When I hear the term “free” applied to an item, several things leap to mind.
By “free,” do they mean “included in the price”? When I was a trainer, we gave all kinds of stuff away: coffee, donuts, pens, pads of paper, training manuals in custom binders, lunch, cookies, candy, tape flags, Post-It Notes, soft drinks, etc. Of course, when you consider that the client was paying $1200 a day and the total value of “free stuff” we’d give them was rarely more than $100 (even if they hogged the cookies and donuts), we were definitely coming out ahead of the game.
Ditto in the early days of flying (by which I mean in the Twentieth Century). You’d get a meal (served on real dishes), free coffee and soft drinks, pillows and blankets (for use on the plane, not to take home, although I’m sure more than a few were spirited off the plane), an inflight magazine, they’d transport your luggage for free (within reason), and they’d actually be nice to you. All for the price of your ticket. Now, it’s like they nickel-and-dime you. Want to carry more luggage than a hobo’s bindle? $25. Want a Coke? $1.75. Want lunch? We have an array of sandwiches priced from $5 to $15. We accept Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover. (What, no Diner’s Club or Carte Blanche?) And stay in your seat or we’ll turn you over to the authorities. And that’s whether you got an ultra-super-saver fare by booking your trip before you even know you needed to take one, used frequent-flyer miles or airline coupons, or paid full-fare.
Am I going to get what I “paid” for? Remember the laundry detergents that would give you a “free” glass, a dish, or a towel in the box? You generally weren’t getting the high-quality stuff. They were free, and worth every penny.
How much is this going to cost me? Two words: FREE KITTEN (or, if you prefer, FREE PUPPY).
As Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman once said, TANSTAAFL: There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. It goes back to the old taverns that would advertise FREE LUNCH. It was free so long as you bought a couple of drinks…