When ‘FREE’ Comes With a Price Tag

Political News

I couldn’t pass it up, and I mean that quite literally. Someone dumped it right in the middle of my shortcut through the back of a neighborhood center. I had two choices: hit it head-on or stop to investigate.

Closer examination revealed a unique piece of furniture — a child-size, solid wood combination five-drawer dresser wardrobe. I dragged it to the side and found it to be nearly intact. It would need a little work but had definite possibilities. Even in its needy condition, it was FREE — something for nothing!

Had this item appeared in the classified ads or at a garage sale, complete with a price tag of any amount, would I have been so eager? Not likely. It’s not on my list of needs, not even my wants. But FREE? That’s different. I’ll take it!

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Haven’t we always believed that FREE means we get something for nothing? That if it’s free, it’s good, that there’s no obligation, no strings attached. With all our hearts, we believe that free means, well, FREE — and we shouldn’t.

Rarely these days does anything really come for FREE. More often than not, there’s some kind of price tag attached. Before accepting anything that says it’s FREE, you should look for the hidden price tag.

PRICE TAG: A PURCHASE

FREE with purchase only represents something free if you would have made the purchase anyway. If the freebie is what closed the sale, you didn’t get anything for free at all. You only paid less than you might have otherwise.

PRICE TAG: PRIVACY

The concept is you get something free, like email or internet access, in exchange for your private information, which the giver sells for a profit. Or you get a chance to win a car in exchange for filling out a form that similarly collects your private information. So, what’s wrong with that? Nothing, provided you are aware and willing to pay the price.

PRICE TAG: MAINTENANCE

You know about this price tag if you’ve ever been taken in by a FREE puppy. Even pets from the pound are anything but free. First, there are medical exams and shots, neutering and licensing. It can cost $100 or more to rescue a dog or cat from the pound. Considering all the years that follow, a free pet is anything but free.

PRICE TAG: REPAIR

Remember my FREE dresser wardrobe? Turns out it wasn’t free after all. I spent about $20 on new drawer pulls, $6 on stain and a couple of hours on repairs. I still need to do something about the wardrobe door. I suppose by the time it’s presentable, I will have spent $40, not counting my time. All things considered, it is still a fabulous bargain, and a piece I adore because it has a story.

The next time FREE grabs you and starts to reel you in, pay attention. Don’t fall for it before you take a close look at the price tag. If you find it’s too expensive, walk away. On the other hand, if it’s something reasonable, you might just want to load it up and drive it home.

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