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People love talking about getting something for nothing. Unfortunately, you have to make money. So you can’t always give your stuff away — but there are certain moments when you can make the most of it and earn word of mouth in return.

Here are three examples of when little handouts turn into big conversation starters:

1. When it shows you’re human
2. When it capitalizes on existing conversations
3. When you were going to throw it out anyway

1. When it shows you’re human

When one minor found himself hungry and cashless during a long layover at the Chicago O’Hare airport, he did what most kids would do: He called dad. But after talking over the phone with almost every restaurant in the airport, none of the cashiers would take his credit card over the phone. In a last ditch effort, he called Wolfgang Puck Express, who said they would give the kid a meal, at no charge. For the $10 they spent to feed the boy, they earned much more in good press, because as it turns out, dad is a writer for CBS MoneyWatch.

2. When it capitalizes on existing conversations

When crime drama Breaking Bad used the phrase “sent on a trip to Belize” in a recent episode, they weren’t talking about the relaxing kind — and the Belize Tourism Board took notice. But instead of taking this mention as bad press, they used it to their advantage. BTB invited the entire Breaking Bad cast to Belize for an actual vacation on them once the season was over. The smooth move showed the organization’s cool personality, and accelerated the word of mouth the show already started.

3. When you were going to throw it out anyway

Sometimes inspiring raving fans can cost you little to nothing. For example, when Burro, an artisan grilled cheese food trailer in Austin, gets to the end of a loaf of bread, they give the last small slice as an extra sandwich with their customer’s order. What better way to use something that would be wasted than to make a customer happy and earn their recommendation?

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