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Hidden Freebies Made Public: Special Services Most Customers Don't Know Exist

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- When Emily Costantino, of Monongahela, signed up for Amazon Prime, she only had one thought in mind, she told KDKA money editor Jon Delano.

"Honestly, for the shipping," she said.

The free, fast shipping is what attracts many to the service.

"You can't beat two-day shipping for free," noted Joey Lanasa, of Canonsburg.

But, it turns out, Amazon Prime has lots of freebies unknown to many customers like Emily Leyva, of Orange County, California.

Delano: "Were you surprised at what you could get?"

Leyva: "Yeah, it was nice to come across free movies."

And it's not just free movies.

"In reality, they have so many other perks that they give you -- free music, free movies, free books -- all kinds of things you can take advantage of and you should take advantage of," says Dr. Audrey Guskey, a Duquesne University business professor.

Amazon Prime is a perfect example of perks that many miss -- everything from free photo storage to discounts on diapers nobody else can get.

Call them hidden freebies -- some extra benefits that come when you sign up for a service like Amazon Prime, or cellular carrier, or even a AAA card.

Many folks are unaware of these benefits unless they dig into the fine print.

That's because the freebies are designed to retain existing customers rather than attract new ones.

"It's very expensive to get a new customer, and once you get them, you want to hold on to them," says Dr. Elaine Luther, a Point Park University business professor. "The smart companies value their existing customers more than ... they can get more from them than they can get from new customers because it's cheaper to keep them than to get them."

Millions have a AAA membership, for example, but do you know the non-travel perks?

"You think of AAA discounts for hotels, for rental cars, maybe even airline discounts," said Guskey.

"But a lot of time you don't think of it as going to a restaurant in the area or going to a store and actually getting 15, 20 percent off. So it's a very nice perk."

And then there's your wireless carrier.

"It seemed like every one of them had some additional services," says Luther.

Verizon users can stream the NFL Network, playoff games and the Super Bowl for free, while it's the NBA plus some other networks with Sprint.

AT&T has a perk that automatically plugs you into free Wi-Fi at any affiliated hot spots like Starbucks, McDonalds, and Barnes & Noble.

T-Mobile users can stream as much music as they wish without using any data and catch some live baseball games.

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And don't forget the freebies for filling out surveys.

"For example, Costco, you think of them as being a discount store, but if you fill out their surveys and answer their questions in a couple minutes, they'll give you a gift certificate," notes Guskey. "A lot of times you don't have to buy anything."

And some loyalty programs have upgrades for special customers -- like Chick-fil-A with its secrecy-shrouded invitation-only program that offers free food, tours, and events beyond the norm.

So how do you find this hidden perks?

"Sometimes it doesn't hurt just to ask," says Luther.

"You really need to do your homework and recognize that there may be other opportunities for you to take advantage of," adds Guskey, "a whole menu of things that you never realized."

As Peyton McIntyre, of Uniontown, notes about hidden freebies, "Yeah, I mean, I don't think you can get anything better than that."

True -- as long as you know about them.

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