The cost of "free"

I've been thinking about our crazy society, and how Americans are wildly attracted to anything and everything that's FREE. Surely people must realize that there's always a cost somewhere along the line, if not directly from their pockets, then from somewhere along the supply chain. Case in point being the new "free" AM newspapers being handed out at NYC subway stations, published by none other than Rupert Murdoch. Likewise, "free" samples given and sent by advertisers,"free" e-greeting cards, "free" subscriptions of print magazines and "free" offers from those ridiculously greedy prescription drug companies. If anyone has other examples, please chime in.


Offering something free to get it into the hands of potential subscribers/purchases has worked pretty well.

Why, just yesterday I got an AOL disk for more free hours than there are in the number of days in the offer!

I used to write a "free" newsletter (i.e., a print version of today's blog) called "No Free Lunch" about coupons, sweepstakes, etc. to reduce prices on consumer goods, particularly food. Do you think you can convince an American consumer that businesses can't stay in business if they give away their products? Even when I told them that the original coupon was a wooden nickle, they didn't get it. Sigh.

But "free" is good marketing as long as you, the consumer, understand the exchange rate--you will try the product if they promise not to charge you for your time and effort.

This week I bought a large tube of goop from Merle Norman Cosmetics that I first received as a "free gift" (redundant, but that's what they called it). The marketing worked. I tried it, loved it, became glamorous and sexy within 3 months, so I bought a lifetime supply.

Several times a year we seem to get little knick-nacks, coffee mugs, etc. People who attended some marketing event at library conference got little key chain drives.When I do make it out to ALA, etc, LEXIS and other vendors put out these really sumptous buffet receptions.Every time I'm the beneficiary of all this largess, I wonder how much of our library's subscription fees go towards this "free stuff."

Thanks for the comment Daniel. As a small vendor, not exactly on a par with the big guys, it's very tough. You need to put a "stopper" in your booth; something to get people to stop cause there are so many booths, and they can't pause and look at all of them. My budget allows me to give away free individually-wrapped life-savers (extravagant, I know), and it doesn't take long for people to pop one of those and be on their way. I went through five family packs at ALA last June.