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When Free Ain’t Free

December 7th, 2008 · 16 Comments · Random Stuff

I don’t think businesses should be able to use the term “free” anymore, because it seems to me that 99% of the time, free ain’t free. BTW, reader be warned, this is a rant. I disclosed when I started this blog that I’d toss in an occasional rant. Truth is, this is only my second rant, the first one being about Halloween Trick-or-Treating. I think both my rants are actually pretty tame. If you want to read a real rant, you might check out the Master of the Philippines‘ thoughts on customer service but back to my rant, when free ain’t free. It just seems to this guru that businesses use the term “free” rather loosely (and not in the good “loosely” way). Here are my top three irritating examples of when free ain’t free.

Why do businesses say “Free with Any Purchase over $x” or “free when you buy such-and-such product”? If something is free, that means you can take it and walk out the door with it. I have a feeling that if I took the supposedly “free” item and tried to leave the store, I’d be stopped.

Example 2) BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE (also known as BOGO)
Again, if I have to buy something to get something else “free”, then it ain’t free! In this case, an accurate description would be “50% off, minimum purchase 2.”

Again, if you say I have to pay for it, it ain’t free. In this case, the business is telling me to pay for it, and then at some point in the future, they’ll give me my money back. How about not taking my money in the first place, and just give it to me FREE! Actually, I wonder on the next rebate I send in if I add up the sales tax, the postage, the interest while they had my money, and small charge for my time spent filling out the paperwork, plus copying charges (the days of nickle copies at Kinkos are long since over), would the business reimburse me for all that as well?

So when is “free” REALLY FREE?
I have on a few occasions actually seen businesses and/or people give away stuff free. A few years ago I drove by a huge pile of dirt on the side of the road with a big sign at the top of it saying “FREE DIRT“. That I believe. And on occasion I’ll drive by an old sofa or other beat up piece of furniture or old TV in front of somebody’s house with a sign taped to it that says “FREE“.Than I believe too.

And finally, last year we sent to our local sewage treatment facility’s annual open house. They had all kinds of free stuff. They gave out free coloring books, free hats, free pencils, and free coffee mugs, plus free hot dogs, chips, and soda. They hauled us around the grounds on a free train ride, and gave us a facinating tour of the facility and explained how things works. We learned that the water coming out of their final treatment was probably “safer” to drink than the water coming out of our tap at home, but no one on the tour decided to try it. The coolest thing we learned was that at the sewage facility they treat and compost all of the solids and end up with a resulting biosolids fertilizer soil amendment (see update below) that is available absolutely free, all you want and all year long. They were handing out five pound pre-packaged sacks of biosolids, but you can stop by anytime you want with an open trailer or trunk and shovel away. So I guess at least a few things in life are still free.

PS. This post, to give credit where credit is due, was inspire by another post by the Master of the Philippines, Beware Christmas Giveaways.

PPS. I intended this post to be about the deceptive use of the term “free” by business, but it seems based on the two comments I’ve received so far, it’s more about free sewage (according to Tim) and not-so-cool potentially-radioactive processed sewage sludge being pushed on an uneducated public by a multi millions dollar sludge-spreading-industry PR effort (per Caroline). Anyway, I checked again with the Goleta Sanitation District website and this is what they have to say about their biosolids (they also describe the EPA regulations, Title 40, Part 503 which they meet, for those interested readers):

“Raw sludge is removed from the wastewater in the primary treatment process and transferred to a digester. The sludge decomposes under controlled conditions in the digester at 95degrees F for approximately one month. The sludge is then moved to a stabilization basin where it continues to decompose for up to three years. The final treatment process involves dredging the solids from the stabilization basin to a drying bed where the biosolids are dried in the sun. They remain here until testing is completed and are then made available for distribution to the public.”

“The biosolids generated at the Goleta Sanitary District are classified as an exceptional quality biosolids. This means that they meet low-pollutant concentrations and Class A pathogen reduction requirements.”



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