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There is no such thing as "free."

Updated on May 29, 2012
Some cards I threw out today.
Some cards I threw out today. | Source

Throw out your "reward cards."

This is not a how-to or an instructional piece; it is just a thought.

Many businesses and eateries have adopted the marketing strategy of giving their patrons a "rewards card" after a first-time purchase. These punch cards guarantee the bearer to some free item after a specified number of purchases.

All it takes is one purchase; they hand you a card with a smile. The card is a constant reminder that if you keep spending money, you will eventually receive some small item for free as a reward for loyalty.

But we must remember: nothing is really free.

We are often by lured by advertising to believe that there can be such a thing as "free gifts." The promise of receiving freebies through making other purchases is a very shallow promise, and an appeal to the inherent weaknesses of a consumer culture When a group of people are conditioned to buy items based on want, rather than need, companies will use many subtle and duplicitously-worded marketing strategies to encourage consumers to continue buying their products.

Reward cards have nothing to do with need. They make no argument as to whether or not their products are better than any other alternative. They exist solely to promise a discount or free gift, regardless of whether that gift is a sandwich or a jewelry box.

Remember that "free gifts" are an illusion. The "free" item will not be awarded to you until you have already spent a certain amount of money with a business; an amount which they have already decided upon. In reality, you paying for your free item all along through the markup of every purchase preceding it.

By definition, companies exist to make a profit, and offering free items whose costs are not covered by other means would mean a loss of profit. No matter what promises might be made by colorful advertising and friendly punch cards, they are always carefully incorporated into the company's business plan so that they will always profit the company. Even a "percent off" offer still requires you to spend money at an establishment. You might not have budgeted for that purchase, you might not need the item, but the idea of saving a whole 20% is just too tantalizing to resist.

To redeem our culture from a long-standing problem of financial irresponsibility, it is important that we spend our money mindfully, and make sure that it is spent on goods and services based on their own merit, not on illusory marketing strategies.

Everyone has their own definition of what is "quality" or "valuable." No matter what you consider to be worth purchasing, remember these pieces of advice:

Buy what you need. Don't be a mindless spender.


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    • katyzzz profile image

      katyzzz 5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      All so very true, good subject for a hub, well done