No purchase necessary

It is a question that has plagued man since the 3 meals a day system was introduced. A question which haunts philosophers and scholars. Which, by its very nature, goes to the heart of the human psyche.
Is there such a thing as a free lunch?

Is anything free anymore? And if it is, is it worth having? What is the catch? What way will I pay for it later?
It was iTunes that got me thinking about this. A couple of weeks ago I saw something amazing, I saw a song for free by a band I actually knew. The song was by Soundgarden and was for the new avengers film. The song sucked. I had to go back and listen to some of their earlier stuff afterwards, just to remind myself how good the band were. I started to think about why it was free, was it A) to restart Soundgardens music career B) a publicity stunt to launch the film or C) an altruistic act by the filmmakers, the band and the apple corporation. I’ll leave that judgement in your capable hands.

Is anything in life truly free? Here are my (somewhat silly) ideas on the matter.

1) The freebie. Shopping centres are full of free stuff. I’m not talking about stealing here, more about the stuff they hand out when business is slow. The Nut Hut will give you 2 or 3 free cashews (make sure you get the cashews as they’re worth more), Holland and Barrett will hand out free samples of dried fruit, Cinebon will give you 1/24th of a free donut thing, some coffee or tea shop will let you try a thimble full of their new blend. However, this does not a free lunch make. The only way to get full is to walk past over and over again; wearing various disguises and hoping you don’t get rumbled. I would imagine you’d burn off more calories doing the walking then you would get from the food. Maybe I should send my ideas to weight watchers. I also get a free paper (The Metro). Yes, it is full of adverts and competitions (you know the ones: what is the New York otherwise known as? A) the big apple, B) the big turnip or C) the big pork pie. And it’s only £3 to enter), but its free and I read it. There is a subtle difference between free and my next category.

2) Complimentary things. This is the kind of stuff that the good and honest people who run hotels leave out for you to use on your visit. And what do we do? We stick it in our bags, phone down and ask for more and stick that in our bags too. I have become an expert on what good bath/shower gel is from the level of excitement my wife has when she checks out the bathroom of the hotel we are staying in. There is also the complementary mint or sweet at hotel and business receptions. The problem comes when you are not offered it. This is a problem for me because A) if I’m not offered it, I want it B) will I get told off if I just stick my hand in the jar and C) What if it’s not real food stuffs or really old and sticky? By the way, that fridge in the hotel room, definitely not complementary. And as far from free as you can get.

3) Cumulative free stuff. This is the coffee or restaurant card. I have a few in my wallet in various states of stampedness (I know, not a word) and I have never once redeemed one. It’s that moment where you sit down, and as you rear hits the seat you think ‘coffee card’. As I look at them now, I realise that some are better than others. Wetherspoons only wants me to buy 5 cups, then it’s a free one. The waiting room (small coffee shop on Deptford high street, highly recommended) gives me a coffee and a cake if I get 8, but Benugo want me to buy 10 coffees to get 1 coffee. I suppose they could have no loyalty card at all but that is hardly the point. What is the point? No idea.

4) No purchase necessary. I love the idea of going into a supermarket, finding a packet of something that has a toy or voucher inside and just opening it and taking it. If it says ‘no purchase necessary’ then wouldn’t that be ok? I don’t think the shop would think so.

I do think that there is always a catch, always an ulterior motive. I would love to be proved wrong. Altruism is dead my friends, if in fact it was ever alive. And on that cheery note, enjoy the rest of your weekend. I can’t end like that. Maybe a joke.

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As always, feel free to share the link, re blog or point people to my new (fancy pants) website address www.andrewauthor.com

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