Free stuff

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” you’ve heard it said. Among all the things of which it could fairly be said there are no such things — unicorns, cows that climb trees, the great American vegetable sandwich and so on — a free lunch is not.

Just the other day I took advantage of my Starbucks ‘reward’ to receive a free panini which, since I have a reasonably vivid imagination, I was able to call my lunch.

Ah, you’re saying, but in order to get that Starbucks ‘reward’ you must have spent a sum approaching the national debt on overpriced coffee. It follows, you may add, that your lunch wasn’t free at all — it was at best minor compensation.

And that’s all true, so I’ll interpret the no free lunch thing as it was intended, figuratively, and instead claim that the pizza I had for lunch one time claimed to be entirely free if I had been a GMO. Or at least, the wording on the packet did. “GMO Free,” it said, leaving me wondering why there wasn’t a queue of GMOs waiting to claim their free pizza.

And the answer is that even GMOs have been so brainwashed into thinking there is no such thing as a free lunch that they cannot believe it, preferring to avoid falling for that trickery and paying for a pizza that is free only to glutens.

So I would say free lunches do exist, they’re just hard to spot. We’re all suckers for free stuff, and in most cases there’s a catch. The catch is, it’s not free. Or there’s a downside that’s hard to spot while you’re captivated by the freeness.

“Here’s a free shilling,” they used to say to drunk men in England. If they’d stopped to think for a moment before accepting it, they’d have avoided being conscripted into the navy and spending many months in misery before falling off a mast avoiding canon fire during a horrible storm in the middle of some vast miserable ocean.

But no, the lure of the ‘free’ part of free stuff was too strong to resist.

Today, the king’s shilling comes in the form of offers of credit, of services, additional TV channels, a second magic spatula (just pay shipping and handling) and the hidden downside is invariably financial.

So not so bad, you may think, compared to the original version.

I accept that it’s hard to be sure that your free lunch is genuinely free, and that the cost of it is not simply hidden or deferred (remember that free lunch? You forgot to pay for the fork, now you have to pay back-interest on the sandwich). But as a public service, and to prove my argument that there is such a thing, I have managed to find one.

As luck would have it, while sitting in Starbucks eating my reward, I was approached by a man who offered me a free window if only I were to replace all my other windows.

“A free window?” I asked.

“Absolutely free,” he said. “You pay for 9, you get the tenth free.”

Now what could possibly be wrong with that?

Unless he knows I only have 9 windows.