SIMMI RICHMAN, Hoover victim: Oh my word. Will I do it again . . . ? Yeah] We're all suckers for competitions. If someone holds up something for free then it's irresistible. I phoned up so many people in the company to check that it was OK and watertight and look what happened.

MARCUS P, broker: Of course you can get something for nothing. People who invest in the stock market do it all the time. All their money comes from other people's efforts. And inherited money doesn't exactly involve hard graft.

DRUSILLA BEYFUS, author of Modern Manners: The very word freebie has acquired a tacky tarnish. Only in love and friendship is it possible to get more out than you put in.

JUDGE JAMES PICKLES: Barristers tend to nourish solicitors in the hope that they'll pass them work, in the same way that surgeons will butter-up doctors. But judges are a bit above all that really.

CHRIS STUDD, arms dealer: I travelled more than 90,000 air- miles last year, which has got me two free round-trips to America for nothing, which is pretty good. Do I feel guilty? Give me a break] At the prices those airlines charge they owe me. Go on, get lost.

TONY JANUS, university lecturer: Free trips are the only perks of this job. I've been to meetings when I haven't done a thing but sit and listen and then extended the trip into a holiday. You can basically eat out at someone else's expense every night. It has an invidious effect - I stop questioning why the companies are wining and dining me, which can't be good.

ANDREW TUCK, consumer editor, Time Out: I have mounds of kitsch crap sitting by my desk sent to me for free, none of which I want. Usually it ends up being given to the delivery boy. Most of the time I can't remember who's sent the stuff. I feel no need to be polite to someone just because they've nobbled me for lunch.

URSULA WATES, painting restorer: I almost got something for free once. There was a competition advertised by a crispbread manufacturer called Ry-King and if you made up a poem about them you could win pounds 1,000 and a car. My entry won first prize] But I got five identical posters of the Mona Lisa: no car, no dosh.

JAMES, policeman: It's difficult to get something for nothing legally, but I spend a lot of time trying to prevent criminals getting away with it.

(Photograph omitted)

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