Sometimes “Free” Can Be Expensive


Handing MoneyYour Better Business Bureau (BBB) would like to encourage you to be careful with offers of “free” products or services. We all like to get a good deal and getting something for free seems like the best deal of all but when it comes to products or services, “free” typically means that you are still paying for something.

Businesses will sometimes offer a product or service for free as long as you purchase something else. This is done to help increase sales and may coincide with a new product or service or perhaps a business expanding into a new area or facing new competition. There is nothing wrong with purchasing something and taking advantage of the free bonus as long as the purchaser understands what they are getting and what they are really paying for.

Some businesses offer a free product but the consumer must purchase monthly service and pay for installation. Examples of this are security systems or cable/satellite TV. The equipment may be free but the consumer should understand the installation and monthly costs that they are agreeing to pay. By evaluating the costs and the savings, you may find a better deal by purchasing equipment but paying a lower monthly cost.

Paying attention to the entire deal can help avoid an expensive “free” offer. For example a free breakfast at a hotel may come with an increase in the cost of the room. It might be cheaper to eat breakfast somewhere else and get a cheaper room. An offer of free shipping for larger orders may entice you to buy a little more than you need only to find out that the handling costs offset the savings. If you return the products you may find that the “free” shipping is subtracted from the refund. Be sure to review return policies as free products may have exceptions that cost you money or result in a loss to you if the free product is defective.

For more information you can trust, visit bbb.org/Evansville.

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Jason is the Manager of Dispute Resolution Services with the BBB and primary handles consumer complaints. He also assists consumers with business inquiries. He is a regular contributor to the blog.

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