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Creative ways to get things for free in general - in story format (Sep/27/2006 )


This is just an example of a strategy that I tried out of frustration that actually worked in our underfunded academic lab. I thought I'd share it since "free stuff" seems to have it's own section now.

It all started when I was trying to transfect cells with RNAi and it wasn't working and the boss didn't agree that the problem was transfection efficiency (or at least not enough to buy me something bettter than lipofectamine 2000 arghh...that stuff is awful!). This was very frustrating mad.gif because I had bought a pre-validated RNAi that's supposed to work great for others and I couldn't prove it was a transfection problem because my boss was too cheap to buy the fluorescent oligo that is often used to verify transfection of RNAi. So I decided one morning when I was frustrated with my lab's lack of funds to call sales reps for EVERY company I could think of and ask for free samples of their newest and greatest RNAi transfection reagents.

At first things were lukewarm (and slow...people had to call back), but eventually people started to respond. I got 30% off a reagent from Ambion and then I discovered the magic thing to say to sales reps:

I started telling them that I was the first to use RNAi in the lab and that I was testing several reagents and that as they probably know the first thing that works in an academic lab is the thing that will get used for the next few years and then asked them if their company would like to donate a free sample. After I had one company, I very quickly got free full size tubes of RNAi transfection reagent from 3 companies!!!

I Now feel vindicated, have RNAi working in my cells (although not quite as high a knockdown as I'd like...) and things are working smoothly. I would say this might be a good strategy for other frustrated students working in poor academic labs to try out.(I can empathize! laugh.gif ) Who knows, you may well get free stuff like I did.

Hope this Helps Somebody,



Thank you very much, Mountainman.

I am going to try it. biggrin.gif

-Minnie Mouse-

I think you are making a very good point. Companies don't want to lose any potential customers. Once customers get hooked up, they won't turn away. For example, we turned to sigma's Taq polymerase 7 years ago, and have since been using it. A postdoc in our lab introduced us to Invitrogen customer primers 6 years ago and it has become our tradition ever since. So companies would be more than happy to give free samples if you ask.


Nice trick, mountainman.

could give it a try.


Another good way is to tell the company you call you are in contact too with company x as they offer something similar (for free for a demo of course) and would like to compare the stuff with theirs before you decide on the future sales strategy.
Its amazing how friendly even the most tight sales rep can become once you tell them the decision is already almost done since the other company's demonstration. But the problem with their product is a, b and c - and you would want to just give it a final try if you can get something better. Of course don't try to fool them with invented things, they know the competition. But once you managed to get a demo from one company it should be way easier to get samples or demonstration from other companies too.


thank you mountainman.
I've aplied similar strategy for testing transfection reagent for siRNA vectors as i'm the one "relevant person" in the lab...
The negative point is now that the companies which have less efficiency now ask me for new stuff regulary... but the funds are now low.. wink.gif
anyway it's a very interesting point you've shared.
thanks again.