Sorry, We Ran Out Of Free Tote Bags…Buy Some Wine Instead

Pacific Rim’s experience with their totebag giveaway should serve as a cautionary tale to any company that wants to put up a nice, limited-scale offer of free stuff online.

Pacific Rim gave away “Save Water/Drink Riesling” cloth totebags for free on their Web site. The deal went viral, and was featured on Buxr and, yes, even on Consumerist’s very own Morning Deals on June 1st. The company didn’t quite expect what happened next—they received 80,000 requests for the 3,000 tote bags they had planned to give away. Oops. Their system wasn’t even set up to cut off the deal after 3,000 requests.

They sent an e-mail out to the last 77,000 people to sign up for the freebie, and added—what the heck?—a sales pitch for their wines. Hey, as long as they’ve got thousands of extra people on the mailing list, might as well market to ‘em.

Courtesy of many readers, here’s the text of the e-mail:

Thanks so much for your interest in Pacific Rim and our reusable shopping bag offer. Our “Save Water/Drink Riesling” campaign (promoting conservation of our precious rivers) seems to have struck a chord with our fans. The positive response to our bag offer has been so overwhelming that – as a small, independently-owned winery – we simply do not have the resources to fulfill all the bag requests.

However, it’s sincerely important to us that we provide you with a “make good” limited-time offer exclusively available to people inquiring about our reusable shopping bag. We’ve created what we hope is a mind-blowing discount on our two most popular wines: purchase 3 bottles of Dry or Sweet Riesling and receive an additional BONUS BOTTLE and FREE SHIPPING. That’s a 50% SAVINGS and a $30 VALUE. The offer expires midnight June 30th, and is limited to 1 order per household.

A little background: we produced enough bags to meet our projected demand based on a small-scale retail promotion featured on select Pacific Rim wines. Our primary hope was to generate awareness of river conservation through this offer. We did not predict the popularity of the offer as it went viral online at “freebie” websites (which posted links to our special offer without permission). These websites boosted the demand to nearly 80,000 requests for the 3,000 bags we produced.

We apologize for any inconvenience caused by the overwhelming response we’ve received. We appreciate your flexibility and understanding. AgainÖwe hope you will try Pacific Rim wines by taking advantage of our exclusive offer to purchase 3 bottles of Dry or Sweet Riesling and receive an additional BONUS BOTTLE and FREE SHIPPING.

Must be 21 years or older to participate.

Yours sincerely,

Pacific Rim Winery

The idea of asking permission to link to a Web site is rather quaint and amusing, though there’s a difference between simply linking to a site, and encouraging people to sign up for a free deal. Lesson learned. And hey, now they have 77,000 extra people on their mailing list! Most of whom are probably about to leave that mailing list.

Save Water/Drink Riesling Special Deal [Pacific Rim Winery]