Vote, Pray! & Eat Free!

Voters can vote to pick up free stuff on Election Day

Some Krispy Kremes will give away star-shaped doughnuts Tuesday as a voting-day promotion.

       

By Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY

Some Krispy Kremes will give away star-shaped doughnuts Tuesday as a voting-day promotion.Besides queuing up to pick a new president on Tuesday, many voters also will be standing in lines to vote for their favorite freebies.

Savvy retailers and marketers are working hard to lure voters with an array of Election Day freebies — from Starbucks coffee to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Most marketers doing this, however, have been less inspired by patriotism than by capitalism. Sales are off for most of these marketers in the sickly economy.

“They want you to buy something else to go with the coffee or doughnut,” says Allison Cohen, president of the market research firm PeopleTalk. “It’s to stimulate business.”

Stimulate it will. Long lines are expected at many of the retailers. Some will be handing out freebies all day while others are limiting the handouts by time or available supply.

FIND MORE STORIES IN: Washington | California | Las Vegas | Bill Clinton | Beverly Hills | Starbucks | Orange County | Air Force One | Krispy Kreme | Chick-fil-A | Jerry Johnston

Due to possible conflict with election laws in various states, most are not requiring proof of voting. The free offers:

•Coffee. Starbucks expects to hand out “hundreds of thousands” of free 12-ounce drip coffees (valued at about $1.75 each), says spokeswoman Jenny McCabe. “If everyone who votes comes in for a free cup of coffee, we’ll have some lines,” she says.

•Doughnuts. Some 85 of Krispy Kreme’s 231 locations in the U.S. will hand out star-shaped, red-white-and-blue sprinkled doughnuts “while supplies last,” says spokesperson Dana Hughens. The chain will give out about 200,000 doughnuts valued at 99 cents each. “People are definitely talking about the brand as a result of this,” she says.

•Ice cream. Between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. in each time zone, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shops will hand out single-scoop ice cream cones (a $3.40 value). “What better way to encourage people to be politically active than to give away free ice cream?” asks spokeswoman Liz Brenna.

•Sandwiches. In a local market promotion, several hundred of the nation’s 1,400 Chick-fil-A stores will hand out $2.70 chicken sandwiches to adults who show proof that they voted, says spokesman Jerry Johnston.

•Phone calls. Credo Mobile, a wireless company that donates money to progressive causes for calls its customers make, will offer free outbound calls to current customers during polling hours in their states. The cost could be about $250,000, says spokeswoman Becky Bond.

•Discount haircuts. Then, there’s Cristophe Schatteman, a top hair stylist known for giving former president Bill Clinton a $200 haircut on Air Force One. His salons in Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Beverly Hills and Orange County, Calif., will offer all services — including haircuts — at half price today. A $500 haircut from Cristophe will go for $250.

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