June 2, 2023

Obligate Law

Professional Law Makers

The Deceit of the Free Offer – Avoiding Traps and Lures

4 min read

The word free means unencumbered, i.e., without encumbrances, without strings attached, without payment, without charge. If something is offered for free and there is an exchange of any sort required, a quid pro quo (I give you something and you give me something in return) then whatever is offered for free is not free. It is a business transaction. Yet, things, objects, services and merchandise are offered free every day but in fact they are really not free. They are a potential trap, a predator’s lure. The word free is arguably the greatest lure in the world of business. Caution! Be careful… or you could be very sorry when you get something for free.

How many times have any of us been offered something for free, either online or offline, socially or commercially, and then discovered that in order to get the free offer we have to first fill out a form giving, at the very least, our email address and name? Caution! This is not a free offer. This is a ploy to get one of the most important and valuable things you own, your identity, your personal information. Even giving something as simple as an email address in return for a free offering may seem innocuous, but the underlying fact is that the offer is predicated on deceit and dishonesty. If any seller or marketer is offering anything for free and you have to give anything in return, anything, then the offer is really not free. It is a transaction, personal or business related. If it were truly free, the seller or marketer would never ask for anything in return, ever. Free, by its very definition, means without encumbrances, without strings, without payment or charge or anything given in return for the free item. If you give away your email address or any other information in exchange for something that is free, you have actually purchased it with your identity and personal information, data which can be sold to others or used to steal your identity itself. The bottom line is that if you have to give anything to get something for free, the free item is not free. It is bought and paid for with whatever you give in return.

Offering something for free and not giving it for free is not only deceitful, it is dishonest. Be careful of doing business with people who make such an offering. If they’re deceitful and dishonest up front, most likely they’re deceitful and dishonest through and through. Honest, ethical people do not deceive others. An honest and ethical person, company or organization who would like to acquire your name, email address, etc., would say something like this: In exchange for your personal information, we will give you “such and such” in return. Doing business in this way is honest. There is no deceit or dishonesty. The exchange of one thing for another is open and straight forward. Whether you should give your personal information away is your choice of course, but be careful. Is what you’re giving away worth what you’re getting in return? And what are the dangers of giving away something you own, especially your personal information?

Frankly, is anything in this world truly free? Think about it. How many times does someone give you something, supposedly for free, but expect something in return, either in the present or future? Often times, a free gift carries with it an unspoken understanding that the person to whom the gift or service is supposedly given freely is expected to return the favor at some future time. Such an act of giving is not truly giving at all. It is a business transaction, a quid pro quo agreement – whether spoken or unspoken, acknowledged or unacknowledged.

Summary

This age in which we live is saturated with deceit and unscrupulous business practices. Be careful and wise. If anything is offered for free and anything is required to get the free item in exchange, then the item offered for free is really not free, and the character and ethics of a person making such an offer must then be considered. Why do people do such things – make faux-free offers, i.e., fake offers, illegitimate offers? Why can’t people simply be open and honest when making an offer? Why deceive people? For what? A few dollars? How much is a person’s character worth? Frankly, a person’s character is priceless. It should be guarded with a thousand armies. For a person’s character to be sold by offering something for free when it is really not free, is not a sign of good character. Such an action sows seeds of a poisonous harvest. As Saint Ravidas declares, The fruit of action unfailingly overtakes the doer. Therefore, when we do business it behooves us not only to discern the actions of others for our own protection, but to pay close attention to our own actions because certainly what we put onto the circle of life will circle back to encircle us… for good or bad.

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