The word ‘free’ in the context of products and payments can simply be defined as “without cost or payment.” Nowadays, the world is full of promises of ‘free’, from free trials and samples, to free gifts with our purchases. Here, we’re discussing some of the world’s most common ‘free’ things and taking a look to see whether or not they’re really as free as they claim to be.
There’s nothing quite as satisfying as traveling around a supermarket, only to come across a podium awash with free samples. Whether it’s chocolate biscuits, miniature toast with a brand new spread or even a small shot of the latest wine to hit the shelves, free samples can be an amazing way to cheer yourself up and try new things before you buy – and of course, that’s the catch. Snacking on free samples can feel like visiting the buffet table on a cruise ship if you do it right, but that’s the whole point. Retailers want you to buy their product, and by offering you a free sample of it, they’re playing with shopper psychology to do so.
The hardest part of bringing out a new product is getting people to try it. Shoppers can often fall into habits, and buy brands and products that they’re familiar with. The excitement of free samples, however, encourages even the most skeptical of customers to step out of their comfort zone and potentially even buy the product. It can cost retailers hundreds of pounds per day to offer free samples, but the potential revenue that they can make as a result can make it worth the initial expenditure. While the sample may be free for shoppers, the pressure to buy the product, as a result, can often mean you’re spending more than you intended to in the first place.
Everywhere we turn nowadays there are some amazing sounding services with ‘exclusive’ free trials, but while signing up for free trials can always seem like you’re getting a look in without having to pay a single penny to do so, the question remains – is this really as free as it seems? Of course, there’s no denying that we don’t spend a penny before the trial runs out, but we’ve all felt the strain of entering our card details regardless of how ‘free’ the service or product claimed to be to start, and it’s at this point where many tend to get caught out.
Free trials often work on a subscription basis, and by entering your card details, you’re essentially signing yourself up to pay for the service if you forget to cancel on time and let’s be honest, we all forget and have that unfortunate charge to our accounts the following month. By being cautious and ensuring that any subscriptions we don’t want to keep are canceled on time, we can save unwanted expenditure, however, we can often find ourselves falling into the habit of keeping the service despite not really needing it or using it enough to make the cost worthwhile.
Free credit bonuses are perhaps the most slippery of all when it comes to whether or not they’re truly ‘free’. Let’s take Lyft, for example. Lyft has been offering coupon codes for $9, $10 and $20 off of your trip and while this may all seem well and good in theory, the ‘small print’ so to speak makes it a little less sweet. The $20 credit, for example, will only actually give you $2 off of your trip, for 10 trips. The $10 is a little sweeter at $5 off of two trips, and the $9 is $3 off of three trips – in short, you need to be planning to pay for Lyft anyway to make use of this coupon.
Ryanair has introduced a travel credit system with the claim that you can fly for free – but how true is this? Well, not at all really. Instead, this new feature works more like a rewards system, only you have to stay in Ryanair’s listed hotels before you can earn a free flight. You won’t earn on taking flights themselves, so if you plan on staying in a hotel in your home country anyway, this could be worthwhile, but otherwise, it truly is just an elaborate and frankly slightly disappointing rewards system.
For those with a penchant for risks, online casinos and associated betting can be a great way to pass the time and no deposit bonuses are becoming an increasingly common method that casino sites are using to attract customers. Casinos offer no deposit bonuses so people can try it practically for free, giving you the opportunity to try your hand and a few new games without having to spend a penny. Some casinos will have a catch despite claiming ‘no deposit necessary’, so make sure you do your research and be careful not to find yourself spending once the bonus runs out if you can’t afford to.
Let’s be honest, free shipping isn’t often completely free. Too often do we see the promise of free shipping if you spend over a certain amount, or live in a certain area, and sometimes the product can even be put up in price to cover the cost of shipping it to give the illusion of it being a free service. Free shipping has always been designed as a ploy to hook customers, and even Amazon’s free one-day delivery requires you to pay a hefty fee every year for the privilege.
For retailers, free shipping can actually be a strain on the business which is exactly why there is often a spend or order volume threshold to meet to make it worth the cost in the first place. We can find ourselves spending more than we initially intended to spend just to reach those thresholds, and while this helps the retailer in revenue, the same can’t be said for our bank accounts!
The offer of a free gift, especially on items we already intended to buy anyway, can feel like hitting the jackpot. However, free gifts are just another incentive set by a retailer to encourage shoppers to buy, so of course, they aren’t quite as free as we might initially think. While it can be tempting to reach for the option with the free gift, choosing a cheaper or more affordable option that doesn’t have a free gift can be better for our funds.
Whether you’re looking to buy perfume and there’s a free clutch bag ready for the taking, or you’re shopping for gifts for a family member, particularly if they have a passion you can really support with a suitable gift, and the promise of a little something extra entices you in, you can often overlook cheaper or more efficient alternatives just because of the promise. Of course, sometimes free gifts can come completely catch-free and in these instances, it’s best to grab the opportunity with both hands, but always shop around!
The promise of something free always acts as a temptation in a world where everything can seem expensive, but it’s important to take care before you spend money you may not have initially intended to shell out in the first place. With careful consideration, some pretty steely self-control and some inside knowledge into how it all works, you can enjoy all the free things the world has to offer without worrying about the catch.