FRUGAL YANKEE: "Free" Can Come at a Price

Filed in Gather News Channel by on July 25, 2007 0 Comments


There’s a four-letter word we Frugal Yankees love:  F-R-E-E.  We maintain a list of really free stuff that we think is useful.

Copywriters have learned that “FREE” catches a lot of attention.  So the word is overused and some spam filters have been trained to stop messages that include it.

When it’s really free, you feel as if you scored – you got something for nothing!  But, way too often, in the end you know you were duped, gamed, or just lied to.  So we have some pointers. 

Today, we’ll talk about the first category of Freebies, “Stay Away From These.”  In follow-up articles, we’ll cover the next two types “Be Cautious” and “Grab These Babies.” 

    That $50 gift card for a restaurant or a store probably means you just signed up for a $79 per year service.  The services may offer savings on travel, guaranteed low prices, free shipping from certain vendors.  But think it through very carefully.  Few people will get more than $79 benefit in a year from these programs.

    Web-based lists of freebies may offer brochures, CDs, tape, DVDs that are simply ads.  Going to any effort to get a free ad doesn’t make sense.

    Other web-based freebies make you answer “surveys” that are really solicitations from vendors:  Do you have insomnia?  Would you like info on life insurance?  Etc.  The freebie at the end of these is usually minimal.  Not worth it.

    Read the fine print.  The freebie may come with a magazine subscription that you just signed up for, or some other service that you don’t want or need. 

    You get a phone call from someone who tells you just won a drawing.  You may even remember putting your name in.  You won a gift certificate for $100 worth of spa services or home repair work.  The catch is that when you go to the spa or talk to the contractor, they only offer packages that cost $1000 or more.  Your “gift certificate” won’t actually buy anything.

    I’ll admit to getting fooled by this one.  A new comedy club called my office and offered admission and dinner for up to 20 people.  They said they were building awareness.  We should all be there by 7pm to be seated as a group.  It was easy to get 19 friends to join me.  The catch was that the show didn’t start until 9, the drinks were overpriced and the dinner was a buffet with piles of pasta in red sauce and salad that came in a bag.  The club owners expected to sell enough over priced drinks to make money.  We had a decent evening and enjoyed the comics.  But it wasn’t free, the dinner was barely edible, and the drink prices annoyed everyont.

    And there is out-and-out fraud.  People don’t just give you stuff.  If they “need” your credit card info or want a commitment that you’ll buy more later, stay away. 

     For more information visit the Frugal Yankee!

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