With "Free Pita" Promise, Citi Lures Students Off-Campus To Skirt On-Campus Solicitation Ban

How does Citi get around Syracuse University’s ban against turning college kids into debt sharecroppers? Simple. Pass out flyers saying, “free pitas,” given away at a location just outside the campus boundaries…

Then when the kids go off-campus to redeem their pita, they’re told they have to fill out a form allowing a credit card application to be mailed to them, which also got around the school’s prohibition against gift-giving in exchange for apps.

You might chalk this up to “rogue marketers,” except that Ohio just sued Citi marketers for their “free burrito” event. A tasty pattern begins to emerge.

Free pitas come with a catch [Daily Orange] (Thanks to Jodi!)
RELATED: Ohio Attorney General Sues Credit Card Marketers Over Ohio State “Free Burrito” Event
(Photo: Morton Fox)


Edit Your Comment

  1. miborovsky says:

    Having credit cards doesn’t mean you have to be a “debt sharecropper”. If you know HOW to use your credit cards, they can work to YOUR advantage.

  2. dh86sj says:

    This same thing almost happened at the University of Dayton. There were a number of fliers on campus offering free pizzas between 3 and 6 at the nearest Papa John’s. When I went up there (I’m cheap, okay…) there was a sign on the door that said “Citi promotion being rescheduled for next semester.” Nowhere on the flyers did it even mention that the offer had anything to do with Citi – all it said was “No Purchase Necessary.”

  3. goodguy812 says:

    if credit cards are not a scam, and people who got them really wanted them, then why all the bribery, and the non-disclosed details about the offer until you show up?

    whats an advantage to having a credit card? i never understood this. i you don’t have the money today, have some damn discipline and save. i have seen better interest rates at a pawn shop loan.

  4. stopNgoBeau says:

    I wish they had these deals at LSU when I attended. I’m very good at taking advantage of offers and then canceling when the timing is right. I used so many AOL free CDs back when they came in the mail every day that AOL eventually blocked my credit card number from being allowed to sign up.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The same thing happened at the University of Washington in Seattle, with an offer of free Subway sandwiches. I fell for it (broke student here) and when I called to cancel the card, Citi argued with me, trying to convince me to keep the card until I told them that I thought it was a cheap ploy to trick students, at which point they thanked me for my business and hung up immediately.

  6. jaredgood1 says:

    @miborovsky: Bingo. If you buy a car and then rack up tons of speeding tickets, it’s not the car dealership or the auto manufacturers fault, it’s the drivers fault. Same with credit cards.

  7. SaveMeJeebus says:

    Yay more free stuff!

  8. Buran says:

    I’d tell them my name was Jane Q. Public and my SSN was 078-05-1120 and give them some sort of address that led nowhere. Or 220B Baker St, London (some state that actually has a London in it), (the London zip).

    See this page for ‘why that number?’

    Social Security number – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The “address” goes to a famous nonexistent (today, at least) location in London, England…

  9. greggdetroit does not like the American South says:

    This happens at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI about once a week. They even bring a card reader in so that people don’t creatively come up with their own information and it is instead ripped directly off the student’s i.d.. It doesn’t help that the guys working these booths are totally rude and probably wouldn’t have stepped onto a university if it wasn’t for crummy marketing.


  10. Azurith says:

    I didn’t even think of how Citi was skirting the on-campus solicitation ban at Georgia Tech – they were offering free Quizno’s at a place across the street from campus if you filled out a credit card application you got a ticket for a free combo meal.
    I filled it with junk information and talked the guy into believing that I “didn’t bring my wallet because I came for free %&#(ing food, idiot”, got my sub, and went on my way.

    Very low class, though, no matter how you shake it.

  11. ekthesy says:

    Give me the local Pretzel Wagon franchisee any day!

  12. ekthesy says:


    That address actually puts you across the street from the rooms Holmes shared with Watson at 221B Baker Street, watched over by the good Mrs. Hudson.

    You may be interested in 220B Baker if you are, say, Colonel Sebastian Moran intent on finishing what you started by the Reichenbach Falls, but if you expect to meet a great detective there, you will be sorely disappointed :)

  13. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    Oh this isn’t new. They were doing the same thing when I went there 10 years ago. Free t-shirts and food, always on Marshall Street (right outside the University). It’ll never change…

  14. Buran says:

    @ekthesy: Argh. Thanks for catching that mistake!

  15. ViperBorg says:

    Mary Jane
    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
    Washington, DC 20081

    Now give me my pita!!!!!

  16. Ben Popken says:

    @miborovsky: If they wanted to sign up responsible borrowers they wouldn’t be targeting college students.

  17. FLConsumer says:

    @goodguy812: There really isn’t any advantage to the “student” credit cards and the ones being pushed on college campuses. They usually offer no or minimal rewards programs, terrible rates. The only way they’d be able to get customers for these particular cards is to grab the 18 year old frosh girls who think “ooh! I want a credit card! It’s so grown up!”

  18. Peorgeum says:

    Something along the same lines happened at Purdue. “Free Pizza” at Papa Johns. When I went to get my free pizza they wanted you to first fill out an electronic form. I would have been more then happy to give them the wrong info but they also were taking ID and scanning them to do who knows what with.

    Needless to say I walked out of the Papa John’s hungry.

  19. goodguy812 says:

    @Ben Popken: and a great point you have!

  20. lincolnparadox says:

    Just like the Pied Piper.

  21. TechnoDestructo says:


    The advantage is not having to carry cash, particularly for large purchases, and protection against loss.

    I use credit (and debit) cards as I would use cash, basically.

    Oh, and you can buy online with a credit/debit card. That’s why you should have one.

  22. Travis Hudson says:

    Kansas State did it too. The flyer said nothing about a credit card deal. I personally thought it was some kind of a university event.

  23. BrockBrockman says:

    @Ben Popken: This is the fundamental issue, and the key reason Syracuse BANNED credit card jerks from soliciting on campus.

    College kids – i.e. 17- and barely-18-year old kids freshly graduated from high school and out on their own for the first time, without parental supervision – rack up huge amounts of credit card debt, all to the credit card companies’ advantage.

    While college kids should be better educated about the dangers of frivolously signing up for new credit cards for free crap, Citi and its goons shouldn’t attempt to slyly skirt a school rule with the misleading advertisement of free stuff.

  24. mookiemookie says:

    No, they’re actually being very honest with the students. You get a free PITA!*

    *PITA = pain in the ass, in this case being mounds of credit card debt

  25. UpsetPanda says:

    I remember every fall of college at the beginning of the semester (I just graduated this May) a ton of kids walking around with Citi or Bank of America or (name credit card institution of debt here) bags, mugs, hats, shirts and stuff.

    I admit that I succumbed to the credit card bribery and got a t-shirt and a mug for my trouble to wander over to their table, but I had leverage – I was already a credit card holder so they didn’t try to pester me about getting more, since I was already doing business with them.

    I think it’s kind of shady to do that, because a lot of the people who succumb to the “free (food, shirt, etc.)” bribe don’t know any better. They’re freshman in college, what do they know? Not all of them know there are better ways of getting a meal, and it doesn’t require ruining your credit (I’ve seen students with 4 or 5 different credit cards, real ones and ones from stores).

  26. humorbot says:

    All this talk about credit card debt is making me hungry.

  27. stjlaw says:

    The pita pit on Marshal Street is not worth the hassle.

  28. slowinthefastlane says:

    Fakey Fakerson at 123 Fake Street, in Fake, Alaska got me lots of free stuff when I was in college.. His e-mail address is fakey@fake.com, BTW.

  29. goodguy812 says:

    @TechnoDestructo: a debit card serves all of those purposes. so once again i ask whats the point?

  30. Jeff_McAwesome says:

    @goodguy812: Perhaps building gredit through on-time payments so you can eventually get a lower interest rate on a house?

    @Peorgeum: Oh my god! I go to Purdue too! How about that football team huh? 4-0 baby.

  31. lostsynapse says:

    It would be nice to give them a fake name but they ask for a valid student ID for a reason. I’m sure that they train the people to check the ID against the form they fill out. No pita for you!

  32. FLConsumer says:

    @goodguy812: A debit card also allows anyone free access to your checking account. Not advisable. Sure, the bank says they’ll help you get your money back, but you’re screwed in the meantime and you’re also at the mercy of the bank. Not to mention all of the great features GOOD credit cards have that most debit cards lack. Purchase protection, theft/loss protection, concierge services, cash back, skymiles, etc. Just received a nice, fat $500 cash back check from Wachovia today.

    If these students want credit cards, I’d suggest they go to their bank / credit union to obtain one. THEN they’ll at least have a mental connection with the plastic = money and that they’ll have to pay it off. They also won’t get the terrible rates & terms the vulture card cos give.

  33. joharp says:

    Happens here at Oklahoma State. I have seen it at Subway, Pita Pit, and I think Papa Johns. Probably more, but I don’t pay attention to people handing out “coupons” anymore…

  34. SaraAB87 says:

    Credit cards are fine as long as you are RESPONSIBLE with them. Since I shop online A LOT to save money a credit card is a must. But now that I have been shopping with a credit card I hardly spend any money in the retail stores anymore, so I just have a bill once a month. I also don’t buy anything frivolous until that bill is paid off, and usually I am so worried that I spent too much that I end up with plenty of cash left over after paying the bill. Shopping online also helps to restrain impluse in-store purchases for me, since it forces me to think about what I really need and where I am going to buy it from, not just go out and get it. Credit cards also have other benefits such as warranty coverage without having to succumb to scam in-store warranties (this can save you money too), security in case an online purchase goes wrong, and rewards as others have mentioned, so there are benefits if you can learn to use it responsibly.

    I am guessing the credit card companies are banking on the fact that the students will run up a big bill spending on things like food, cell phone stuff, ipods and expensive clothing and that they are just fililng the credit card application to look “grown up” as another person mentioned. Then the companies make money when the kid goes running to mommy and daddy for them to pay off the bill.

  35. rb89 says:

    They do this at my college in Georgia. The first week or so of classes, people were handing out flyers saying “Free Subway Combo”. Of course, in fine print at the bottom, it said that you had to sign up for a credit card.

    As long as the suckers keep coming, they’ll keep signing naive, gullible college students up for one credit card after the next.

  36. Anonymous says:

    This is nothing new. I am legal guardian for a 25 year old developmentally disabled person whose only income is SSI @ about 7K/year. Because he has been declared by the local probate court as a developmentally disabled person he cannot enter into legally enforceable contracts, yet he dearly loves those freebies that are offered with credit card app strings attached, so sometimes I let him fill out the applications so he can get his freebies.

    He can do rough block letters only, about a half inch high, and his handwriting truly looks like a 4 year old did it. For his occupation, I tell him to put STUDENT in, as he does attend a special education facility, and if the app asks for the name of his school, I tell him to write down the initials of the school. The only way his credit card apps could look any worse would be if he did them in crayon.

    Anyhow, he is currently up to 4 approved bank credit cards and a Best Buy store credit card with ZERO turndowns. The highest credit limit is 5K.

    Keep in mind that if I ever let him go wild with these cards each card issuer will never, ever be able to collect one single cent from him.

  37. madanthony says:

    This one actually doesn’t sound as bad as the Ohio State one – you don’t actually need to fill out a credit card application, just give them your address so that they can mail you an app.

    And there is nothing inherently bad with credit cards – they are a tool, like a hammer. You can use a hammer to build a house, or to bash someone’s skull in. I got a student credit card when I was 18 (and I didn’t even get a free sandwich with it). I was responsible, and it helped me build credit.

  38. RabidWombat says:

    Oh dear sweet Flying Spaghetti Monster, they do that other places, too? I’m a Carnegie Mellon student, and have been had twice by these people. They give you a coupon for free ____, and then you get there and there they are with the little palm-type computer things with the signup form. Now, had they just asked for basic contact information, I may have considered doing it for the free food, but no. They ask for your SSN, which is completely ridiculous.
    I asked the guy to justify this once, and he said it was “in case you wanted to sign up” (since the info was purportedly only so they could send you information). Then why don’t you take it when I sign up? It just felt a little sketchy to me.
    Basically, these people are evil and have wasted at least 1/2 hour of my time walking places to get “free” stuff I didn’t end up getting because I don’t give my SSN out to just anyone…

  39. FLConsumer says:

    Give ’em the LifeLock guy’s info, he’s got it posted on their home page:
    My name is Todd Davis
    This is my social security number 457-55-5462

    “I’m Todd Davis, CEO of LifeLock. Yes, that really is my social security number. No I’m not crazy. I’m just sure our system works. Just like we have with mine, LifeLock helps protect your pers

  40. stubar says:

    I don’t really see a problem here – free pita for giving someone permission to send you a credit card app in the mail? I get them all the time sans pita. It’s not like they’re forcing you to fill out the damn thing, like in all the other cases.