Who doesn’t love free cigars?! We do! And many BOTL are willing to give them away to friends, new friends, fellow BOTL. The words “I smoke cigars” is, for me, instantly an invitation to hand this man a stick and smoke together. But when is the wrong time to ask? What is the right way to ask?
These days cigar ‘reviewers’ are popping up every day. Anyone who smokes a cigar a week thinks they have what it takes to be a reviewer. And it’s easy to feel that if you are a reviewer, manufacturers should be dying to get your opinion! Begging for the opportunity to have you, the expert, point out that their cigar is fantastic and that people should go buy one right away! Side note – we’re not cigar reviewers – what we know is pairing, and we’re great at it!
Here are some common mistakes people make:
1) Don’t overestimate your influence
Just because you have lots of smoking buddies, and you’re all signed up on a review site, doesn’t mean you have influence. Having thousands of real followers on social media channels may help. A good sign you have real influence is that people ask you for your opinion before you give it. At that point, you know that at least someone cares what you think. Thousands of followers also helps.
2) Have a relationship with the manufacturer
If your first conversation is about free cigars, you’ll most likely never get one from that manufacturer. This is a really unpleasant way to start a relationship. If they don’t know you, chances are they’ll believe others wont either. Comment, reply, like, thank, and compliment first. After they know your name and know you’re passionate about their work, then you have a shot.
3) Know the value of their product
Cigars are not free for a manufacturer. Nor are they cheap. Nor are you the first person to ask for one. Cigar manufacturers give out hundreds, or even thousands, of cigars per year at events, to shops, to distributors, and to reviewers (real reviewers), all in the hopes that someone will repay them by buying a hundred of boxes to stock their shelves. They often work 44 hour weeks at their day job in compressed 12-hour days, and then travel Thursday to Sunday, visiting every shop and lounge they can think of, in hopes of making their dream come true. They sweat and bleed and pay their life’s savings to get their name out. Do you think the 500 followers you’ve earned warrant you a free cigar from them? The work you’ll put into promoting them probably pales in comparison.
You need to know the value of their stick, to them, before suggesting that it’s worth their investment in giving you and your friends free cigars!
4) Don’t ask in a public place
Instagram comments, Tweets, and Facebook posts are all the wrong place to ask. Once you know them and have built a relationship, appreciate the value, and have the right arena to help promote them, then maybe it’s the right time to email them.
We see far too many comments on posts asking for free stuff from manufacturers. We even get asked by our followers sometimes! We don’t even make or sell cigars…
5) No means no.
If you’re told politely that a manufacturer isn’t interested, this isn’t the time to try harder to convince them. It’s over. Please return to the friendzone. If you really want to be a reviewer, a serious reviewer, go and buy the stick. Maybe it’s $5 or maybe it’s $100. If you want to review it, be willing to buy it.
Don’t pester the manufacturer to the point where a polite ‘no thanks’ is now a ‘go away’. That’s your fault – not theirs.
As Cigars & Spirits we’ve had our share of free cigars sent to us for pairing recommendations. We’ve also done our share of asking. Sometimes they say yes, and sometimes they say no, and either way we can still be friends. As we get to know manufacturers personally – the hard working men that want to bring you great sticks at a fair price – we realize how much work this really means. Often, I feel less inclined to ask for a free sample when I realize just how much has gone into that one stick.
Consideration, tact, and respect go a long way in this industry!
Note: If you want free cigars, check out this new Instagram channel that started up the other week – @cigarcontests – they’re reposting any contests so you can find them in one place.