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Where to find the hidden cost of ‘FREE’

The quote “There’s a sucker born every minute,” has long been attributed to P.T. Barnum, however, it’s now known that he was not the true originator of those sentiments. No matter the source, the world is indeed full of suckers who believe in the credo that “free” really exists … and crooks who feast on the pocketbooks of those who believe somebody actually wants to give them something for nothing.

Misleading advertising, also known as creative marketing, perpetuates the whole FREE thing. There’s a very thin line between fraud (“gain through misrepresentation”) and the following situations. I am not suggesting any criminal behavior by the perpetrators. I am suggesting vacant promises and misleading statements. And today’s column is for no other reason than to point out the need for consumers to tread very lightly when they see that “F” word and to think beyond the four letters when they place an order.

250 BUSINESS CARDS FREE

Will this major national company give you 250 FREE business cards? Yup, sure will. But note that you cannot pick them up (even if you lived right next door to their print facilities) — you must pay shipping and handling fees that place the true cost of the cards much higher than “free.”

$300 OF BEAUTY CARE PRODUCTS ABSOLUTELY FREE

Samples of multiple products ARE free. The cost will be transferred via shipping and handling … and … the small print you agree to when you order. Always read ALL small print carefully. In this case, you have just agreed to an ongoing contract where you will receive additional products monthly (or quarterly or whatever) that are anything but free.

RECEIVE THIS FOUR CUP ELECTRIC COFFEE POT FREE!

Same gig, different prize. In this case, after you receive your free coffee pot with your first order, you’ll get continuing boxes of coffee, at significant charge to more than cover the pot, until they come out of your ears.

FREE (fill-in-the-blank) AUTOMOTIVE CHECK

It’s amazing how these folks always find something that must be repaired. “Mrs. Smith, look at this wire. Your car could catch fire and blow up at any second. We can replace these wires and have you safely back on the road in less than an hour. Your life is worth $395, isn’t it?”

FREE (fill-in-the-blank) MEDICAL, DENTAL or CHIROPRACTIC CHECK

Again, same gig. “Mr. Smith, you have three areas of beginning decay and this one back here is set to explode in the next 24 hours.” Or “Mrs. Smith, I’d like to rule out paracysticmayoinfractivemyopiccarditis. Just give us your insurance information and it will all be covered.” If the practitioner needs to make a Porsche payment, the words pre-cancerous might get added.

FREE $100 GIFT CARD

And all you have to do is listen to a two-hour, hardcore sales pitch and then get mercilessly hammered by a “closer” for a time share that you neither want or need. If you find yourself victim to this, repeat these words like a mantra. “I am not interested. I am not interested.” With luck, you’ll crawl out of the door alive.

Once again, readers. There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. True FREE is without profit and all business survives on profit — so “free” isn’t free.

Drop by the Pahrump Valley Times offices, 2160 E. Calvada Blvd., for a copy of Leslie Kim’s latest book “123 Main Street … the Scamming of America.” Only $19.95 while supplies last.

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