Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Something for Nothing

Of all the words in the English language, probably the most irresistible is “Free”. Tacking “Free” onto almost anything will elicit swarms of glinting-eyed, salivating respondents. Who can resist? It’s FREE!!!

While advertisers are often a particularly obnoxious breed, they are smart enough to recognize the power of…what was that word again? Oh, yes…FREE!!! (Exclamation points and Second-Coming typefaces only enhance the appeal.) Who among us, whose eyes have not long since glazed over in disbelief, has not seen the “FREE Credit Report!!!!” ads on TV. If you have the eyes of an eagle, you may be able to read the minuscule type saying: “Contingent upon enrollment in Whatever-in-the-hell-it-is”....which, if you’re foolish enough to take the bait, you find costs an arm and a leg to join. But, hey, the credit report is FREE!!

What store in its right mind would say “½ Off” on something when they can say “Buy one, get one FREE!!!”

The most odious of the current FREE scams doesn’t actually use the word FREE, but it is equally insidious. Banks are spending tens of millions of dollars boasting of their absolutely awesome new program wherein (and I know I’ve mentioned this one before) “We will round up your purchase to the nearest dollar and transfer the difference into your savings account!!” Oh Golly, Gee, folks!!! If I buy something for $9.99, this wonderful, generous institution is going to charge me $10.00 and put one whole penny into my savings account! (Yeah, that’s what I thought.) And the wonderfulest thing of all is that they are taking MY money from MY checking account and then magnanimously putting it in MY savings account! How can they possibly afford this generosity? Surely, they risk bankruptcy in their noble efforts on my behalf. And I do appreciate it, but if I want to transfer money from my checking into my savings, I’m really quite capable of doing it myself, thank you.

I may have commented on a recent version of the ever-popular Pyramid Scheme. I got an email from a friend whose mental facilities, until now, I had no reason to question. This was an offer of an absolutely FREE, top of the line laptop computer the manufacturer was giving away strictly for the word of mouth it would generate. All I had to do is send this same email on to ten friends and then within three days, I would receive in the mail a brand new laptop...FREE! (How they would know where to send it was not made clear.) And each one of the ten to whom I sent the note would presumably also receive a free laptop for sending it on to ten of their friends, and.........and oh, dear Lord, the fact that I even received such a stupifyingly obvious piece of illogic means that someone had to be buying into it! (If you will send me your email address and $4.50 in postage, I will email you a copy of this offer, which I’m sure is still good.)

One of my all-time favorite offers of this type was from some “Not Sold In Stores!!!” gee-gaw absolutely, positively guaranteeing me that my $25.00 (Regular Price $4,399.00) purchase absolutely, positively guaranteed that I would be the recipient of one of three fantastic prizes: A round-the-world trip aboard the QE2, a 2009 his-and-hers set of Mercedes, or a pocket comb.

And my friends are sometimes seriously concerned for the fact that I can be so bitter. I can’t imagine why.

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