If any of the old cliches we’ve heard from our parents ring true, it has to be that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. The word “free” holds a special place in our hearts. The mere use of it can inspire the human brain to act on an irrational impulse, disregarding common sense and need. It’s a toxic word that fuels some of the biggest manipulations in this consumer economy.
One of the worst offenders is the classic “buy one, get one free.” Retail businesses the world over have used ploys like this to entice customers to spend at their store, and they are usually very effective. Why? Because you get one for free! I recently bought a used Nintendo Wii and was going into GameStop to buy some games for it. I knew exactly which game I wanted, but I’m always open to games on sale. Lo and behold they had a buy two get one free deal! It’s not the coveted BOGO, but a deal nonetheless. The game I wanted was nowhere to be found, but maybe they had something else I like so I could get that free game.
I searched and searched, carefully considering each game that qualified for the deal ($14.99 and under) and how much I would actually play it and enjoy my time and money spent. I eventually came to a logical conclusion. I originally intended to buy one game for $17.99, but now I was searching through games I didn’t want so I could get three of them for $30. I decided it was foolish and found the game I wanted (which they ended up not having) online for cheaper. Fortunately for my wallet I was somewhat level-headed that day, but knowing how reckless I can be that situation could have easily turned ugly.
Amazon has revolutionized shopping online. It’s an all-in-one place for people to shop for books, electronics, and much, much more. Unfortunately it’s also just another place where people end up wasting money. They have a policy where they will ship things for free on purchases of $25 or more and so we meet the dangerous trap of free yet again. This is a great deal if you already planned on buying a bunch of items from the online giant, but what if you’re ordering just one book? If the book costs, let’s say, $12 it won’t get shipped for free. So you have the great idea of buying another book, just so you don’t have to pay for shipping. Well stop yourself right there. Shipping is $3, meaning you’d pay $15 for that one book. If you add another book to relieve yourself of shipping costs you’re paying extra for something you didn’t want in the first place.
Corporations employ people for this specific task: to convince people to buy things they don’t need. And while “free” may sound great at first you eventually incur costs that could have been avoided had you stuck to your original plan. Have you ever been tricked by “free?” What do you do to avoid splurging on these so-called “deals?”