Leon Steyn is a Public Speaker, Facilitator-Trainer, and international Author of Books and Articles that teach personal development skills and talent development at organizations.

How free is Free really?

My eye catches the word "free" many, many times per day. Whether it be on social media, printed media, emails or whatever medium is seen, the word "free" is all over the place. To the point of actually (well, almost) not noticing it, because quite often "free" is not actually free!

According to Patricia Fripp, "John Ruskin is famous for many things as a 19th Century industrialist and philanthropist. For me I like his quote, “There is no such thing as a free lunch”, which I heard many years ago. The quote has stuck with me in my business dealings and my negotiations ever since." I tend to agree!

In a time of "however", "subject to", "terms and conditions apply" one has to be particularly careful when agreeing to accept something as "free." I have become extremely cynical and suspicious of things being offered for free because I have been exploited and misled by the conditions of receiving the "free" item, which were not declared or shared upfront.

And that is exactly the point!

When an item is called a "sample" and the word "free" is placed before the word "sample" it is generally accepted that if you like the "free sample", you can purchase the item when you feel like it. Another example is that, before buying a motor car, which is an expensive item, you take it for a test drive to ensure that, over and above what the marketing efforts tell you, you can convince yourself that you are happy to part with a huge sum of money. I think the test drive is free...

A current, good example is when one is invited to a "free" webinar and you are under no obligation to buy a ticket for a "main event." In this example, the "free" webinar is an opportunity to take the organiser/owner for a "test drive" so to speak; the same applies to free e-books, etc.

Honest and ethical marketing has its rightful place and as such, is a crucial part of any organizational strategy. Where there are blurred lines and some hocus-pocus words, one should be careful, very careful.

A question which I think about ever so often, is whether there are degrees of "free?" And here I am not referring to freedom - I am referring to "free." Is one item, "freer" than another? I think not. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, "free" means "not limited or controlled." I also quite like the definition of "without cost, payment or charge."

The next time you see something free, ensure that it is really free and you will also, well, feel "free!"

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