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12 Free Things You Can (and Can’t) Take from Public Places

Grab those complimentary breath mints!

 Colorful lollipops in jar Hayati Kayhan/Shutterstock

Pens and lollipops from banks

Banks love giving out promotional material like pens or lollipops with their name or brand logo. Feel free to take these free items from your bank. Banks and other companies offer things such as free lollipops and pens to market their brand, and make your experience better, explains one marketing company.

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Plastic cutlery and napkins from takeout places

Even if you opt for pizza, grab a few napkins and plastic forks and knives for a later meal. You never know when these little packets of forks, knives, spoons, and a napkin will come in handy. Keep one in your bag for emergencies. If possible, save even more money by going to one of these restaurants that offer senior citizen discounts.

Dog Poop Clean Up Bag Dispenser in Philadelphia ParkTippman98x/Shutterstock

Poop bags from parks

There are a few different poo bag programs that give out free baggies to pick up after your dog at the park. If you forget your own, there’s no excuse to not clean up thanks to companies like Poo Free Parks and BioBag which have baggies and bag dispensaries, especially for parks.

USPS signKen Wolter/Shutterstock

Free shipping supplies from the post office

You can pick up free shipping supplies at your local Post Office. The USPS gives out free boxes and envelopes for Priority Mail and Global Express Guaranteed. You can even order these online for free, too. It’s one of the postal secrets your mailman wish you knew.

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Books from Free Little Libraries

You don’t even have to go to the library to snag a free book. Free Little Library, a non-profit company, has more than 60,000 locations where you can leave a book to take a book. Not only does this help more people access free reading material, but it also reduces waste. If you prefer the convenience of e-books, you can check out the Kindle samples that are one of the 13 things you can get for free on Amazon.

Peppermint CandiesJason Stitt/Shutterstock

Mints from diners

The after-dinner mint that diners and other restaurants leave out is a free thing you should definitely take. They’re complimentary, like the many of the free things you can take from a hotel room.

Advertising, Business, Food, Health Concept - Offering food samples to customers in shop. Smoked tuna on a wooden stick. Select focusanucha maneechote/Shutterstock

Samples from Costco

One of the things Costco free sample workers want you to know is that it’s OK to take more than one free sample. It’s part of their job to hand them out, so don’t feel bad for taking some. Just be mindful if there’s a crowd of people who also want to try the food.


Coupons and circulars from supermarkets

When you stop into any supermarket or pharmacy, pick up the coupons at the entrance of the store. If you don’t, you’ll miss out on unseen deals and big savings. If you don’t mind sending an email or picking up the phone, you can also reach out to any of these 14 major brands that will actually send you coupons for free.

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Wet naps from BBQ restaurants

If you’re eating high-quality BBQ, you’ll definitely need a wet nap. And the restaurants that know you’ll need these give them to you for free not just so you can clean your hands, but so there’s less mess on the table, too.

office stuff with smart phone laptop and coffee cup mouse notepad top view shot.mrmohock/Shutterstock

Wi-Fi from coffee shops

Although it’s not an obligation for every coffee shop to offer free Wi-Fi, it is a nice perk that will keep customers in your shop longer. Feel free to log on and use up less of your precious monthly data. Not a coffee drinker? You can still get fast Wi-Fi from this fast-food restaurant.


Disposable foot socks from shoe stores

Grab an extra pair of the tiny disposable socks that shoe stores offer for free. Yes, they are there for you to try on your shoes. Instead of throwing away the pair you use, keep them for your travel bag or stash them in your purse for when you need to take your heels off at a wedding.


Condiment packets from restaurants

The cost of things like ketchup packets and salt from restaurants are already included in your meal. So take one or two of these free packets when you pick up your order, even if you only use it later. Although, you might want to stick around for the free food deals at these restaurants.

A sign in a changing room of a retail store reads "shoplifters will be prosecuted" as a warning to potential thieves.Nicole S Glass/Shutterstock

Don’t steal and be mindful

The definition of stealing is to take something without permission or legal right. So don’t take things that aren’t explicitly free or complimentary. For example, the cloth napkin at that nice French restaurant isn’t something to take home—and neither is the silverware. It’s also a good rule of thumb not to take more free stuff than really you need, too, according to Bonnie Tsai, the founder and director of Beyond Etiquette. “Even though it is ‘free’ or complimentary, these items still cost money for those who are supplying or refilling it,” she says. If too many people take more than their fair share, parks, restaurants, and other places might not offer these things again because it’s costly to replenish. “The key here is to be considerate of others who also benefit from these perks and respectful to those who have generously offered these complimentary items to the public,” Tsai says. Being respectful and considerate is also an easy way to squash these 12 rude money habits.

Emily DiNuzzo
Emily DiNuzzo is an associate editor at The Healthy and a former assistant staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her work has appeared online at the Food Network and Well + Good and in print at Westchester Magazine, and more. When she's not writing about food and health with a cuppa by her side, you can find her lifting heavy things at the gym, listening to murder mystery podcasts, and liking one too many astrology memes.