by Ray Keating
July 25, 2018

The late, great economist Milton Friedman once said, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Having a little fun with Friedman’s declaration, he could have been referring to meals at Walt Disney World.

Visiting the Mouse is always great fun, but it’s far from cheap. There’s no such thing as a free lunch in Disney World … or is there?

Well, not really. But free samples can be found. For example, there is a free culinary tour that takes place each afternoon at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Specifically, it covers Jiko – The Cooking Place and Boma – Flavors of Africa. These tours include assorted free samples, including a taste of signature soups and desserts.

Take a look at a few reviews of these restaurants and/or the tour: for Boma and for Jiko.

Also, check out the for other free stuff at Disney World.

With these free tours and samples, we see Disney participating in the marketing/sales idea that if you provide something free to a customer, they subsequently will be enticed to purchase one’s good or service. If one enjoyed the tour involving Jiko or Boma, then one is more likely to eat at those restaurants – either on the current trip to Disney World or the next.

The idea goes back to at least the nineteenth century. Coca-Cola used it to get people to try their new beverage. As explained on the company’s website:

Giving product away was a novel notion in the late 19th Century, and it worked. Free samples caught the public’s attention and gave Coca-Cola momentum.

According to early reports, distribution of sampling coupons on the streets of Atlanta was one of the first marketing efforts made by the pharmacist who invented Coca-Cola, Dr. John S. Pemberton. His bookkeeper, Frank Robinson, used a city directory to mail coupons to leading Atlanta citizens.

In the 1890s, led by the new owner of The Coca-Cola Company, Asa Candler, the concept of sampling was advanced and expanded. An aggressive marketer, Candler had his employees hand out “complimentary tickets” for Coca-Cola, which was then sold only at soda fountains. Candler was confident his refreshing concoction would find an appreciative repeat following-if folks would try it just once! …

For 20 crucial years, 1894-1913, free sampling played a central role in establishing the popularity of Coca-Cola with the public. During that span, nearly 8.5 million coupons were redeemed by the Company. Approximately one of every nine Americans had enjoyed a free drink.

Recently, Costco has become a “free sample” heaven, with product sales benefitting accordingly, as explained in a piece in The Atlantic.

So, are free samples a good idea for your business? That depends on the product. Free samples seem to fit quite nicely in the food and vacation industries, for example. And of course, much of the Internet serves as a free sample for countless businesses, including in the entertainment and media arenas.

But in some other areas, free samples simply make no sense, or the jury is still out. I’m in the book business, that is, I’m an indie publisher for my Pastor Stephen Grant novels. When it comes to ebooks, the free sample has become a big thing. The idea is to give away a Kindle edition, for example, of one book in order to get readers to buy your other books. But does it work? It might. At this point, though, I’m not quite sure. It seems that a large number of people who will gladly grab a free ebook aren’t too keen on buying the other books. Do such giveaways actually undermine the very idea of book buying in the digital arena, or does the publisher/author wind up reaching audiences that otherwise would not know about an author’s books and therefore perhaps gaining some follow-up sales that otherwise would not have happened?

Quite frankly, at this point, I’m not sure. More research is needed. And that, of course, is the lesson when it comes to any business considering free samples, i.e., do the research. I have no doubt that Disney does so.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels, with the two latest books being Reagan Country: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel and Heroes and Villains: A Pastor Stephen Grant Short Story. He can be contacted at