Sunday, August 25, 2019

How many delicious deals are too many?

There are now dozens of home meal kit services. The concept seems simple enough. Subscribers receive a box of all the fresh ingredients they will need to be able to prepare a set number of meals during the week.

While each meal kit service seems to try to position itself a bit differently from the next, it's hard to imagine all of them will attract enough subscribers to become profitable and survive.

Nevertheless, they persist. And with that persistence comes a barrage of reduced price or free trial offers. The offers vary. Sometimes, a week's worth of ingredients is offered for free if a prospective subscriber will consider signing on for a longer term.

It's possible, I suppose, to move from one meal-kit service to another for several months without having the pay anything. Whether it's OK to take advantage of competing free trial offers like this is what a reader we're calling Ben wants to know.

Ben has used at least three meal kit services now, all on a trial basis. He and his partner have enjoyed preparing the meals together. Some they've liked better than others, but Ben has always enjoyed the fact that the food has been free.

Up until now, Ben just accepted a trial every few months when he happened upon one. But now he wants to know if it would be wrong to try to string together as many free trials as he can to see if he can get free food for a good meal several times a week.

Ben's question reminds me of a reader who once asked me if it was OK to switch from one cable television and internet service provider to another when the attractive introductory pricing elapsed. The reader was fortunate that there was more than one cable and internet service provider in his area to choose from. Every two years or so, he indicated, he looked into switching services to see if he could get a better price.

My response to Ben is the same as it was to the cable switcher. As long as he is not lying to any of the companies or misrepresenting himself on any application for free trials, there is nothing wrong with attempting to get as good a deal as possible.

I would imagine that if the meal-kit companies keep good records that, eventually, they might refuse more than one free trial per customer, but given the number of meal-kit companies out there now, it might be a while before Ben finds himself circling back around to a company he'd already tried.

Another thing for Ben to consider is whether he wants to put all the time in that it might take to track down offers and to keep track of what he's getting when. There's nothing, I suppose, to keep Ben from signing up for two or more trials in the same week, but then he might find himself with far more food than he and his partner can consume.

It may feel to Ben as though he's getting away with getting something for nothing (because he is), but the right thing is for him to be honest in his dealings with the meal-kit companies. Bon app├ętit. 

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of  The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business and The Good, the Bad, and Your Business: Choosing Right When Ethical Dilemmas Pull You Apartis a lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin

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