The Problem of Free

by carlocmd

A few months ago, we were walking in the mall, looking for a place to buy a game console. I saw a stall that offered the Wii in two variants.

You can buy the original console or the hacked console.

They both come at almost the same price. The difference? You must play only original games in the original console. The hacked console comes pre-loaded with a thousand “free” games, so you just need to choose which ones you want (sometimes even choosing those you don’t need). You must not, however, try to connect it to the internet to download anything, because this would invariably shut your system down.

It was a choice we debated on.

In the end, we chose the original console.

You see, when it comes to cost, there is a problem with “free.” Entrepreneurs and Marketers seem to know this intuitively. There must be a price, so that people have a grasp of the worth of something. There is no brand loyalty with “free.”

(How many free ebooks have you read and appreciated on your kindle? — wait that’s another post)

I, however, schooled only on medical stuff, had to spend a day discerning what this choice meant to my family.

Nothing is free, I think. There are many hidden costs that come with a free transaction.

Much as I would like some patients to see me at the clinic and do not charge for the visit, I find that you actually hurt the patient. When you insist that the visit is free, they will hesitate to return. Nahihiya sila.

So if I need to see the patient again, but knowing that this visit costs a significant part of their resources, I would still charge a small fee. This empowers them. They own this time with you. This may hurt their finances today, but this increases their wealth of health in the future.

We teach our children to value their work. We teach them to strive for greater things… in their school work, in their games, in their interactions with others. When we see them strive and succeed, we choose to reward their efforts, not their goals. Preparing for a difficult test, for example, when they persist beyond the effort we ask them to give, we thank them for their determination, and sometimes, we ask them to choose a reward.

Sometimes, they ask for an expensive Wii game.

When they get their reward, you see how much they treasure it. My eldest boy makes sure the disc is placed properly in its case. He takes care to shut down the console after play. He looks after it because he values it. He has spent much time in difficulty, delaying gratification, and takes much delight when the reward is finally in his hands.

Where would the joy be when things come too easy? Where is the pleasure when things come free? With a console that has so many free games, you become spoiled for choice. Nothing stands out that you value anymore.

Free vs. Cost (that is the reward of hard work)? What would you choose?

The problem with free is that, more often than not, it isn’t.

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