The Economics Of Free Coffee

I’m not sure if it’s a national or regional thing, but McDonald’s has been giving away a cup of free coffee on Wednesdays for the months of January and February.

This is awesome for me because I love their coffee, and there is a McDonald’s on the way to work.  Since I go in pretty early, I beat the rush, and I can hit the drive through and get my free coffee and be back on my route in under five minutes.

I think the free coffee idea is great (and I can’t stand the office coffee).  First, I’m sure a lot of people that stop buy something else, so they make up the lost sales elsewhere.  Second, it exposes people to the coffee that might start coming back.  It is darn good coffee!

So far I haven’t bought anything else so I’ve been an admitted mooch.

But, I’ve noticed that the amount I get has gone down slightly since I’ve started taking advantage of the deal.  When I get to work, I pour the coffee into my regular coffee mug so that I can add sweetener to my liking.  When I first started going in early January, I could fill my mug up and have enough in the container to pour another half cup or so.  As time has gone on, I can now pour one mug full, meaning that they’ve apparently created an ‘extra small’ version.

I can’t complain.  After all it is free.

Is McDonald’s running this promotion anywhere else?  Do you feel guilty if you get a free item and don’t buy anything else in situations like these?

22 thoughts on “The Economics Of Free Coffee”

  1. That’s awesome! I never, ever go for free stuff if I’m not buying anything else – I think I kind of do feel guilty, but I shouldn’t (they’re offering it, after all).

    • Exactly, they have to count on a certain percentage not buying anything else when they put such an offer out there, so just know your part of their plan!

  2. Free coffee!! Sign me up. 🙂 I’m not sure if McDonald’s is doing that in my neighborhood, but I personally like their iced coffee. I’m guessing this is only applies to their hot coffee, right?

  3. Good for you for having the discipline to just get the free coffee. I dont think they have it where I am but I am sure that they know most people aren’t going to just get coffee. So the will make there money back 10 fold. I guess they are trying to get you to eventually start buying the bigger sizes as the smaller ones aren’t going to be enough.

    • Yes, they want you to get addicted to it and continue going to get it after the promotion ends as well as buy other stuff during the promotion!

  4. Do you have free work coffee as well? How does it stack up to the McDonald’s offering? (I assume they are giving you Newman’s Own?)

    • We do have free work coffee. It’s pretty average stuff but probably the best you could expect for company provided stuff. I add my own half and half which definitely gives it a better taste than the powder stuff that they give for free (which I think is 100% chemicals on top of being gross tasting).

  5. Aw, man, I wish there was free coffee in my area! Sigh. This post totally has me craving coffee now. I might have to take a walk and get some.

    Also, I don’t generally feel guilty about free things, but especially not for something like free coffee. The profit margins for something like coffee are ridiculous, so giving it away for free is a pretty inexpensive promo.

    • I figure it probably costs them 10-15 cents to make including overhead and employee costs, so it just takes 2 or 3 people out of ten to actually buy something along with the coffee to get back in the black. I’m pretty sure more people than not buy something else to go along with it, so they’re doing jussssst fine 🙂

  6. McDonald’s coffee is pretty tasty. I usually drink the free coffee I get at work (programmers love coffee) but I might swing by the McDonald’s on the way to work instead.

    I wouldn’t feel bad about taking advantage of this. They wouldn’t offer it if they couldn’t afford to give it away… 🙂

  7. I never feel guilty getting something for free, I just try to pay it forward and give something to a third party. My work has free coffee and I drink it sometimes, but I’m not much of a coffee drinker to begin with.

  8. I don’t ever feel guilty. If they are giving something away free that is their choice. I have been suckered into buying other things though depending on the store. They get you in there and then….(you know what happens). I keep working on that will power.

  9. I love Dunkin Donuts coffee, there is one near my house that offers 99 cent any size coffee. THey have been doing this for months now. I dont know what kind of promotion it is but i love it. I saves me close to 1.50 every day when I buy the larges. I run on Dunkin and it shows by my desk at work covered in empty cups. 🙂

    • I’m surprised that they would run that for that long of a time. Most places I’ve seen will do that for a max of three months. Hopefully they don’t raise it because it sounds at this point like you’re addicted!

  10. Wow, free coffee? I’ll have to check out the local joint next week. I bet if they charged 5 cents per cup they’d have a ton more customers. Kind of like the 1.00 busy car wash, versus the empty free car wash. If something is free then we just don’t value it as much. Thanks for the heads up.

  11. I have no shame, I’m fine with going in for a free offer and not buying anything else. In fact, I do that every month at Godiva to get my free piece of chocolate. As others have already said, they definitely account for the folks who plan on just getting what’s free. Plus, there are always the people who feel too guilty just getting the freebie and will buy something else.

Comments are closed.