Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wait! Free May Not Mean Frugal

Something seemed a bit odd to me this morning as I sought a parking spot in a downtown Madison city ramp.  At 9:45 I found myself claiming one of two open spots left on the roof level.  As I descended the stairs I noticed a very long line of people extending several blocks, winding up towards our famed Monona Terrace.  It was odd enough to catch my attention. People were in lawn chairs.  They were adults, not kids on a field trip.  I have no memory of ticket sales being held at the location.  And then I noticed that nearly everyone had a coffee maker on the ground by their feet.  As I approached the building where I had a meeting, and had an aha moment.  Keurig Coffee had tents, tables, and coffee at the head of the line.  That's it, they are handing out free Keurig System for those trading in the Mr. Coffee Maker and Cuisinarts.

A free Keurig, just give us your old maker and you'll get ours for free.  Does that sound frugal to you?  Maybe it does, there were hundreds of people lined up.  And at my meeting someone indicated the same thing had happened last week.  But to me, it is not an automatic frugal move.  Here is why:
  1. Time is money.  These folks were camped out to get a machine for free.  On a typical work day.  Did they use vacation time to get a free coffee machine?  Based on a Google search, one can be had for under $100.  That's a lot of time to use for a $100 giveaway.
  2. Transportation.  Getting downtown requires a car or bus, and that is not free.
  3. Lack of competition.  Now you've got a free Keurig, but you'll be stuck with purchasing those little packets that you have to use.  How much comparison shopping will you be able to do?
Okay, those little canisters work great in an office where tastes in coffee vary.  And since they brew a single cup, you won't waste half a pot if you don't drink as much as planned.  But my gut tells me that those little canisters cost more than a pound of coffee, and generate a lot more garbage than your traditional brewing system.

Is the Keurig giveaway a way to save money?  Maybe, maybe not.  But taking the time to analyze a free offer, that is what makes a person frugal.  And there is a reason the saying "there is no such thing as a free lunch" is timeless.  Keep this in mind the next time Madison Avenue marketing experts play to your frugal side.

1 comment:

  1. Good the idea of single cup, but can't imagine the expense and waste with all that individual packaging. Simple is better.