Buy a House, Get Free Beans!

Clayton Homes wants its competitors to know that their "free furniture" offers aren't worth a hill of beans. Or, more precisely, a can of beans.

We all know times are tough for the homebuilders. Everyone from D.R. Horton (NYSE: DHI  ) to Lennar (NYSE: LEN  ) to Pulte (NYSE: PHM  ) has felt the squeeze, as the credit crunch has kept countless houses either unfinished or unoccupied. Desperate to fill their habitable homes, the builders are willing to give just about any gimmick a try.

But none of the homebuilders can hope to top what Clayton Homes has pulled off. The Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A  ) (NYSE: BRK-B  ) subsidiary promises in an ad that if you buy one of its modular, manufactured, or mobile homes, you will get, as a bonus ... wait for it ... a free can of pork and beans.

That's right. Not just beans. Pork and beans. In tomato sauce, people. As Dave Barry would say, "I am not making this up."

A contributor to The Consumerist spotted the ad in the Columbia Daily Herald, a newspaper in central Tennessee.

Fool writer Rich Duprey recently heard about this blockbuster deal and decided to investigate:

Apparently the guy who runs the local Clayton outfit in Columbia, TN, had a customer walk in and say a competitor was offering free furniture with their homes and wanted to know if Clayton would do the same. They declined saying it wasn't "free" furniture they were getting, that the price of the home was increased to pay for the furniture.

So to show that there is such a thing as a free lunch, Clayton bought a bunch of cans of beans from the local Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) and will give you one if you buy one of their modular homes.

In other words, if your mobile home was going to cost you $200,000, but the Clayton competitor threw in $10,000 worth of tables, chairs, and beer coolers, the new base price of the house would be $210,000 with a "free" furniture bonus. So does that mean that instead of listing at $200,000, Clayton's mobile homes are now going for $200,000.89, with "free" eats included?

Rich reports that the campaign has generated a good amount of publicity for Clayton. Whether it's been enough to get a potential homebuyer off the fence, however, remains unclear. But whatever you do, act quickly, because Clayton can only offer a deal this good through the end of the month. If you were reluctant to take out a 30-year mortgage on a house, clearly, now is the time to act.

Make your own jokes about why offering a free can of pork and beans for buying a mobile home in the rural South might entice consumers. I'm not going there. But my inner 12-year-old can't resist suggesting that at least Clayton didn't offer "free gas" with a home purchase.

What do you think about this amazing deal? Do you imagine Warren Buffett is off somewhere groaning in embarrassment? What other silly offers like this have you encountered? Could you do Clayton one better? Chow down, Fools -- whip out your can openers and spill the beans in the comments box below. Just don't talk with your mouth full.

Fool online editor Adrian Rush wouldn't be swayed by pork and beans -- but throw in an industrial-sized tub of hummus instead, and we'll talk. He has no position in any of the stocks mentioned in this story. The Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, which is also a Stock Advisor and Inside Value recommendation. Wal-Mart is an Inside Value pick, too. The Fool's disclosure policy loves its velvet Elvis portrait.


Read/Post Comments (6) | Recommend This Article (7)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 10, 2009, at 1:51 PM, OhNoYouDidnt wrote:

    Giving away beans is a great idea and shows business sense befitting a Berkshire company. Instead of getting into a moronic promotion-based competition that would ultimately ruin margins and distract from the core product, Clayton made a farce of their competition's attempt to increase sales. Intelligent marketing.

  • Report this Comment On December 10, 2009, at 1:52 PM, OhNoYouDidnt wrote:

    Giving away beans is a great idea and shows business sense befitting a Berkshire company. Instead of getting into a moronic promotion-based competition that would ultimately ruin margins and distract from the core product, Clayton made a farce of their competition's attempt to increase sales. Intelligent marketing.

  • Report this Comment On December 10, 2009, at 1:54 PM, DavesHere wrote:

    On several occasions, some fifty or so years ago, my mother would come home with a new pair of shoes or a new dress and proudly exclaim, "You won't believe how much money I saved." My father's reply was always the same: "So where is this money that you saved? I'd like to see it." They were a running illustration of our extreme reactions to sales gimmicks. Today, we shop where we have a membership so we don't have to watch the prices; we wait for a rebate on the over-priced automobile; we grab the "free" furniture that can be rolled into the mortgage on the marked-up house so we don't have to pay anything now; and we jump at the marked-up-until-the-offer-ends buy-one-get-one-free offer. I doubt seriously that a guy who has spent an adult life-time cutting through B.S. to find real value would cringe at the thought of one of his companies telling its customers, in humorous fashion, that it stands by the value of what it gives for the consumer's dollar. After all, it could be worse; they could be giving away a free gecko with each house purchase.

  • Report this Comment On December 10, 2009, at 3:51 PM, pondee619 wrote:

    Could you report on how the free pork and beans offer worked? If that is all it takes to get the economy going again, I'm for it.

  • Report this Comment On December 10, 2009, at 8:09 PM, DDHv wrote:

    What might make sense is adding solar hot water preheat to the house as an inducement. It would make up for the extra mortgage payments if designed and built right.

  • Report this Comment On December 11, 2009, at 3:47 AM, Clint35 wrote:

    I think they should give the buyer their choice of any canned food product. Some people might prefer corn or peaches. By sticking with pork and beans alone they're really limiting the field of potential buyers. But I guess anything is worth a try.

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