Monday, 14 October 2013

The Illusion of ‘FREE’

It's not Free - It's Complimentary!

Time to deal with a not so small thing that has been getting on my nerves for a while now – the obsession with FREE; yes I know it is a word that sells, but it is being incorrectly used and too frequently as well, in my view.

The definition of the adverb ‘free’ is ‘without cost or payment’; when it is said that something is ‘for free’ it means it is without cost or payment to those accepting it – these are not the same thing.  It may be ‘free’ to the recipient, it is not free to the provider, or the providers supplier and so forth, what it really is, I believe, is complimentary, perhaps even a gift to the end recipient.    So often things that are ‘complimentary’ are I feel abused by those who frequently, regularly, or even only, seek ‘a free ride’; which is used in reference to a situation in which someone benefits without having to make a fair contribution.

The reality is that everything has a value; if it does not why would anybody desire it?  It is only when a cost is placed against that which we perceive is of value, do we start to question the offer or proposal.  Asking “Is that a fair price for what is being offered, do I value you, or it, at that specific ‘cost’ or ‘charge’”. 

We should though be asking a different question of ourselves, “Do we value what is on offer at that level of investment, and what do I have to pro-actively do in addition to this fair price, to secure the best return for me?”

Many people have commented, proudly boasted even, that they can go to events without a cost to them; this is not the same as it being without a ‘cost’ at all, however it could be and in my view is, the same as accepting ‘a free ride’.

In truth there is a ‘cost’, for somebody, attached to all business related activities.  This is the nature of business; anything outside of a properly structured and financially viable operation should take the form of a charity, or public sector organisation, instead.  These still have to balance the books, pay for premises, utilities, wages, etc – all of which rely on financial input in order to operate. Financial input that comes from varying sources.

Businesses raise funds through business relationships and transactions. Charities should not say something is ‘free’ because someone will have gifted money, in the form of donations, property, or items, which can be sold to raise funds.

Public sector organisations are funded through the public purse – all having to pay their way in some form or another, however this ultimately leads back to the individual and the corporation, funding via taxation. 

Any business that we work with will have business expenses to meet in relation to all areas of what it is they do, thus when they offer a service, host a breakfast, etc, they are not doing it for ‘FREE’ they are doing it at their expense, their cost, for whatever reason – this may be charity, for networking, or to build a network of connections, for many it comes down to marketing themselves, by way of raising their profile – one or all of these is why they offer something at no cost, for no payment, to those who take up the offer – it is not free in the accurate definition of the word, as they are covering the cost.

Any club has to charge a fee, otherwise it is simply offering a ‘Free Ride’ to those who only think ‘Me’ and ‘I’, it becomes less than a soup kitchen as even there those who receive support are expected, as with the ‘Pay It Back Forward’ process’ to put back when that are able – that is the ‘fair price’. 

So next time you accept that invitation to a ‘FREE’ networking event, gathering or business, seminar, a webinar or presentation, just consider for a moment – what could you do pro-actively to help support this event, putting something back in and not just taking out, not just taking the ‘free ride’.

Thank you for reading and I hope this has started a few thoughts going, please leave a comment if you have a strong view for or against the ideas above.

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