Next time you catch a minute or two, fire up YouTube, where The Freebie Guy reigns as a sort of energizer bunny of bargains, a crafty connoisseur of clearances, a detector of drastically deep discounts and giveaways. He’s part Robin Hood, part Santa, part Pied Piper, and six million followers cling to his social media channels, where he unloads a dizzying amount of cost-saving tips, steals and deals, birthday freebies, and not just the latest sweepstakes but guidance on exactly how to actually win them. (Yeah, people do win, and it’s a mixture of math and patience).
There’s the $89 Fisher Price Kitchen Play set for $39, a 2-Person Brazilian-Style Hammock marked down to $69 from $196, the Burger King Whopper for a buck. One YouTube video shows The Freebie Guy zipping around DFW crashing scores of Walmart stores before hitting the clearance jackpot at a Target, finding a $299 Pack ‘N Roll Bounce House for $89 and spending just $400 on $1,200 worth of stuff.
The look on his face after snagging these goodies says it all – it’s pure joy, though not the gluttonous elation of a man looking to profit on Ebay.
He donates his finds to charities like the Hope Center, Dwell with Dignity, Mission Arlington, and Jonathan’s Place, non-profits with special affinities for children and families needing to stretch a dollar into two, of which he knows intimately.
The Freebie Guy is actually Kendall Motzny, who grew up in Corsicana with a family that moved constantly for financial survival. Things were so dire their trailer was repossessed. He learned early the delight of the infomercial and its 1-800 paradise where you ask for and receive free stuff right in your mailbox. That in itself is a thrill he can’t quite describe.
“I knew a lot of other kids who loved getting mail, but I was more or less obsessed with it,” says Motzny, who was only seven. “Just the idea of getting something with my name on it.”
Years later, while working as a waiter, he noticed on his Facebook feed a free sample of duct tape. Duct tape? Free? He was seven again waiting at the mailbox.
“I started looking into other free samples online,” Motzny says. “Now it was much easier. I had Internet.”
Motzny began stalking the Facebook page Julie’s Freebies, which he would eventually take over, expanding her 4,500 followers to 1.8 million.
From there he concocted The Freebie Guy, dressing up in wild attire conducting games and spinning wheel giveaways like some sort of Bob Barker of Free.
It took off, and before long, The Freebie Guy had his own thing going, and followers were becoming devoted in part because he was devoted to them.
Now Motzny facilitates an army of deal trackers who dutifully alert him to the stuff he might have missed. The big, 90-percent-off stuff gets special shout outs on Instagram Live as “a clearance emergency,” which, in his world, really is such a thing.
“I still can’t quite wrap my head around this, what it has become,” Motzny says. “Some things I really didn’t take into consideration.”
Like fame. A woman who spotted him in Dollar General nearly leaped in his arms. Store workers know him. Exactly where this might go, well, it’s anyone’s guess. Motzny doesn’t know himself. He’s merely following his calling, the one instilled in him long ago.
“I can’t resist stuff. I can’t say no,” Motzny confesses.
He really can’t. There’s stuff all around his Arlington home, including a brand new iPhone he picked up for $19. Just sitting there. “If you are getting 90 percent off a cell phone, how can you leave it in the store?” he asks.
I suppose it goes back to his empty Christmases and birthdays in Corsicana. He remembers circling everything in the Sears catalog and getting none of it.
Now that he can get it, he gives it away and helps others get it, too. “It’s fun, a lot of work,” Motzny said. “But when people message me and say, ‘Oh my God, you were right, I got this for whatever price, it’s just very rewarding.”