Yesterday I was in the supermarket buying some groceries. There was a woman in front of me at the cash register who had a coupon for free iceberg lettuce. When it came time for the clerk to ring up the discounts and coupons much to the surprise of the customer the free coupon was for a bag of cut iceberg lettuce and not for a whole head of iceberg lettuce which is what the customer had. The customer immediately said, "I don't want it. I will get take it out of my bag." The customer also said, "I don't like iceberg lettuce anyway."
So here we have a customer who was willing to take something for free but didn't really like what she was getting. What was the intention of the chain store when they wanted to give something away free? To show appreciation, to give the lettuce away in hopes someone would now buy salad dressing, buy a bowl to put it in, or something else?
I couldn't help commenting to the cashier about the conversation I had overheard. She smiled and said, "Nothing is free. She probably paid for it in another way with another purchase." Now we have a customer that walked away not from something free but what she had paid for in another way and didn't want to go through the effort of getting what she was really entitled to. Webster's Dictionary defines free as, "free of charge, without charge, at no cost, complimentary, on the house."
A dear friend, Moshe Rosenberg once told me, "If it is free I don't want it." He tells a story of when he went to the store to buy batteries for his flashlight. The clerk said to him, "If you buy this package you get the flashlight free." He said, "No, I do not want it." He told me that she looked at him like he had just fallen from the moon.
I was at lunch with two friends and told Moshe's story. As we ordered lunch the waitress said, "We have free soup today." I said, "No thank you. I don't want it." She said, "But it is free." I said, "I know but no thank you." She brought the soup anyway which was actually lightly colored water with two string beans at the bottom of the bowl. Each string bean could not have been more than an inch long. I could not contain my self and broke out laughing. Now if someone really wanted the free soup they would have been sadly disappointed and the free soup would have done more damage than good.
When I first moved to Long Valley we received an envelope of free coupons. One of the coupons was for a free haircut. I called and made an appointment. On the day of the haircut I was seated in a chair, my hair was cut in less than ten minutes and I was out the door without one word from the hair stylist. My guess was that since they were doing it for free they needed to get me out of the chair so they could get a paying customer in the chair. I gave a tip and left never to return.
Here are my closing comments. As a business owner if you are giving something away free, think it through. If you are a consumer and someone wants to give you something free, it probably doesn't have much value anyway.