Our lives are full of slogans, taglines, catchphrases and colloquialisms. You know them, you've heard them, and if you're anywhere near normal, you've used them.
This one, however, is one of the most confusing ones - The best things in life are free.
What is free, exactly? Is anything really ever free? No charge, no strings attached, nothing to pay up front or later on, nothing due in return or exchange, not even a little bit of guilt associated with what you've received.
I'm just not sure anything is actually 100% free.
For example: My company is offering FREE, aka complimentary (a pleasant, professional way of saying free) tickets to the Lowell Summer Music Series. No charge whatsoever to you, Mr. or Ms. Customer.
And yes, we are offering these tickets at no charge, no strings attached and you don't technically even have to be a customer. However we are only extending the offer to current clients and really good potential clients. And when you request them, one of our fine sales people will come by to drop them off, "Oh no, no trouble at all, in your neighborhood, anyway!"
The sales rep won't push for your business, they'll smile, ask how your summer is going, inquire after any vacation plans and if they know you well, maybe even ask how the kids are doing as they hand over the tickets. And ask for nothing in return.
You however, will feel a little tug of something. Somewhere deep down something is speaking to you. The voice that wasn't there when you requested the complimentary tickets, will now be chirping at you, prompting you to open your mouth and say "Say, since you're here, we have a little project that you may want to take a look at. Come on in and have a seat."
That, my friends, is called guilt. You weren't charged, but you paid anyway.
A Fringe friend calls and has excellent seats to see the Red Sox play the Yankees. No, no, don't worry about paying for your ticket. Totally on me. Really, no problem. And seriously, even if it were a Hanger friend, who could pass that up? So you go, giving up a Saturday night of catching up on your Netflix movies and head in town.
Where you don't let your friend pay for anything, since she gave you the ticket. For free. So you pay thirty dollars for the parking. Twenty bucks on Yawkey Way for sausages and beers. Forty dollars inside for the peanuts and beers. Another thirty on the cute Sox jersey and if your friend - the one who gave you the free ticket - mentions she likes it too, you might pick her up one as well to thank her for thinking of you. And if you were raised right, you would then pick up a thank you card the next day - two ninety nine at CVS - and mail it - 42 cents. So this free ticket cost you a grand total of $153.41. Never mind that you lost valuable Netflix time and didn't get to watch Dan in Real Life. Again.
Free ringtones? Sure, just give us your email address.
Free samples? Yes, just pay the $4.99 shipping charges.
Free subscription? For the first two issues, nothing to buy again ever. Just write cancel and the bill you'll receive and then, and only then, will we cancel the subscription you didn't order.
Free advice? Ha! Just try not taking any advice given and see what that will cost you.
See what I mean? Somehow, someway, you will pay.
There is an upside to this though:
Those free tickets your salesman dropped off may have just resulted in a great new partner for a career changing project.
Going to that game may have brought you and the fringe friend closer together, since you never get a chance to do more than exchange pleasantries at parties. Who knew you had so much in common? And wasn't that worth $153.41?
What's the last free thing you received? And what did you pay for it?