What Price Freebies?

First it was free browsers. Then free E-mail. With two companies announcing personal-computer giveaways in February, it seems the idea of winning customers with freebies is taking off. Idealabs offers free PCs to people with the right demographic background--and who don't mind giving up space on their screens for ads. Apply by revealing your personal tastes and income level at Free-PC.com (www.free-pc.com). For medical practices, e-DOCS inc. is giving PCs to those who sign up for at least $200 worth of its medical transcription service per month. Meanwhile, companies may soon offer free phone service in exchange for listening to ads. Who needs startup capital? You can outfit much of your office without spending a dime: a Web connection from NetZero (www.netzero.com); fax services from e-Fax (efax.com) and Faxaway (www.faxaway.com); plus freeware contact management, spreadsheet, and calendar programs. Pick up samples of Aleve via the Free Site at www.thefreesite.com/samples.htm. Heck, you can even get free "money"--mostly coupons and rebates--from cybergold.com. The question is whether the free stuff is worth your time.

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