According to this: A student was selling paninis to other students. When campus police made him stop because it's against school rules to sell food outside of approved bake sales, he began selling paper towels for the same price and giving a free panini with each paper towel.

In general would one be allowed to give away a product for which one lacks a permit to sell, conditioned on people purchasing a product for which no permit is required?

  • If that were a thing, no one would ever be arrested for selling drugs. "Buy this $X baggie in the next 24 hours, and we'll throw in an ounce of weed for free!"
    – cHao
    Dec 5, 2017 at 16:42
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    @cHao, but giving away drugs isn't legal (specifically, one does not need to collect money to "distribute"), while, as far as I know, giving away food generally is.
    – sharur
    Dec 5, 2017 at 17:19
  • @sharur: If you're not allowed to sell food, you generally aren't allowed to give it away on a commercial scale either.
    – cHao
    Dec 5, 2017 at 17:29
  • @cHao Yeah thats the thing. I believe if you get something for free its not on a commercial scale. Isn't that the point of doing that? And for the example with drugs: drugs are illegal on its own, food is not
    – MansNotHot
    Dec 6, 2017 at 8:32
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    (of course this assumes Dave is allowed to sell anything at school. If he isn't, the question disappears in a puff of logic.)
    – cHao
    Dec 6, 2017 at 14:36

1 Answer 1


If the ability to get a Pannini is conditioned on buying paper towels for money, then he isn't really selling paper towels for $2 and the Pannini for free, he is really selling a package consisting of paper towels and a Pannini for $2, so it would probably still be illegal.

The phrase lawyers and judges use to talk about attempts to create loopholes like this one is "too clever by half", which means: "Shrewd but flawed by overthinking or excessive complexity, with a resulting tendency to be unreliable or unsuccessful."

  • And would not officially announcing that you get a panini for free, and simply give every customer one unofficially, would that work? Because gifting is allowed i suppose? I find this rather interesting thats why I am just curious :) And good answer +1
    – MansNotHot
    Dec 7, 2017 at 9:34
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    If you give everyone a panini, and not just customers (ie: you aren't just limiting the "gifting" to people who've bought your paper towels), then maybe...? (But of course, who would then buy those overpriced paper towels?)
    – cHao
    Dec 7, 2017 at 16:42
  • My problem with this answer is that, in actual real life situations other than a college campus, businesses can use this loophole to get around restrictions on selling certain types of products. This answer does not seem to account for that fact.
    – user91988
    Mar 25, 2019 at 17:19
  • @only_pro Generally that doesn't happen. Often enough laws on the books re simply not enforced period, because they have murders and rapes and arsons to worry about and this kind of thing isn't a priority. But, I haven't seen anyone get off in an actually prosecuted enforcement action with this kind of tactic.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 25, 2019 at 20:26

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