Don’t forget: Tomorrow is SparkFun’s day of free merch (from 9am – 11pm MST). Here’s Becky’s original post from November:


Sparkfun is giving away things for free on January 7!

You can blame it on Chris Anderson’s book Free. After reading his book, I started kicking around the idea of what we can do that’s ‘free’. Sure, we have free bits (open-source hardware designs, available code, etc.), but we don’t have free physical widgets. Now combine that with our love of creating shear havoc (AVC, C&D letter, Portable Rotary Phone), and you get Free Day.

Nobody gives away a free physical thing. There’s always a catch. So up front: you have to pay shipping. Other than that, it’s open season.

  • $100 max per household
  • You pay shipping
  • Limit of $100,000 in giveaways for the day
  • Starts 9AM MST January 7th, 2010
  • Ends 11PM MST January 7th, 2010 (or when we hit $100k, whichever comes first)
  • Rainchecks for popular items will be allowed

160 thoughts on “Reminder: SparkFun’s free day, tomorrow!

  1. With all the server issues they been having it has been changed to Friday… Yeah! That’s the ticket!

    Just kidding. I wish they would have made it a $50 or $25 limit and allowed more people to take advantage. Pretty much is going to allow 1,000 people to get the deal.

    All I really want to get is a arduino starter kit.

  2. Believe me, the thought DID cross my mind NOT to post about it, so that I’d have more of a fighting chance. Gee, do you think their servers are going to seize up?

  3. I find myself surprisingly disappointed. should have known it was to good to be true.

    I guess I don’t need a new multimeter anyway.

  4. Oh you ASSES @ SparkFAIL! How could you fail to test your servers for the predictable crush? You claim Chris Anderson’s book “Free” is your inspiration, but did you bother to read it? I will not forgive you for raising my hopes and then dashing them! I expected to at least have a CHANCE at at sticker or a glass! I will never be your customer for the way you treated us!

  5. Perhaps they thought this would give them a big boost in sales, or attention. Unfortunately this will leave them in a bad light in the eyes of their customers and the people that support them.

    Give away free stuff with people’s orders randomly, or have a contest. But this plan was bad thinking, bad execution.

  6. never underestimate the number of people wanting free stuff.

    as a sidenote – SparkFun: you failed your stress test.

  7. 5+ minutes in, and still no response to my clicking Checkout at T+0.5 sec…

    Reminds me of Bill Murray, in Stripes: BLOWN UP, SIR!!!

  8. I was really excited about this promotion, but obviously it was an epic fail. I think they severely underestimated the amount of hits they would be getting when they advertise their promotion on make and instructables and they have a to the second accurate countdown clock. The result is 100,000 people trying to checkout at the EXACT same time. I wonder if anybody got through at all.

  9. I’m rather disappointed by the negative comments about this promotion. Sparkfun is in my opinion one of the best companies out there and they seem to offer some of the best products around. I don’t understand why anyone would be offended by Sparkfun trying to give away stuff. Honestly I don’t know why I waited until now to buy these things, I think I’ll wait until this blows over and actually give them my $100 for these 8) Thank you, Sparkfun, for the opportunity–too bad the internet is too gianormous! And please excuse those people who can’t forgive you for your attempting to give them free stuff!

  10. Seriously guys, are you all really that stupid?

    All of you running around like spoiled children because you can’t get your free stuff right away? What a pack of idiots.

    The server is responding fine – albeit struggling to respond to the number of requests, but it’s still up and running. The promotion has been up for 30 minutes, and they’ve only done $1,600 so far. So keep your pants on and just wait it out.

  11. People that are upset need to get over it.
    They were trying to give out free stuff. Free stuff that they do not have to give out.

  12. Last actual page refresh shows;

    SparkFun Free Day
    Is open! Time remaining:
    11h : 29m : 30s
    Get those orders in!
    $3,943.59 given away so far!


  13. Yay sparkfun, boo quitters, got all fargon day you know. I’m SUPPOSED to be fixing cars right now, but whatever.

  14. At the current rate of sales, it will be approximately 10 hours from the start before the last freebie is given out.

  15. All of you folks disappointed in those angry about the site’s problems even though this is a fantastic and generous promotion are forgetting that this is the internet – where people are mad about free stuff all of the time, and apoplectic when anyone charges for anything.

  16. I find it hard to believe the negativity seen here.. I doubt there are many servers in the world that could handle the load sparkfun will be getting right now, lots of people will be trying to beat the system by getting as many connections as they can.

    They’ll keep going til the 100K is used up.

    The pipeline to their servers is probably overstressed, it might be an ISP fail, or even further up the chain, maybe at least save the pitchforks for the ‘how it went’ blog.

    it was still under 8k when i saw it a few minutes ago.

    thanks sparkfun!

    1. They have a single IP address and they switch to HTTPS long before necessary. That isn’t the ISPs fault. I’m with the others. If I just wasted the last hour and can’t get this order through then I’m done with them too. My hour is worth more than $100.

  17. No, it’s Sparkfun that is forgetting that this is the internet. What did they expect? I mean, people post ridiculous stuff on the net and get slashdotted…and you expect different when you offer FREE STUFF? This is not a giveaway, it’s a lottery to see who can “win”. And, oh, by the way, they’ve just added a hundred thousand email addresses to their mailing list. Isn’t that some cheap marketing!

    You want to give away free stuff, fine. But making people sit in front of their computers at 9am like some kind of Black Friday doorbuster special is an awful idea from a business perspective. Most of the people who get nothing will have a bad taste in their mouth and never do business with Sparkfun. There were a zillion ways they could have handled this, and they chose the one that will probably generate the most ill will.

  18. Does anyone have a link to a mirror (I hope) or the actual instruction page for this promotion? I am getting something wierd, and I would like to verify that I am doing it right. I am having no luck loading the main page.

  19. Wow, people are stressed about this. Really people, you can’t expect them to build their servers to be able to handle the type of traffic they are getting right now. What would they do with the machines when they go back to a normal load.

    They are trying to give you a hundred bucks worth of stuff. If you don’t get it what did you lose? The time it took to flip to your browser and hit F5?

    1. Fun day is over. I am a regular on the site and know that it is first come first serve. I even called them and had everything in my shopping cart – they told me to go pound sand. My e-mails were responded with the same “service”.

      Nice stunt. I am so glad that companies pray on the greed of others to promote themselves!

  20. UGH.. I’m stuck on the shipping page. I FINALLY got it to load, I hit the continue button and I get “page not found” again. So after 15 min of refresh, I get the same damn page I was on before! I can’t refresh the “continue” press!!!

  21. Thought I was going to get it, got to the confirmation page with 30k left. Then after 1 timeout there was 4 k left, then none :-(

    Thanks anyway SparkFun!

  22. While I appreciate the thought of the promotion, their website is setup screwy. I was one of the first to actually get to the first part of the checkout page, but I never got beyond that. How exactly is that fair?

  23. SparkFun Free Day
    Has concluded!
    $100,000.00 was given away in:
    1h : 44m : 50s
    $100,000.00 given away!

    O well, time to get back to work.

  24. I started filling my cart when there had been $19,XXX claimed, after 45 minutes of refreshes and 3 items in my cart, all $100K was claimed.

    I’m not blaming sparkfun for the success of their marketing campaign, but the campaign pretty much guarantees that I’ll by continuing to do my shopping at eBay. They were spending up to $100 to get each new customer…how much will they loose from all the people that will never try to deal with them again?


  25. Many got their stuff, many didn’t. (I didn’t)

    Still, pretty nifty of SparkFUN to do the giveaway! Now let’s let their servers stop smoking

    Thanks for the entertainment this morning man!

  26. Chalk it up to…if it sounds to good to be true, it usually is.
    Probably a farse anyway…how do you even know they really gave anything away but a few trinkets? Bait and switch just to get people to their site. So long sparky, nice try.
    Adafruit, please take me back…I feel so dirty for cheating!!!!

  27. I got in, chose my shipping method and clicked on continue and…

    Nothing. I’ve been trying to reload for 45 minutes but it looks like I can’t even get to their server.

    Oh well. I’ll login tomorrow and empty my cart. It was fun while it lasted.

  28. Shoulda known better. Spent hours trying to order stuff but couldn’t complete the order in time. Would have been cheaper to just pay for it myself. Kudos to Sparkfun for giving stuff away but I’ll probably spend my $ elsewhere.

  29. …But, oh well. I wanted an Arduino Starter Kit, but couldn’t even find the darn thing because the site wouldn’t come up.

    No biggie, just a drag that the site couldn’t handle the traffic. I’m not going to “never ever buy from them.” That’s just silly.

    I’d like to know how anyone managed to actually get an order through, though. Did they get their cart ready at midnight and wait breathlessly to click “submit”?

  30. I had 6 items I wanted to get, I knew the exact pages they were on.
    It took 1 hour, 40 minutes to even get TWO!!! into my cart.
    Too many “connecting to sparkfun””connecting to sparkfun””connecting to sparkfun”, almost never any pages loaded.
    If they wanted to use this as a stress test for their servers, they have failed miserably.

    I read on another forum that people had their carts full & ready at start, or grabbed stuff all at once from a wish list.
    These people have shopped without honor, and their purchases should be voided.

    1. No, they said when they announced the event that it was fine to fill your cart beforehand. It seemed like cheating to me before I read their statement, but par for the course is par for the course. I do think they should have stated that that was fair in their front-page rules, however. If nothing else, limiting their traffic to just checking out rather than shopping would’ve eased their server’s strain, right?

      Either way, I offer my condolences to you and everyone else who didn’t “win”. If it makes you feel any better, I will be doing something rather cool with my loot and will share its details here…

  31. This publicity stunt was the biggest fraud I’ve seen in quite a while. After trying for 2 hours to make it past the login, poof it was magically over! The server was probably shut down for 2 hours and then poof, it’s over. Ha Ha suckers, look at all the free publicity we got.

    1. Fraud?? Hardly! I, for one, employed no underhanded tactics or unfair advantages and got $100 knocked off my order as promised. Just had to be persistent with the refresh button is all…

  32. This $100,000.00 giveaway is sure to leave most with a bad taste in their mouths, as rumors of them purposefully not allocating sufficient bandwidth for the ensuing rush circulate amongst many forums and user groups. It seems highly improbably / unlikely that with the site performing like it was while thousands of us were attempting to connect and place our orders that they could complete what would have to amount to 10,000 (ten thousand) orders in the space of an hour and 44 minutes.

    60 + 44 = 104 minutes, 10,000 x 100 per transaction = 100,000 total giveaway.

    this means that 10,000/104 = 96 transactions per minute, more than 1 transaction completed every second.

    I seriously doubt that with the servers being that slow that any user could get through and complete a transaction that quickly. Even if you had your shopping cart setup and had all of your information in there, just clicking submit would take longer than one second. I think this sale was a sham. Sparkfun should create a page and list all of the invoice numbers for the 10,000 orders that supposedly recieved 100 dollars for free.

    I’m not buying it spark fun, and I’m definitely not buying anything else from you either.
    I’m sure some were able to get in, but I don’t think they truly gave away the 100 dollar discount to 10,000 different orders.

    Just my .02 cents.

    1. 1,000 * 100 = 100,000.

      Given 104 minutes, that is 6.2 seconds per order. The site was working through most of the time, just very slowly. Each page was taking up to 5 minutes to load if it didn’t time out. Most of my attempts timed out, but once I got to the shipping page it only took 15 minutes to get through.

      I got my order through with about 5 minutes to spare.

    2. At what point was it poorly implemented? They achieved lots of business, they hit top searches on google, the debate is still raging.

      This was one of the singlemost, generous marketing campaigns I think I’ve seen. Since when are people persecuted for making mistakes? So what if Sparkfun underestimated the hype? Next time it’ll probably run smoother.

      If people can’t make the decision to either give up, or continue to get frustrated at page refreshes, then frankly there isn’t much respect I can garner for you.

      And so you can iron out my bias – My order went through 2 minutes before the end and as a student the one ealth I do possess is free time.

    3. First off your math sucks. Secondly, you assume that the orders were being handled one at a time.

      There were probably 10,000 people waiting to hit the check out button when that time hit zero. Cut them some slack, yet is was a promotional gimic, but some people free stuff and lots of others didn’t…

      For me, Sparkfun has stuff I want at reasonable prices and good shipping rates. I’ll probably buy from them again even though I wasted an hour hitting F5.

  33. I never managed to get anything to go into my cart.

    THEN message came up that the site was down for repairs (after about $11K). I took a short break, and suddenly it was over??? When I came back they had managed go give away the remaining $79K in faction of the time that they had given away the first $11K????

  34. Perhaps it was a fraud, perhaps not. I’m guessing it wasn’t.

    But the fact that a lot of people are suggesting it is is a negative thing for Sparkfun. Surely they could have spent 100,000 in a marketing campaign that wouldn’t leave them in such a bad light?

  35. I wasn’t a SparkFun customer before, aren’t now and likely won’t be in the future. Worst-run giveaway ever.

    But look at all the names, addresses and email addreses they harvested. I notice there’s no place to remove or delete your newly-started account — it’s theirs forever.

  36. I tried 3 different computers to log in (VNC’d from 3 different locations). I never saw the webpage load.

    Yep, I’ll be buying from somewhere else. This was such a disaster I have to wonder if they could even handle a normal order.

  37. Pretty good scam to draw attention to their already inadequate servers. Looks like all those new Dell windoze servers went up in smoke. You could get as far as the checkout but no further without loosing the link. They are a bit pricey on most items any way, I’ll be putting my money elsewhere from now on.

  38. I got into my account before the sale and got to my already full shopping cart when only $79 had been taken and clicked checkout. I didn’t get the next screen until $80k or so and never got to the end before they ran out. So much for their web server upgrades. I’m pretty pissed. Don’t think I’ll order from them any time soon.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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