans Love to Ridicule

Segway Ninebot China Copycat
Frederic J. Brown—AFP/Getty Images A woman commutes on a Segway electric, self-balancing scooter in Beijing, China, on June 9, 2009.

Ninebot's acquisition of Segway is signaling the end of "copycat China"

Two companies have sealed a deal that’s raising eyebrows: Segway, the struggling American maker of disgraced self-balancing scooters, has been bought by Ninebot, the Chinese rival that Segway recently accused of copying its signature two-wheelers.

Ninebot announced the curious acquisition for an undisclosed sum on Wednesday, which followed a combined $80 million investment from mega-rich Chinese smartphone company Xiaomi, investment firm Sequoia Capital and other backers. The two electric scooter makers will still operate as separate brands with their own products, but will unite under a “strategic alliance” to develop smarter, greener short-distance transportation vehicles.

The deal comes as a bit of a surprise given the companies’ history. Just seven months ago, Segway filed a trade complaint accusing Ninebot and other Chinese companies of violating its patents. Their products indeed resemble one another, but Ninebot has insisted it “independently owns its intellectual property.”

By itself, Segway is an interesting choice for an acquisition. The New Hampshire-based company’s self-proclaimed “future of transportation” didn’t quite catch on in America, perhaps aside from sometimes being the ride of choice among mall cops. (TIME once named Segway one of the 50 Worst Inventions.) Faced with limited success, Segway ended up being sold off twice to investors, once in 2009 and then again in 2013. The first, British investor Jimi Heselden, died in an ironic, tragic Segway crash in 2010, and the second, Summit Strategic Investments, intended to “refocus” Segway over several years, but that project was never completed.

Still, the Ninebot-Segway deal makes a lot of sense as it relates to China. Ninebot and its backers want to put an end to not only the copyright feud with Segway, but also to a larger, nationwide controversy that Segway called China’s “widespread pattern of infringement”—or what’s also been labeled “copycat China.”

“Today it’s not just copycat China,” Sequoia Capital partner Neil Shen said during Ninebot’s announcement in Beijing. “China will expand, through its own innovations and through acquisitions.”

Though the copycat reputation has long been a source of amusement, profit and convenience for China and its Western observers (the raging counterfeit markets, the full-scale copies of European cities, the fake Western hotels shamelessly named “Haiyatt”), the emphasis on imitation over innovation has contributed to a slow-down in China’s economic growth, according to China Market Research Group. China’s annual GDP growth rate continued to be sluggish at 7.7% in 2013, one of the lowest figures the country has seen in the past 20 years, according to the World Bank:

Some have attributed China’s lack of innovation to how private businesses proliferated only after being granted permission to operate during China’s economic reform in the 1980s. Others have dug deeper to argue the culture has historically prioritized hard knowledge at the expense of fostering creativity.

The Ninebot acquisition appears to be an active step towards unwinding China’s copycat problem by promoting innovation. After all, Ninebot’s most recognizable backer, Xiaomi, appears to be financing the journey. Xiaomi is an innovation king in its own right, having found massive success by filling a void in the market: high-quality, low-end smartphones. It’s also branched out into air purifiers and power strips, both of which are smartly angled towards the nation’s pollution problem.

But will Ninebot and Segway find a niche in China? It’s possible. And perhaps they already have. Chinese cops can sometimes be seen riding Segways and other electric scooters, and consumers there appear to have taken to the vehicles more than Americans have. In fact, former high-ranking leader Bo Xilai reportedly gifted his son a Segway, and tourists can often be seen renting Segways to zoom around cities from one destination to the next.

The Ninebot acquisition has the potential to give the vehicles an innovation jolt to boost affordability, smart technology and functionality, as the greater Chinese economy attempts similarly to ramp up businesses’ creativity. With Ninebot and Segway working together, perhaps the electric scooter can finally find a substantial customer base—even if it’ll never become cool.

Read next: This Could Be the Apple’s Secret Apple Watch Strategy

MONEY deals

This Week’s Best Deals: Tax Day Freebies, Game of Thrones Box Set

Game of Thrones Season 5
Helen Sloan—HBO Game of Thrones Season 5

It's become an annual tradition for restaurants and office supply stores to give out freebies on April 15, a.k.a. Tax Day. There's a big sale on high-end, rarely discounted cookware too.

They’re among the best deals we’ve spotted this week. Here are our top choices for bargains:

Get Reading

Finally, Game of Thrones returned to TV this weekend with its season premiere on HBO, but fantasy fanatics can delve even deeper into the world of George R. R. Martin with a killer deal on a box set of books. Walmart currently offers books one through five of the Song of Ice and Fire series in paperback for $10.20 with in-store pickup, the lowest price you’ll likely ever pay for this collection of salacious, murderous, and completely addictive stories.

Dig Some DIY Discounts

Spring, too, seems to be making a return, which means homeowners will soon be turning their attention to their lawn and patio. If your grass is in a sorry state, pick up this bag of Scotts Turf Builder Weed & Feed while it’s half off. It might not seem like a thrilling purchase. But at $19.87 with pickup at Walmart, it’ll save you $20 that could be spent on something more fun — like brats for the BBQ. Alternatively, tackle any other DIY project you’ve been putting off over the winter by taking an easy $10 off $50 Lowe’s purchases; just click here, scroll to the bottom of the page, and sign up for email alerts to receive a unique code.

Invest in High-End Cookware

The famously high-quality brand All-Clad is normally too expensive for many people, but shopping the VIP Factory Seconds Sale — in which items with minor cosmetic blemishes or dents are marked up to 64% off — is an excellent way to score All-Clad at a fraction of the usual price. (Enter code “ALLCLADVIP” to view the sale.) It’s the best such sale we’ve seen from All-Clad since January. If you’re hesitant about the quality of the wares, know that each item still carries a full lifetime warranty. Hurry, though, as this sale ends on April 15.

Celebrate Tax Day Freebies

The biggest deal event of the week will come on Wednesday, April 15. Once you drop your tax return in the mail, relax with a wealth of Tax Day freebies to soothe your soul. Offers range from freebies that require no purchase at all, like a free
cookie at Great American Cookies
to discounted meals, free desserts with purchase, or “buy one, get one free” entrees (like at Boston Market). Keep in mind that almost all of these offers will only be valid on April 15, so plan accordingly. For a regularly updated list of the latest Tax Day freebies, click here.

Amazing bargains pop up at any given moment, so check out the DealNews Editors’ Choice page for the most recent offers, or sign up for a daily email digest sent directly to your inbox.

MONEY

Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day Is Tuesday, April 14

Guy Bell—Alamy

Free ice cream arrives at Ben & Jerry's on Tuesday, in the form of the company's 36th annual Free Cone Day.

Tuesday, April 14, is Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry’s shops all over the globe. Starting at noon, customers at participating Ben & Jerry’s locations are welcomed to choose their flavor of ice cream, on the house. In an online poll on the company website, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough is beating Chocolate Fudge Brownie and Cherry Garcia as the favorite flavor people will pick on the big giveaway day. Ben & Jerry’s anticipates that shops will give away more than one million scoops on Tuesday.

What’s particularly surprising—in an awesome way—about this freebie event is that Ben & Jerry’s apparently has no problem with folks coming back for second helpings of free ice cream. Normally, giveaways come with fine print stipulating that customers limit themselves to a single freebie. A recent Free Cone Day at Dairy Queen, for instance, was a strict “limit one per customer” deal. That’s pretty much the standard when it comes to freebies.

But Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day promotion includes no such fine print. What’s more, Ben & Jerry’s posted the video below on YouTube and its own website, in which customers bask in the glory of their free ice cream—and a few explain that one freebie simply doesn’t cut it. “You get to get ice cream, and then get to get back in line and get more ice cream,” says one customer. Others tell the camera that they’re on their second, fourth, fifth, or seventh cone of the day.

Apparently, the only things that’ll limit how many free ice cream cones you’ll get on Tuesday is how many times you’re willing to wait in line—and how much your stomach can handle.

MONEY deals

Best Tax Day Deals and Freebies

Hard Rock Cafe, Denver, Colorado
Alamy Hard Rock Cafe, Denver, Colorado

Tax relief arrives annually in the form of freebies and deals on April 15. On the special promotion menu this year are cookies, burgers, hotels, coffee, and shaved ice.

Here’s a roundup of the best freebies and promotions on or around Tax Day, April 15:

Boston Market: Buy one individual meal on Tax Day, and a second is free.

California Tortilla: Any customer who makes a purchase and says, “Taxes, Shmaxes,” on April 15—ideally in “a bored, funny voice”—gets free chips and a choice of queso or salsa.

Great American Cookies: Relieve the stress of Tax Day with a regular sugar cookie on the house, no purchase necessary.

Hard Rock Café: Locations around the country allow customers to “Sing for Your Supper” on April 15. Specifically, you’ll get a free Local Legendary Burger by belting out a song in front of the rest of the dinnertime crowd.

Hotel Deals: A range of hotels are hosting promotions for Tax Day or the springtime tax season, with 15% or more off regular room rates.

Kona Ice: Shaved ice and Hawaiian leis will be handed out from Kona Ice trucks parked outside post offices and other businesses around the country on April 15.

Schlotzky’s: Buy a 32-ounce drink and chips and an Original sandwich is free of charge at this deli chain on Tax Day.

Wawa: You’ll have to wait for April 16 for Wawa’s freebie—free coffee, served all day, for the company’s anniversary.

UPDATE: Here are a few more Tax Day deals that have surfaced since we published our original post.

Hooters: Special all-you-can-eat wings deals are available at Hooters around the country. Depending on location, all-you-can-eat prices range from $11.59 to $12.99 for boneless wings and $13.99 to $14.99 for traditional bone-in wings.

Sonic: Half-price cheeseburger buddies are on the menu all day on April 15.

White Castle: Bring this coupon in (or just show it on your phone) to a participating White Castle location and get 15% off your bill on April 15.

Whole Foods: Many stores are giving out free coffee on Wednesday.

MONEY deals

A Bucket Full of Slurpee at 7-Eleven Costs Just $1.49 on Saturday

Bucket
Studio Heinemann—Getty Images

This Saturday marks 7-Eleven's first-ever BYO Cup Day, when customers can bring in almost any cup—or bucket, or pot, or empty two-liter bottle, or coconut shell—and fill it to the top for $1.49.

Saturday, April 11, is Bring Your Own Cup Day at 7-Eleven. It’s a first-ever promotion for the convenience store chain, which holds a highly popular Free Slurpee Day annually on July 11 (a.k.a., 7-Eleven Day). Free Slurpee festivities have proven so successful that last year, 7-Eleven decided to host an entire week of freebies starting on July 11.

The newest quirky Slurpee deal takes place on Saturday, and naturally the sale is being held between the hours of 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. During that window of time, customers can bring in a cup of their choosing and fill it with any flavor Slurpee, at a flat price of $1.49.

We know what you’re thinking, but BYO Cup Day has a few rules that disallow certain cups—like those roughly the size and shape of, say, a lobster pot or a trash can. To be approved for usage, cups must fit through a 10-inch hole in a cutout placed next to Slurpee machines. Most any vessel that is 10 inches or less in diameter gets the OK: Photos circulated by 7-Eleven indicate that beach pails, teapots, empty soda bottles, margarita pitchers, and even coconut shells are among the “cups” that are acceptable.

The other rules stipulate that cups must be clean and leak-proof (hope you didn’t need to know that), and that they “have a definite shape.” Presumably, that means you can’t fill up a one-gallon zip-top bag with Slurpee. We’re not sure why you’d want to do that anyway, but it’s a no-go, at least for BYO Cup Day at 7-Eleven.

MONEY Travel

3 Reasons You Should Be Planning a Trip to Europe Right Now

Calle Barrera, Coruña city, Galicia, Spain
Lucas Vallecillos—age fotostock Calle Barrera, Coruña city, Galicia, Spain

A strong dollar abroad and expensive hotel rates at home are key reasons why you should be considering the grand European vacation this summer.

What a wonderful dilemma to have. The cheap price of gas helps make the financial argument for an all-American road trip this summer. And yet, the surging dollar and other factors listed below reveal that a peak-season vacation in Europe will be less expensive than it has been in years.

Is this the summer for you to see Europe? Here are three reasons why it should be—and why you should be booking the trip asap.

1. It’s actually possible to snag an affordable flight. The emergence of WOW Air and Norwegian Air, upstart low-fare airlines based in Iceland and (duh) Norway, respectively, has made a summertime trip to Europe more affordable for the masses. These airlines are known for advertising incredibly inexpensive fares—sometimes less than $100 each way across the Atlantic—and while you won’t find flights at such prices in the summer, the peak season airfares that are available are dirt cheap compared with mainstream carriers.

A few recent fare searches revealed that, for example, WOW Air flights from Washington, D.C., to Copenhagen in August were available one way for under $200, with all mandatory taxes and fees included. WOW Air flights from Boston to Reykjavik in early July were available starting at just $155. Meanwhile, we also spotted a round trip from Los Angeles to Copenhagen on Norwegian Air for a total of $825 in August, which is easily $200 cheaper than what other European carriers were charging for the same dates.

Not long ago, travelers assumed a summertime flight to Europe would cost at least $1,000, and probably a whole lot more. So the rock-bottom fares from these airlines certainly appear to be game changers. Still, before booking a flight with these or other airlines, check the fine print—with special attention paid to fees for baggage, seat selection, and such. Low-fare airlines like WOW, Norwegian, Spirit, and Ryanair are especially prone to charging for services that competitors provide for free. Factor all of this in when making decisions.

The dollar goes a long way in Europe. Back in January, we took note of how the euro fell to its lowest level against the dollar in nine years. At that point, one euro was equal to $1.19 in American currency. A look at the online XE Currency Converter shows that the dollar has only grown stronger of late, with one euro worth about $1.08. Hotel prices throughout Europe are down significantly compared with last year for American travelers, thanks to currency fluctuations among other factors. For that matter, virtually every on-the-ground expense—restaurants, wine, tours, souvenirs—in much of Europe will be substantially cheaper for Americans. Train tickets and flights purchased overseas should be less expensive too.

As the Los Angeles Times put it, compared to last summer, when one euro was equal to $1.37:

An American tourist strolling the streets of Paris this April can buy 25% more croissants, cafe au laits or mini Eiffel towers than a year ago with the same dollars.

Hotel rates in the U.S. are soaring. While travel expenses overseas have gotten more affordable for Americans, the reverse is true within our own borders. A Hotels.com study shows that the average hotel room in the U.S. sold for $137 in 2014, a 5% increase over 2013. American hotel rates are expected to rise another 5% to 6% this year.

Recent TripAdvisor data, on the other hand, shows that hotel rates in Europe are on the decline: Rooms booked on the site for the summer of 2015 are averaging $133, compared with $164 for last summer. According to TripAdvisor’s TripIndex, which factors in hotel and transportation costs, the price of a one-week vacation has dropped this year by 11% in 24 out of 25 European cities, when compared with the summer of 2014.

Point being, Europe is especially a bargain when you consider how pricey it’s gotten to vacation close to home.

MONEY freebies

Get Free Iced Coffee or Iced Tea at Au Bon Pain on Tuesday

Au Bon Pain, New York
Keith Getter—Getty Images Au Bon Pain, New York

Participating Au Bon Pain locations are giving away free warm-weather drinks on Tuesday afternoon.

Au Bon Pain is giving away one free medium iced coffee or iced tea per customer at participating restaurant locations around the country from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 7.

We’re not sure why the Boston-based fast-casual café and bakery chain decided this Tuesday in particular was the perfect day for a giveaway. Marketers often use some kind of artificial holiday as a justification for freebies—and, they hope, heaping amounts of publicity to drum up business. We suppose the onset of spring and hotter days ahead is as good a reason as any to offer a promotion featuring warm-weather drinks like iced coffee and iced tea.

In any event, we’re not complaining! We’ll welcome freebies no matter what the reason.

Customers can simply stroll up to the counter and get their pick of free iced tea or free iced coffee, medium size only, one per person, while supplies last. From the looks of Au Bon Pain’s Facebook page, more people are leaning toward iced coffee for their freebie. In an online poll asking which drink customers will choose, the iced coffee voters outnumber iced tea loyalists by a ratio of about 2:1.

MONEY deals

This Week’s Best Deals: Cheap NCAA Gear and Free Money at Target

Finish Line store
Finish Line store

A free $20 gift card and a free 20-ounce bottle of Coke Zero are both available at Target, no purchase necessary.

They’re among the best deals we’ve spotted this week. Here are our top choices for bargains:

College Hoodies

The NCAA basketball championships might be coming to a close on Monday evening, but sports fans can continue to support their favorite college teams with extremely cheap gear at Finish Line. Men’s, women’s, and kids’ hoodies are now on clearance, with prices slashed to just $9.99 apiece, which is up to $30 off. (Most other stores currently charge $20 or more for similar items, even accounting for end-of-season sales.) Shipping adds $6.49, or choose in-store pickup at no additional charge.

Coach Bags

For something higher-end, consider the timeless style of this Coach Leather Taxi Zip-Top Tote. It’s rare to find significant price cuts on casual, classic styles from designer brands — flashy, seasonal patterns are the ones that usually go on sale — so budget-minded fashion mavens can now snatch up this embossed leather tote for $177.99 with free shipping, a savings of $105. While that’s still a pricey purchase, keep in mind that Coach has an excellent reputation for lifetime repairs.

Digital Cameras

Looking to step up your Instagram game? Camera phones are certainly convenient, but sometimes our photos could benefit from a bit more depth. Mirrorless cameras are a good way to experiment with image quality and interchangeable lenses, without committing to a bulky, expensive DSLR. Enter the Nikon 1 J4 digital camera, which Digital Trends says is “almost pocket-camera size.” Grab it now while it comes with a 10-100mm lens for just $449.95 with free shipping, which is a whopping $329 less than what any other store currently charges.

Target Freebies

Lastly, for those who don’t want to spend anything at all this week, Target offers two great freebie deals. First, take a few moments to create a “college registry” for a matriculating student in your life — it should include at least 15 items that total $500 or more — and Target will send you a $20 gift card in the mail. (Only the first 10,000 participants will get the freebie.) Then, while you’re waiting for that to arrive, fill out this form online to instantly receive a text code that will bag a free 20-ounce bottle of Coke Zero at Target.

For more of the week’s best sales, check out DealNews or sign up for the site’s daily newsletter.

MONEY Food & Drink

The Hip New Foodie Trend Could Be Eating Garbage

150401_EM_Wasted
Rosemary Calvert—Getty Images

What's to be learned from a swanky New York City restaurant's ambitious experiment featuring foods pretty much everybody considers garbage?

For the second half of March, Manhattan’s Blue Hill restaurant—renowned chef Dan Barber’s swanky farm-to-table experience described as “flawless” and a “top destination” in Zagat—was closed to make space for a pop-up experiment called wastED. The “waste” sums up what was on the menu, which consisted entirely of things that are usually considered inedible rubbish, including salad scraps, pasta trimmings, off-grade sweet potatoes, “yesterday’s oatmeal,” and seemingly unpalatable parts of meat and fish like skate-wing cartilage. Naturally, the latter was paired with fish-head tartar sauce. A dish dubbed “dog food,” which indeed looked just like dog food, was actually meatloaf made with offal (animal organs) and beef from a cow bred for milking.

A plate of food cost a flat $15. That could seem like a bargain considering people were eating in a chic, experimental, brag-worthy West Village restaurant. Then again, the price could be viewed as a total rip-off in light of the fact that diners were basically eating garbage.

As the pop-up restaurant’s name indicates, the emphasis was on ED, as in education. The point was to call attention to food waste. It’s been estimated that somewhere between 25% and 40% of perfectly edible food winds up in the trash, and the goal of Barber and his team of guest chefs was “creating something delicious out of the ignored or un-coveted.”

This isn’t a new concept for Barber, who a year ago wrote in TIME about the need for restaurants and society at large to “cook with the whole farm” rather than just the prime cuts, so to speak. Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have also pointed out that food waste is ripe for profit, what with the potential to turn cheap or free discarded materials into products that can be sold.

For the most part, the reviews were positive—if not concerning the food, then at least the idea. The New Yorker declared the bony monkfish meat to be “juicier than even the best fried chicken,” and that overall, “Ordering horrible-sounding things that turned out to be delicious was a bizarre but exhilarating adventure.” Architectural Digest noted that the décor consisted of repurposed and discarded materials, resulting in the overall effect of “having dinner in an extremely chic construction site, albeit one with perfect mood lighting that’s enhanced by beef tallow candles.” A Fast Company writer had fun ordering “dishes that sounded like blue plate specials for Oscar the Grouch,” though ultimately admitted she wouldn’t actively seek out anything that was on the menu.

“I don’t believe I’ve ever been in a Manhattan restaurant where so many people appeared so enthralled, so thrilled,” wrote GQ‘s Alan Richman. Even so, Richman expressed concern that wastED reminded him of the “inhumane fashion trend of a decade ago called ‘homeless chic,’ whereby designers created pricy fashions for wealthy people that resembled what bag ladies wore on the street.”

There’s something insulting about the idea of privileged people pretending to be dumpster-diving paupers for an evening. There’s also something hypocritical about rich foodies who wouldn’t dream of taking doggie bags home from a restaurant but who would brag about eating “dog food” when it’s created by a celebrity chef.

The New Republic also critiqued one aspect of the wastED experiment, which when you think about it demonstrates how pathetic most of us are at cooking:

The message a restaurant like this sends is that the world’s great chefs can do more with vegetable scraps than home cooks can with prime cuts of meat and high-quality produce.

For home cooks hoping to eliminate waste, it’s wise to take the baby-steps approach rather than ambitiously attempting to make fermented scallion tops or pig’s ears edible. Try to buy only what you’re going to use, be smart about storing and freezing foods that would otherwise be thrown away, and get creative when it comes to leftovers.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com