By Mike Cronin
Have you ever heard the phrase “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” often abbreviated TANSTAAFL? Well, it doesn’t just refer to meals. It means that whenever something is advertised as “free,” there’s always a catch or a string attached. “Buy one, get one free” doesn’t really mean you get one free, it means you get two for the price of one, or two for half-price each. It might be a good deal, but you are not getting anything free.
It’s the same deal when you are offered a “free” gift or a “free” upgrade when you purchase goods or services. You are paying for the thing that’s free in the price of the thing that isn’t.
Sometimes you really do get a good or a service for no money, but it still isn’t really free. “Free” software often comes with adware or malware that will cost you time, money, or in some other way cause you stress. Even if it didn’t cost you money, you are still paying for it in other ways.
Many times, the catch or the string is buried in the “fine print.” All of the big, bold, splashy fonts and bright colors on an ad are just a lure. The legal facts are in the tiny text buried in the middle of the insert or at the bottom of the ad. The fine print section is like the ingredients portion of a food label – it tells you what’s really in there.
The bottom line is that you can’t get something for nothing except in very rare circumstances. One way or another you have paid, or will pay, for what you receive. That is not necessarily a bad thing. For example, when you receive a birthday or Christmas present, in a sense, you have already “paid” for it by being a friend worthy of receiving a gift. The trick is to remember TANSTAAFL whenever you are excited about a seemingly good deal. If it seems to good to be true, it probably is, because you will pay for it one way or another!