Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Is anything in life really free?

Wick's World


“We will be giving away free knives near the produce department in five minutes,” boomed the voice coming out of the loudspeaker at Walmart in Pine City.

I generally keep my visits to Walmart fairly infrequent, but I was returning home to Eagan when my wife called requesting a quick stop. Walmart carries a certain brand of floor polish that no one else seems to have and the store near home was completely out of the product. Would I please stop and find some?

I already had a stop planned in Pine City so this really wouldn’t be a problem. You see, I had to stop at the next exit anyway, which was Pine City, and turn around and head back to Moose Lake. I had just gotten a call from a Duluth realtor requesting to show my house to a prospective buyer and he wanted to know if I was available. Currently, I am making myself available for any and all prospective house buyers. Once I decide to move on, I am ready to do just that.

I really don’t hold a grudge against the giant retailer named Walmart, it’s just not my kind of store. I tend to go to a local business and pick up something I actually need at the moment.

To me, "going shopping"means purchasing stuff spur of the moment only to get home, look at a bag of unnecessary junk and wonder, “What was I thinking?” I did find the floor polish, but before I returned to Moose Lake, I found myself the recipient of a brand new knife.

The free knife was barely large enough to qualify as a knife, but it did have a sharp blade and it doesn’t hurt to have an extra paring knife (that’s correct, it’s not perry knife) lying around. But, was it really free?

In this instance, all it cost me was about 10 minutes of my time listening to a sales pitch about a set of knives I could buy for not $39.95, or not even $29.95, but all this and more for the one-time in-store offer of only $19.95. It not only slices and dices, but you also get 20 more differing knives, enough blades to last a lifetime of shaving and, get this, we will include the rare lime-mister I spoke about last week.

I have to admit, the guy was good. He had his sales pitch down perfect. I guiltily walked away bowing my head, almost, but not quite, in shame for taking the free knife without purchasing his product.

The point of the story, if there really is one, is there is rarely anything in life that is free. It may not cost you any money but you are almost certain to pay one way or another, whether it’s your time or some obligation down the road you have surrendered to.

Just recently I signed up to have the two Twin Cities Sunday editions of the newspaper delivered to my door. The one newspaper cost $26 per year but included a $25 rebate, which was surprisingly easy to get. So I bought the year’s subscription for a buck. The competing newspaper outdid the other one. They charged a straight dollar per year, no rebate needed, and threw in the Wednesday and Thursday issues for free. So for the sum total of two dollars a year, I now receive 104 Sunday papers along with 52 Wednesday and 52 Thursday editions. What is the catch? Two things come to mind. The newspapers offer this ridiculous rate on behalf of their advertisers. We all realize how much of a Sunday edition is made up of ads. Wednesdays and Thursdays also have a larger than average number of inserts, which are full of the ads for the weekend. In other words, advertisers are subsidizing part of the expenses.

The other catch is this. Just like the bunny for Energizer batteries, after one year, your subscription keeps on coming and coming. You are given no notification the one year has ended. You will, however, receive a bill for the not-so-free issues at a highly inflated rate. You have agreed to pay this unless you have given adequate notification of cancellation.

Next year, I will let you know how that’s worked out.


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