The Power of Free

I am no coffee drinker, I prefer green tea and herbal tea over coffee. I rarely break this habit, only if I am too sleepy or really crave coffee. But once I was in a gathering in Davis Center (at University of Waterloo) and they were offering free coffee and donuts. All of a sudden I found myself socializing and drinking coffee without having any good reason for breaking my habit, I could not justify my behavior at the time. After giving some thoughts to the matter, I came up with two reasons to justify this behavior; either that was the effect of the coffee being free, or the socializing effect; I wanted to be like others. Now there are two questions to be asked:

The first question is: is all the stuff that are being offered to you for free, are actually free? What are the hidden costs of free stuff for you? How much are you paying (mentally and physically) to get something that worth nothing (money wise)? Dan Ariely describe and [experiment ][1] that he runs about free ice cream in his blog. He claims that free stuff are not actually free, cause for example you are investing your time in the line to get an ice cream that worth $1.45. But is that the only price you are paying? What about an overweight person who is on a diet and happened to pass by Ben & Jerry, and decides to get one ice-cream cause it’s free? (Yeah will power is effective here, but sometimes FREE is more tempting than anything else)

There are other situations rather than free ice-cream, such as free shampoos given away, shavers, …. In all these cases they are changing your mentality towards their company. Now your unconscious might tend to make you believe that this company is generous and you might want to do them a favor back in the future and buy their products later, and become a loyal costumer. Most of the companies are smarter and try to make you dependent on their products, think about all the blades you bought from a certain company because you got the razor for free! These are all hidden costs of free stuff which are not obvious in the first place.

The second question to be asked is: how much are you willing to sacrifice to be part of a group? How many values are you going to destroy to be mentally close to the ones who are around you? Again this is related to will power, to hold on to your values and what you believe-in, even when others around you are making you feel bad about it. We are all seeking for approval from other people, that’s why we try to look like others. Nevertheless, what is the life you are seeing in front of you? The one you take control of it or the one others control for you?

[1]: http://danariely.com/2008/02/29/free-2/

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