A while back, I saw a vending machine selling digital watches for $0.25. I thought this was one of the most amazing things ever. A bit of searching on the internet indicates even a regular consumer can buy such watches in bulk for about $0.15 each, including shipping. One would expect they'd be a
bit cheaper if they didn't include the vending capsules but I didn't search for very hard for deals. Making the hopeful assumption that first-class mail can be used for such mailing (or at least that the price will drop for bulk), mailing such watches would probably be less than $1 per watch, including the cost of the watch. An annotation with accurate price estimations for this scheme would be appreciated.
My idea is to ask users to place a link to a rather sparse site. Any user would be permitted to do this and the link could be in any part of their site. The link would use a nofollow tag. The link text would say, "John Doe promised me a free watch for this link but I don't have it yet." The user would then email you that the link was there and provide his physical address. You'd mail him the watch. Upon receiving the watch, he'd be expected to change the link (for an ideal experiment, the nofollow tag would not be removed for the new link) indicating that the watch had been received. This would all be on the honor system.
Your own free watch site would link back to all sites (and thus it would be beneficial, though not required or expected, for the user to have some sort of content linked from whereever they placed your link to get free hits). No promise would be provided that the watch would be sent, but a good faith effort would be made, depending on supplies/popularity.
The watch site would be submitted to a few of those free stuff sites. The hope is that eventually someone would notice on of these links and provide a regular (i.e. not with nofollow) link to the site. One assumes that the experiment would not cost much money unless people actually noticed the site, at which point the promise of watches would be withdrawn (supplies are out) and the site would become a traditional link exchange (accepting cash for people who didn't want to provide a return link and accepting more cash for prime space. Some of the cash would be used to help buy more watches.
I have no idea what would happen with this experiment but am sure it would be more effective than just offering users a small amount of cash for links. Besides, use of snail mail will prevent overuse and mailing a watch is cooler than mailing a quarter.