Should you trade, sell or donate unwanted sample freebies?

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Freebies means you don’t have to pay to try a product that you might not have otherwise bought but what happens when you don’t want the freebie? Do you sell it, trade it or give it away?

Today I have a mailbag CBB Fan question that came in that I thought I would address based on my opinion and nothing more. As much as I love getting fan mail one thing I don’t do is give advice on what you should and shouldn’t do.

I leave those decisions up to you because in the end the only person who is held responsible for actions taken, is yourself.

If you don’t know the answer to a pressing question your best bet is to contact a professional or service that can provide you with the answers you are looking for.


Dear Mr.CBB

There has been so much controversy online and on mommy groups about parents who sell freebies that they get from freebie sites online such as free clothes, free formula samples etc. that it’s becoming difficult to know what’s right and what’s wrong.

It’s not something I’ve done personally but it has brought on lots of bad vibes between moms who need money so they sell what they can and others who believe that anything you get free should be given away for free to pay it forward.

I was wondering if you had any insight as to whether it was legal to sell baby samples that we no longer need or can use to other parents. I also wanted to know if we use coupons whether we can sell what we buy if it states “Not for resale” including those freebies we get in the mail.

Thanks for any tips from you or your fans.

-Katie (New mom of 1 beautiful girl)

Hi Katie,

Thanks for your question and although I’m not a parent we do use coupons and I have seen products that read “Not for Resale” on them but I’m not sure that it’s meant for the everyday consumer like you and I. I’ll do my best to share my thoughts on the topic but like always if you aren’t sure your best defense is to call the supplier, Health Canada or even a lawyer.


Freebies and samples


Everyone loves to get freebies, that is for certain. All you have to do is watch how many people flock to free coupon giveaways from companies on Facebook or finding them while you are shopping. Free food is always fun to get as well, especially samples right from the manufacturer.

When we went to the Toronto Home Show earlier this year we were able to score some great freebies such as granola bars, juice and even crackers. My wife didn’t fancy here granola bar, so I ate it.

What if I didn’t like those freebies though, could I sell them? I would never do such a thing as it would clearly be a waste of my time but there was nothing on the packaging that said that I wasn’t able to sell the items. There was a full ingredient list, nutritional content as well as an expiry date. All the important data that you need as a consumer before you make a purchase.

Even if I did decide to sell those freebies would you really want to buy them not knowing where they have been and for how long? Some of you would because it’s cheaper for your grocery budget and/or products you use every day for less.

The issue for some may be that you don’t know if I had the freebies sitting in the car for a week in the blazing heat or if the dog was licking the package or how it was handled, but that’s the chance you take.

I know it sounds gross but we don’t know what happens behind closed doors and when it comes to food freebies I’d be worried not only as a buyer but as a seller. What happens if the person you sold the food to for an exchange of funds gets ill?

Are you willing to face the potential of being sued? Is that even possible? I don’t know however don’t think it won’t happen either because when someone is faced with a bad situation and hard times you might find legal documents in your mail slot.

That’s probably another reason people don’t have you come to their home when you make a purchase from them. You’d also have to prove that you paid for the product so there are lots of variables that surround that scenario if it were to come to life.


Food Bank


What about the Food Bank?

It’s understandable that people fall on hard times and the food bank which accepts “free donations” and gives free food to those in need are doing so without profit. They are not selling the food and the recipients are taking it under their own will.

No, the food bank will not accept expired foods either that I am aware of. Yes, you don’t know where the food has been and under what conditions but I’m sure getting a tummy full of food is more important. It’s ultimately what you choose to do because no one is saying you should or shouldn’t. I’m also pretty sure they will accept freebie sample cans of baby food and formula to donate to other mums and dads.


Selling freebies


Selling food to me is similar to providing a service and if you don’t have a licence to sell food then why are you selling it?

You might want to consult with your insurance company or any insurance company to ask what the implications might be if you were to sell freebies such as baby formula, food or other health and beauty supplies that could potentially harm someone. There may be none at all or they may be lots to worry about especially if you are selling homemade food or products which is an entirely different ballgame.

The manufacturing company will probably wash their hands of any illness or complications resulting from consumption of any of their products that were bought second-hand. The reason being, they don’t know if the seller kept the product stored in the correct environment.

A supermarket will be different as they will have to have a predetermined ambient temperature range to adhere to keep products in a known environment. They will have frequent stock rotation and any damaged stock will be either reduced for quick sale or destroyed.

It’s better to be safe than sorry and if they can’t help you ring up a Canadian lawyer to see what they have to say. When products are sold to grocery stores they are sold under contracts and you can bet they have all their ducks in a row when it comes to the legalities surrounding food and other products they sell just in case something were to happen.


Free stuff for sale


The wife and I had a similar conversation about selling freebies a few weeks back while we were scouring through the second-hand shops. We noticed sample products or freebies that you would typically get in the mail “for sale”. My wife questioned why they would try and sell these freebies that were sent to people in the mail? I thought it was a legitimate question but I had no answer for her, nor did I take the time to ask.

We noticed items such as the free Nestle back pack that is given as a freebie to parents from Nestle for sale as well as little bottles you would get on a full product that you buy at the shop as a freebie. I guess money is money to them and sometimes people simply don’t know what is and isn’t a free sample.

I wonder how they were able to put a price on something that was a freebie? Then again we’ve seen dollar store products selling for more than a dollar. Laughing, I know you’ve all seen it as well. They simply don’t know. Hit or miss on pricing is right when you buy second-hand or from a garage sale.

We’ve also seen baby diaper sample packs which are for sale but never any formula. We have seen bags of sample nipples that are given as freebies to parents from the manufacture for sale as well.

The list of freebie products can go on and on but as avid couponers you get used to seeing what freebies are available in each category so it’s no wonder they jumped out at us while searching up and down the aisles for bargains at the thrift stores.

I can bet you that no one is going to chase after the second-hand shops for selling these donated freebies to them and nor will they waste time chasing after individuals who sell formula freebies that are mailed to them as well.


Not for resale


What does “not for resale” mean?

Reading it you would assume that you can’t sell the product again but that might not be the case for the everyday individual like you and I. When you buy a package at a grocery store and the outside has the ingredient list, expiry date and any other nutritional information the packets inside may not.

This is a reason why they may not be for resale because the buyer does not have all the necessary information to make an informed decision on the product before purchase. I would guess this is more for the retailer who try to break up product to make more profit from them. Let’s say for example a bonus pack of peanuts comes to the store at Christmas time and is packed with 3 cans of various flavours.

You may find the cans say “Not for individual resale” so the retailer doesn’t open the box and try to sell the individual cans rather than as a gift pack which typically saves the consumer money. I’m sure the manufacture has some sort of contract with the retailers where they are not permitted but by having the “Not for resale” on the package they are protecting themselves and you the consumer so you know that they should not be selling it.

I don’t think they will be running after the people who sell freebies or packets not for resale outside of the retail world but like I mentioned above, would you take that chance if something should go wrong?

Like anything in life… we call this risk. Many are willing to take a risk if it means they get something free or they sell freebies to make a profit so they can use the money for other items they need. Is it ethical to sell freebies? Well that’s a question only you can answer.

I’m not here to judge but it makes you wonder where someone gets so many cans of freebie formula samples like this Kijiji seller below and is selling it for $200. I did wonder if she worked for the company and was fortunate to get a huge haul for cheap and now selling for profit. Who knows?

I don’t think the formula companies send out that much free formula to one recipient unless it was collected from others or donated. Not my problem really but a good example to share.

Whether the seller was picking up free samples given away from other moms or having other people have the company send them free samples using their address is something that happens, but how do you control it? In the end it’s the buyer, the seller, their conscience and if the manufacturer wants to step in it’s up to them.

If something were to go wrong health-wise be prepared although I don’t and can’t say what legal implications there are. Like I mentioned if you are questioning it, call a lawyer or Health Canada.

I’m pretty sure none of the major suppliers of baby formula that mail out freebies advocate the sale of their samples which makes sense. They are protecting themselves and the purpose of the freebies sample program.

These programs cost money and who do you think may be paying to fund this program? That’s right, you the consumer because it all trickles down to the shelf-price of the product you buy.

Note that not one of the products in the above photo of Similac baby formula freebies or sample cans of formula from the manufacturer are labelled “Not for resale”.

The cover photo was provided from a new mom friend of ours so the products are current and not expired. So, there really is nothing stopping anyone from selling them UNLESS there is legality around selling baby formula samples.


Sell my stuff


Here is what the seller was selling on Kijiji….


similac advanced freebies sample cansPhoto Source: Kijiji Ontario

I have 42 cans of Similac Advanced baby formula (powder)
Each can is the sample size which is 227g or 8oz
Cans expire anywhere from 2015-2017
Will sell for $6 each or all 42 cans for $200.
Any moms out there using this formula KNOW how expensive this formula is.

As for selling free clothes or anything else you get free that’s up to you. If you need to make money from selling freebies that you get whether you find it on the side of the road, from free-cycle etc. that’s your choice.

There are laws in Canada about what you can and can’t sell at a garage sale according to Health Canada which I’ve blogged about before. You should take the warnings seriously because yes they can come back to haunt you.

At best, I would take a look at the post and read up on what Health Canada has to say before you put your used items for sale or something you got as a freebie at a garage sale. Loads of people make extra income re-purposing furniture and other products they picked up for free and some of the best things to sell online are the items you paid nothing for, hence a 100% profit. It just depends on what the products are.

It’s nice to make up our own rules but in the end life doesn’t work that way. If there is a freebie sample law or law that prohibits consumers from selling “Not for resale” products we need to abide by that if it is directed towards us and not just the retailer. I have yet to find one at the consumer level through my research but if you come across this law I’d love to hear about it.

As Canadian citizens we should abide by the laws especially if it is something that might endanger someone’s life. If you don’t know if what you want to do is right or wrong, do the right thing and find out.

Would you sell freebies such as baby formula samples, food samples, health and beauty samples or other freebies you received? What would you sell and not sell?  Why? Do you have a story where something you sold that was a freebie went horribly wrong? I want to hear about it. Please send me an email.


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  1. If a person has something, whether she won or bought it, that’s hers and she can do anything she wants with it. Thats nobody else’s business. Formula suppliers don’t give samples away for charity, they do so so mother will easily give up on breast feedibg…. So no need to see it from a charity point of view. Mind your own business people.

  2. I am on a buy, sell, trade site on Facebook where I sometimes buy my niece things. The page had a big problem with people selling samples of formula that came straight from the hospital. The site administrators eventually banned the sale of formula and food because many people were upset that there were people charging lots of money for something that was given to them for free or for something that was paid for (through WIC or SNAP) by the government or other organizations. I think they made the right decision.

  3. I have a co-worker before and he always sells any kind of medicines with a very cheap price. When one of my co-worker asked him why his medicines are pretty cheap, then he told us that mostly the medicines that he sell are sample ones. Since his wife is working as a medical representative that’s why they had free samples.

  4. So, the person with 42 sample cans of formula….really….why do you have 42 cans of free samples when you clearly do not need them. What truly frosts my butt is people that flock to get free anything and as many of those free anything they possibly can so they can turn around and trade or sell them. To me that is pure greed and of course that statement is personal opinion only. If, I have no use or my grandchildren or children have no need for an item, then I leave that item for someone who does…and I would not be using by parents, grandparents, neighbours, aunts, uncles, uncle dog’s name and address in order to get those 42 samples so I can sell it for a profit or even if I had a use for a free item I would not be scamming the system and taking away from others who also have a need or perhaps an even greater need.

    1. It wouldn’t surprise me if some people do put the freebies under their pets names. I hear you. All these lead to higher prices in the end because WE the consumers pay either way.

  5. I honestly have never thought of selling any marketing product I received for free. I presume that unless the product distinctly states “not for resale” then people could technically sell it. Having worked for companies where employees get a discount on the wholesale price of goods the company sells, I’ve seen my share of people who abuse that privilege. By selling what they purchase as employees to the public, for wholesale price if not more, they end up with a profit. We call that the “grey market” and that is very much frowned upon.

  6. My thought would be to try and gift the items to another mom you may know of. It would certainly make for an inexpensive shower gift full of goodies the other mo. Could use. Failing that it could go to a food bank or woman’s shelter. Both of these organizations actively look for these kind of things to help out heir clients. My daughter did this as she was gifted some cans of formula, but the grandson didn’t care for it as it gave him gas rare badly. As she couldn’t use it she gave it to a woman’s shelter not far from her home,she was upfront with them that it was getting close to it’s expiry date so they knew. Other things like the diaper bag could also be gifted or donated if you are not going to use it. Clothes would be the same, given how fast babies outgrow things clothing is in and out of the second hand shops quite quickly.
    Foods and such given to the food banks is checked over for expiry dates and if something is past it’s date it will be thrown out. Places like the Salvation Army that operate food banks have to pay to take stuff to the landfill so it ends up,taking away money that could be used elsewhere to help people. They would love to get those freebies you have no use for.
    There will always be the legal thing to do, and here is the right thing to do. They are not neccessarily the same thing. You need to think about it and do what is right for you. Not exactly the answer you were looking for but there you go…..

  7. I am of 2 minds on this subject. I would not consider selling a freebie product, rather I would pass it on, on Freecycle (if the individual group allows food items) or other sites such as Niagara’s Best kept secret, Frugal Moms etc. But in regards to other non-consumable items received free – would those not be considered “gift” items, in which case you are legally free to use or dispose. This I am sure of, as my late ex mother in law tried to demand I return some items she had given to me as gifts, when her son and I split. The lawyers response was that as a gift, the items were mine, she had no legal claim to them. (I then gave them to my daughters ). But, having said that, I am now in conflict about an antique treadle sewing machine which I was gifted through a local group. As I am looking to sell a few items to increase current income, to cover unexpected medical expenses, can I , in good conscience, sell this machine? It’s become a battle between emotional and intellectual self LOL.

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