Free Coffee (or Drink) Strategies for the Monetarily Challenged

(Coffee and fountain drinks, not booze.)

I can’t remember the last time I paid for a cup of gas station coffee, not because I just grab one and walk out (though that’s probably easy to do at many places, especially the busy ones) but because I’ve perfected the art of getting people to give me free coffee. There’s nothing sinister at play here, just a little bit of applied psychology. See, I never ask for “free coffee” but rather make it their idea to give it to me using one of three strategies I’ve developed and perfected over time.

The first two strategies work best when the store is busy. The last strategy works either way, whether it’s busy or slow, though I typically employ it late at night. All three strategies work equally as well for fountain drinks (the ones YOU prepare yourself).

The “I Gotta Grab My Wallet” Strategy

The key to this strategy is to be in line for the register with people behind you. (The more the better.) I simply prepare my coffee — I like mine black with light ice to cool it down so it’s instantly drinkable — and then, if there are plenty of people in the store, I try to get in line with people behind me. As I approach the register, if no one is behind me, I may step out of line to “look” for something else. (Again, you have to have people behind you.) Then, when I get to the register, just as they go to ring up my coffee, I stop them: “Oh wait — I gotta run grab my wallet out of the car!”

Eight times out of ten they’ll ask, “Is that all you’re getting?”
“Yes.”
“Don’t worry about it, go ahead.”
“You sure?”
“Yes, go on.”
“Thank you!”
…and thanks for the free coffee!

The “Oh Shit, I Was Gonna Get a Coffee” Strategy

For this one, it doesn’t matter how many people are in line, but it helps if the store is busy. This time, I’m usually paying for gas or buying cigarettes or something else that’s not coffee. After the cashier has rung me up and I swipe my card to pay, I exclaim, “Oh shit! I was gonna get a coffee — is it too late to add it?”

Of course it’s too late, and nine times out of ten, the cashier will say, “Don’t worry about it, just go ahead and grab one!” because, out of the goodness of their heart, for whatever reason, he/she doesn’t want you to have to go through all that trouble of having to enter your loyalty number and swipe your card again.

“You sure?”
“Yeah, go ahead.”
“Ok, thanks!”
…and thanks for the free coffee!

The “Just Take It” Strategy

No, that doesn’t imply that I take (as in “steal”) the coffee. Instead, I prepare my coffee as usual — I prefer the places with the bean-to-cup coffee because it’s so fresh and delicious — and then I wander the store for a minute or two waiting for the most inopportune time to have the cashier ring me up.

For instance, when there’s a long line, I can stand there looking impatient, make eye contact, and more often than not the cashier will ask, “Is that all you’re getting?”
“Yes.”
“You can go ahead.”
“You sure?”
“Yes, go on.”
“Ok, thank you!”
…and thanks for the free coffee!

I’m assuming, out of the goodness of their heart, they can’t stand to see me wait in that long line just for a measly coffee. At the same time, it cuts the long line down by one, which is doing them a favor.

Or, I wait until they’re busy doing something else like preparing hot food, or mopping the floor, or wiping down counters, or restocking supplies or inventory. (The further away from the register they are the better this works.) That’s when I attempt to inconvenience them and ask if they can ring me up for my coffee. And with that, TEN TIMES OUT OF TEN, they’d rather just give it to me.

“Is that all you’re getting?”
“Yes.”
“You’re fine, go ahead.”
“You sure?”
“Yeah, no problem.”
“Ok, thanks!”
…and once again, thanks for the free coffee!

In closing, keep in mind that these strategies should only be used if you actually do have money to pay for your coffee. Otherwise, you could be stuck holding the bag on a coffee you can’t pay for. Not that most places would give a shit. Worst case scenario you can simply tell them you “forgot” your money and they’d likely give it to you, but there’s a reason I didn’t include the “I Forgot My Money” strategy: it’s just not how we play the free coffee game. But if all else fails, and you really don’t have money, leave the coffee, revert to the first strategy “I Gotta Grab My Wallet” and get the fuck out of there.

I hope you’ll put these free coffee strategies to good use and enjoy free coffee (or fountain drinks) as often as you can. With practice, they should work 80% to 100% of the time as they do for me.

You’re welcome.

—TV

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