For Nearly Free, Man Eats Almost Only "Satisfied Or Your Money Back" Food For 8 Years

Have you heard of Matthieu Laurette? From 1993 to 2001, he fed and cleaned himself by buying almost only products with “Satisfied or your money back” or “Money back on first purchase” items, then filing the rebates or writing to the companies and saying he wasn’t satisfied.

Laurette then leveraged being a skinflint into an art project, Produits rembours

s/Money-back Products (1993-2001).

Now that’s thrift for ya! — BEN POPKEN

products [Laurette.net]
Matthieu Laurette [Your Daily Awesome]

UPDATE: To alleviate commenter concern that this post indicates we’re dry-humping Satan…

Companies put satisfaction/money-back guarantees on products, earning good-will feelings and trust from shoppers, yet the makers know an extremely small percentage of people will ever take them up on the offer. While Laurette’s behavior may strike one as fraudulent, it’s intellectually interesting to see someone take these guarantees to the logical extreme and live nearly entirely on rebated products, allegedly in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction, calling into question whether one can truly find “satisfaction” in today’s consumer culture.

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  1. GirlGoneRiled says:

    Hm. Interesting that holding companies to their promises can be most successfully accomplished as performance art. That says something right there.

    I have a friend who saves all the landscaping pots that come with her flowers and shrubs she buys at a big box store that guarantees they’ll live for X number of years. When they inevitably fail to do so, she digs ‘em up and hauls them back to the store for a refund or replacement. The last time she did this the cashier called a manager who told her, “Uh, I guess I’ll refund your money this time, but you should know that we don’t really mean it or intend to do this every time.”

    Her answer? “Tell it to the Attorney General. In the meantime, here’s my receipt and the dead plant.”

  2. rmz says:

    The problem with this is that I highly doubt he was truly “unsatisfied” with the majority of the products that he used — he’s just gaming the system to get stuff for free. He’s abusing a guarantee system that’s meant to protect honest people when they’re unhappy with a purchase, not to get all of your food for eight years for free.

  3. I can’t believe this works often enough to get enough free food for a day much less eight years.

    Apparently, I need to contact the Cape Cod Potato Chip company. Robust Russet flavor should not equal burnt.

  4. stevekal says:

    in his next life, may he be in charge of customer service for a guaranteed product, and may all his customers be himself.


    Eat that!

  5. Canadian Impostor says:

    Artist? Cheapskate?

    Maybe both, maybe neither.

  6. Skiffer says:

    @rmz: Exactly – I wonder if this could be prosecuted as fraud. Undoubtedly he mailed the rebates – hello, mail fraud.

    True, a consumer’s “satisfaction” is completely subjective…but a consistent 8 year pattern has to be indicative that he wasn’t truly “unsatisfied”…

  7. DashTheHand says:

    Thrifty or not, this guy is a douche. Abusing the system like this means that they just will make stricter policies or cancel the satisfaction guaranteed deal altogether.

  8. enm4r says:

    I’m surprised there aren’t any French jokes yet.

  9. not_seth_brundle says:

    I hope he supplemented with unbranded stuff like fruits & vegetables… 8 years of just packaged foods sounds like a health hazard.

  10. strathmeyer says:

    @Skiffer: Yes, it clearly the consumers fault that companies make sub standard products. I hope he get convicted of mail fraud so that consumers will think twice next time they think corporations will be held to their guarantees.

  11. brokenboy says:

    If you buy a product knowing that when you purchase it that your intent is to fully consume it, not be dissatisfied with it, but to then claim that you were in order to get a refund, that seems like fraud for sure.

    If he ever bought the same thing twice, it’s fraud for sure. Who buys something they know sucks?

  12. XopherMV says:

    This guy shouldn’t be on the front page. He’s freeloading off of society. He’s effectively getting companies to give him the goods for free, which means those same companies charge more for goods, costing us all more. Further, when these same companies find out about this behavior, they’re going to limit their satisfaction guarantees, hurting those consumers who actually do have legitimate problems with products.

  13. Indecision says:

    Thrift, or theft? I’m voting for the latter. It’s certainly unethical and fraudulent.

    How can a pro-consumer site possibly think this is amusing, when behavior like this can only result in companies raising prices and/or abandoning their satisfaction guarantees?

    I thought the Consumerist wanted things to get better, not worse.

  14. Sunburnt says:

    Who’s to say he was at all satisfied with any of the products? For gawd’s sake, this man is a multimedia artist who “renegotiates the mass media critique” by holding up a sign at the Today show. I don’t doubt for a second that he was sneeringly dissatisfied with all of these products.

  15. bluemeep says:

    The gallery’s next exhibits are sure to include breath-taking works such as Kitten Punching: A Portrait and Inquisitive Children Drink Cleaning Products.

  16. rbb says:

    And people wonder why companies with consumer friendly policies suddenly change them to be less so, like COSTCO and their return policy. It’s because of jerks like this who intentionally abuse the system to the detriment of other consumers.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Doesn’t matter that he’s French.

    A douchebag is a douchebag, no matter his nationality.

    This reminds me of a guy that used to order food at Carrow’s and Denny’s around Southern California and eat just less than half of his meal before sending it back and demanding a refund because it was unsatisfactory.

    He thought he was being clever for eating free all of the time, but everyone that knows him knows he’s not being clever – he’s being a douchebag.

  18. MBPharmD says:

    This guy probably also goes to restaurants and eats 90% of his meal and then complains and asks for it to be comped. What a douche.

  19. notallcompaniesarebad says:

    I often don’t like what the Consumerist editors put out there for the world (implicitly, if not explicitly, supporting them). Then I read the comments and my faith in mankind is restored. Clearly the readers think before they post.

  20. CumaeanSibyl says:

    Boy, I sure wish I could get other consumers to buy all my groceries for me.

  21. eross says:

    As notallcompaniesarebad said, it’s unfortunate to see this site prevent lowlife criminals like this in a positive light — it merely helps exploitative corporations by providing anecdotes to seve their power. He should be prosecuted.

  22. RogueSophist says:

    Yup. Sounds like about 10,000 counts of fraud and one count of being a complete douche. I guess felony is cool if you call it performance art.

  23. GitEmSteveDave says:

    What about postage and shipping and handling? I had a bad Crest Spinbrush, and they sent me a mailer to return it. I wonder what this guy cost the companies in shipping costs to get back “unsatisfactory” products to find a fault. And to that point, how much company time was wasted by employees dealing with it? And as for his rebated products, what did it cost him in postage and copying fees to get the money back?

    A BETTER story would be someone who at for nearly free using rebates and coupons and other ways.

  24. TPIRman says:

    @notallcompaniesarebad, Indecision, etc.: I think it’s a mistake to construe a post as an implicit endorsement of the subject. Not everything on the blog has to be the subject of Official Vitriol or Official Praise. Some items of interest are just that.

    Seems there is an increasingly vocal minority of armchair editors (i.e., “Why is this posted on Consumerist?!” commenters) that need every post to be a matter of life or death. Look, not everything has to be “on message.” Consumerist isn’t Consumer Reports. For one thing, Consumerist is less boring, and for another, Consumerist doesn’t slam baby seats into the wall at 70 mph. A little levity or unorthodox subject matter isn’t going to destroy the blog’s mission.

    Along the same lines, I agree the guy is a jerk on the face of it, but one measly consumer isn’t going to end the concept of money-back guarantees. I doubt it’s going to become a trend for the simple reason that it takes a lot of time and effort to get this done. This guy is at the far, far end of the consumerism bell curve.

    I also think his art project actually makes an interesting point about the use of language by corporations. What exactly does “satisfied” mean, and how can you possibly guarantee something so subjective?

  25. ironchef says:

    talk about abuse of goodwill.

    Costco recently had to tighten up their 30 day refund no question asked policy due to douche bag antics like this guy pulls.

    Save the freeloading and let people WHO HAVE A LEGITIMATE CAUSE get the help.

  26. Indecision says:

    @Johnny:

    I’m not construing the post, merely by its existence, as implicit endorsement. Read it. It sounds positive, especially because of the playful “Now that’s thrift!” at the end.

    Add to it this site’s general “the consumer can do no wrong” attitude, and you get an implicit endorsement of something that even most commenters agree should be universally condemned.

    Also, you’re right — one person, by himself, will not end money-back guarantees, or even significantly raise costs. But I guarantee you that there is more than one person doing this, and we certainly don’t need to promote the idea to even more people.

  27. saram says:

    @Johnny:

    I appreciate what you said.

  28. umrain says:

    But what if he was honestly unsatisfied for 8 years because his guilty conscience prevented him from ever truly enjoying his meals, thus, ironically, making his complaints technically true?

  29. ohlali says:

    @ironchef: What is this goodwill you speak of?

  30. OrtizDupri says:

    @ironchef:

    Uh, actually I think they tightened their policy because people would buy something (say, a TV or a computer or a diamond necklace), use it, then return it down the line (say, one or two or three years) and try to get a full refund. I used to see it get done all the time back at home at Costco – I was returning legitimate products within a 90-day period, and somebody would walk in with a “broken” 50″ plasma TV, wanting the original price as a credit. It’s a store, not fucking Rent-A-Center.

  31. ironchef says:

    @OrtizDupri: My point exactly. The actions of a few douchebags and freeloaders spoil the benefit of those who deserve fair treatment.

  32. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Thanks for ruining it for the rest of us.

    Jerk.

  33. bbbici says:

    how did he have the time? hell, the new cat food i bought gave my cat projectile diarrhea, but i can barely waste my time even to get my $20 back.

  34. RandomHookup says:

    @GitEmSteveDave:

    A BETTER story would be someone who ate for nearly free using rebates and coupons and other ways.

    You’ll be amazed how many people have figured out a way to do that. I’m pretty much making a profit on my groceries after coupons and rebates. And I’m ready for any hurricane which might hit the Boston area.

  35. smarty says:

    @Indecision:
    Agree…this is the consumerist editor(s) endorsing this [my opinion: unethical] activity with their comment at the end. I have to wonder how much they really review the stories before posting it.

  36. SOhp101 says:

    What a dick. He should be put to sleep.

  37. swalve says:

    And you just know he’s smug about it too.

    Just like that douche that ate too much food for a month and blamed his reduction in healthfulness on McDonald’s.

  38. TPIRman says:

    @Indecision: Yeah, the post is playful and jokey. Appropiately so because, like I said above, this is pretty light fare. Is it an “endorsement” to be playful? Maybe. My point is, I don’t see what the huge deal is either way.

    As for your “guarantee” that there is more than one person subsisting on rebate/money-back food, that’s an interesting choice of words given the context. It’s kind of in line with the point that Laurette is making.

    He’s not just gaming the system for shits; he’s making a statement about emotionally loaded, deceptive marketing. Since corporations cannot possibly “guarantee” satisfaction, why shouldn’t he hold them to their word? And if companies really did cease the programs as a result, as so many commenters are predicting, wouldn’t that prove his point about the fundamental dishonesty behind this type of marketing?

    I’m not saying that people have to agree with him or declare that he’s a brilliant artist — not at all. But I would respectfully submit that if readers want to have a real discussion about the project, they ought to gloss over Laurette’s artist’s statement before judging him. There is more sophisticated reasoning behind this work than, “I’m going to get that for free just because I can.” If you (meaning “you” in a general sense now) are going to disagree with the man, by all means go ahead, but at least make an effort to figure out what he’s saying first. Then your stance has a little more substance.

    @therasett: Thanks, and ditto!

  39. anonymoustroll says:

    Wow… so much derision and astroterf in the comments here I don’t really know where to begin…

    This the price of capitalism in reverse, as sure as the fact that there are no manufactures of truly sustanable products. Money back offers are advertising, period; this man is forcing them to pay for their advertising. Good on him.

    …and let the first among us who’s eaten a TV dinner and couldn’t stomach the rubbery green beans be the first to cast a stone.

    You know… I want to believe, but every damned time I open their product, they *STILL* manage to screw up the green beans.