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Freeloading for Dummies

Let's say only one thing stands between you and the good life -- money. Here are some secrets from experienced riders of the Gotham gravy train.

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  • Social Circuit In a gilded age when offline buzz grows online businesses, it's no surprise Websites throw some of the best parties: Oxygen served up mini lobster sandwiches at its launch, and Double- Click's Willy Wonka-themed celebration featured stilt-walkers, fire-eaters, and a Lucite dance floor filled with candy. Movie premieres rarely end when the film does; after-parties offer cocktails and intimate chitchat (Boiler Room even gave revelers mashed potatoes served in martini glasses, with the topping of their choice). Book events are usually more sedate -- just a little wine and networking -- although Cynthia Rowley's literary fête at the W hotel dealt out robes, Godiva chocolates, and bottles of Piper Heidsieck champagne. And restaurant openings are always good for a free feed: Guastavino's guests were treated to a raw bar, while Métrazur tempted attendees with aquamarine martinis.

  • Supply Closet Forget about tax-free -- store parties are often price-free. The new Nicole Farhi boutique sent guests home with leather books, Sephora doled out $100 gift certificates, and Christian Dior was good for Galliano snap bracelets. But a reception at Alfred Dunhill trumped them all: Door prizes included a custom-made suit and a Hamptons weekend, and goodie bags brimmed with a Dunhill tie and a $100 Tourneau gift certificate. The most coveted bag of all is Henri Bendel's -- stuffed with a gift certificate and M.A.C makeup. "They'll say, My sister wasn't able to come, can I have another?" sighs a publicist. "I've seen people empty out a bag into a purse and come back."

  • Big Tickets Primes eats at the Met and sky boxes at the Garden often come with finger food, champagne -- even waiter service. Standing-room-only tickets to fashion shows offer not just a chance to see the latest designs but admission to glamorous after-parties and take-home gifts like Versus sunglasses and Calvin Klein cosmetics. Not to mention fashion contacts to ask for more freebies.


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