Analyzing FREE!


A combo of thrill and surprise filled the customers as a loud announcement rang across all corners of the supermarket. “Rush to aisle 7 within 3 minutes to claim your free gift,” the voice said. Some stopped shopping midway and hurried in all excitement. Unfortunately, it was once again one of those marketing gimmicks. The free award came ONLY with the purchase of a certain commodity.

Be it a slice of pizza, a t-shirt, a trial for a weight loss plan, or an online lesson, the word “free” before these items has some magnetic appeal for consumers. At times, the hype it creates can be rather funny. Extremely popular in the United States, Costco and Sam’s Club are essentially the cathedrals for bulk shopping that require customers to sign for a membership. The generous sampling policy of the two chains is so famous that members resort to Twitter to brag about going there for free lunches, and earlier this year, Business Insider even conducted a study to compare the free samples of the two stores to determine the winner!

A strange psychology is at play behind the minds of human beings whenever the word “FREE” flashes before them. For instance, most individuals do not enjoy queuing up to shop, but have we not noticed people standing in lines that move at a snail’s pace simply to get those freebies?

Many a time, foolishness does take precedence over common sense. The list of people who have been fooled by this free game is amazingly long. Someone once narrated how her husband came home with a crate of juice packs given free at a local store. The level of enthusiasm on being offered the free stuff was so high that he never questioned the otherwise stingy owner’s large heartedness nor cared to check the expiry date of the products. After coming home, it was discovered that the expiry date printed on the cover happened to be the very next day. So the boxes inevitably made their way to the trash.

The common perception is that the economic value of a product is the sole determinant for leaning towards a freebie. However, a research conducted by Duke professor Dan Ariely at MIT proves the contrary. A sample of 398 students was given a choice between free Hershey’s candy and Lindt truffles discounted at an incredibly low price. Despite the fact that Hershey chocolates are even otherwise not too costly and the higher value certainly was on the rich, melty, gourmet Lindt chocolates, an overwhelming majority of the students opted for the free Hershey candies. Ariely succinctly summarizes that the word “free” “gives us such an emotional charge that we perceive what is being offered as immensely more valuable than what it really is”.

The business world inevitably will crumble down without the free concept. It is one of the smartest tactics employed to earn costumers. The ever popular “Buy One Get one Free” is a smart policy that envelops teeming multitudes. At the expense of giving a thing for free, the company reaps the benefits of having sales rising upwards. Rarely do customers think that the price is intelligently spread among the two products. It is always interpreted as a great deal!

Worth pondering about is also the paradox associated with the free concept. It can be viewed as a double-edged sword. As much as it is true that stuff given for free is irresistible, it is also noticed that a cloud of skepticism hovers in the air when something is offered free. So many scams are heard about that we explore the possibility that there is something fishy that could be going on! It is not unusual that just as the advertisement for a free commodity has people rushing for it, the reverse scenario is also not implausible. You may be running out of space and would want to get out that bulky television out for free, but don’t be surprised if you find no takers!

The wise strategy is to evaluate both the upsides and downsides and not to be trapped in the trickery of freebies. You are not sinning if once in a while you are beaming in happiness and soothing your mind and soul with that free gift offered to you. It’s just that you need smart sense to prevail so that the the costs do not outweigh the benefits. And as harsh as it may sound, the beaming truth is you need to shed the sweat to earn your reward because in life there’s no such thing as a free lunch!

9 thoughts on “Analyzing FREE!

  1. Absolutely true. I’ve falken prey to such freebies once or twice… sometimes you have to pay some bucks to get those free gifts.., LOL I marvel at your themes which encompasses all things surrounding us… good one to make us aware of such gimmicks

  2. I can certainly relate to this, Rashmi, as I have fallen prey to this several times. The last time I received a couple of free cheese knives. Gave one to my son and the first time he used it, it broke. As for me; I’ve never even used mine. We are all susceptible to that word, I’m afraid!

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