A man in China uncovered the cheapskate scam of the decade: using a single first-class ticket to get a year's worth of access to an airport VIP lounge and the delicious complimentary meals hidden within. "Eastern China Airlines officials only recently figured out the man’s scheme after noticing his single ticket being re-booked 300 times over one year," The New York Post reported. It's hard to imagine how much beer and finger foods this man gorged himself on — and how much money he saved.
While this is perhaps the most elaborate food loophole scheme we've ever seen, the truth is that most of us have done something similar ourselves. Usually, not on the scale of China's airport artist, but we've collected our own tips and tricks that might help you find some nosh if you truly need it.
Let's be clear, we're not proud of anything we're going to divulge in the coming paragraphs. Some of these tips came at very trying, not-so-well-paid times in our lives. And none of these involve causing a scene, sending food back, blackmail, or ruining someone's day. Or actual stealing. That's bad.
And without further ado, here are The Wire's roundup of non-jerky tips to getting free food. (By no means is this list all encompassing, so add your own tips and we may adopt and include them):
- Gallery openings, book readings, and other artsy events tend to have free refreshments. (Sometimes beer or wine too.) Unfortunately, this will mean that you have to be social and listen to someone's poetry, but still... snacks.
- Spend time with your parents and their friends. They will often invite you to dinner, and they (almost) always pay!
- Work at Google, The Daily Beast, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, or Bloomberg, or most well-funded tech startups. Their free snacks are legendary.
- Fancy hotels often have fruit just laying around in their lobbies and front desks. Take it. Take it all.
- Go to church/temple, stay for the pancake breakfasts/kiddush lunch. Also: depending on the house of worship, you might score some wine.
- Go to a Christian youth group event, stay for the pizza
- Find a local farmers market. They are full of free samples. While a couple of staffers were living in Washington D.C., multiple markets would happen on the same day ... leading to what we later called a double-dip days and double the samples.
- Volunteer a lot. Some charities will pay for your time in food and juice boxes.
- Give blood at the Red Cross. Free cookie!
- Supermarkets are great for free samples and Costco and Whole Foods have the best. You don't even need an active membership to wander around a Costo and snag your freebies.
- Write nice, complimentary letters to your favorite food companies and restaurants. They love to send coupons/samples to their most loyal fans.
- Ice cream shops are filled with tiny little spoons that let you try every flavor before you buy. Do that.
- Go on dates. It worked for this young woman.
- Sometimes, bakeries will give out their old bread and whatnot at the end of the day. You just kinda have to look like you weren't there just for the free bread.
- Fast food restaurants are very generous with their free refills. Taco Bell plastic fountain cups are probably the sturdiest for multiple trips. If you're truly desperate, you can ask for a free water cup and then fill it with whatever you choose. (But you didn't hear that from us.)