Employment free trial

I have two years experience as a the main designer in a print company. I hold an MA in Design. I am looking for a new job and had an informal chat with a central london company (well it was in starbucks to fit it in after work). They have now asked me to come in for a one day trial. Its a temporary post advertised as 3 months but they said "verbally" its likely to be 12 months or more.

I feel really hard pressed to take an entire day off to work somewhere for free (not to mention the £25+ cost of going into central london in rush hour) - but more than that, I feel like somethings not right. I mean who asks a qualified person to come in for one days free trial knowing they are employed somewhere else. I feel like its too much to ask. Its more the principal of it than the actual act - yes I can work for one day but I don't think thats right for them to ask. Its not even permanent.

Has anyone else been asked to do a one day trial? If so how much experience did you have at that time.

Would you go to this trial? If so why? If not why?

Any advice appreciated.
Personally I have never done it, the most I have done is a half hour to an hour "test". My gut feel is don't do it. One possible scenario is they want some stationery / flyer etc re-designed, you go in, prove you can do it and whammo they have all their design work free of charge and miraculously they no longer need a temp; for all you know they could have set up 5 people on 'day trials' and they have effectively got 5 full days of designer time for gratis. I could be completely wrong, maybe they do just want to see that you fit in with their culture, understand what they want etc. but as soon as I read it alarm bells rang.

Maybe put the ball back in their court and say that you would have to take a day's unpaid leave and excessive travel costs; would they be willing to reimburse you? If it is a hard and fast "no" then you see the type of people you are dealing with. I take it from your mention of £25 travel into central London that you must be in Essex / Home counties, would the 2/3 hour's a day return travel, getting out of bed far earlier be well compensated by a massive hike in wages, especially after you take your deductions off? If not, is it really worth it?
Call me a cynic, but it sounds a little suspect to me - they will know if your work is what they're looking for from your portfolio, and they've met you in an informal capacity so they should have a rough idea of whether you'll fit in or not - but perhaps the person you met isn't making the final decision.

I would've thought that if they're taking the role seriously and properly value the work you'd be doing in the job, they'd be willing to spend some money finding the right person and pay you for the day. I'd question the motives of any company who wouldn't do that and you should ask yourself, how much do these people value their designers?

And yes, I think it's entirely reasonable to ask for reimbursement of your expenses, including your day's pay - unless you're so absolutely desperate for the job that you'll do anything...
Whilst I have to agree with the other guys, it is very suspect and quite frankly a joke on the firms part, this is the world we live in now. they know that if they offer this position to a candidate with less experience and fewer qualifications than you they will fill the position quickly. You have to decided whether your long term goals fit in with this project. This kind of crap is why I freelance.
I think spending a day there to see if you fit in (and seeing if you like them) isn't a bad thing at all.

But it sounds like they are trying to take advantage of you if they are not willing to pay for an honest day's work.

Would they be a good company to work for?
Thanks guys. Most of you voiced what I was thinking and gave me the confidence to ask the right questions.

I explained "I can take a days unpaid leave next friday if that suites with your schedule. May I ask if "XX Company Name XX" would be willing to reimburse me for the days work?"

They responded by saying no, however, as a compromise they'd let me do some briefs as this is what they did for some of their other candidates. ((hey - how many candidates have they had already??))

Now, I'm already skeptical and though I have done briefs before for the purpose of trying to get employment - I really don't trust them now and given the background I think its better if I walk away now.