Don't be fooled...
1. Water. I'm guilty of this, even with my environmentalist tendencies. Water comes freely out of the tap, so therefore it must be free. No matter how many water bills I pay, I still have trouble connecting the idea of money to the idea of water.
2. Amazon's Free Shipping. (To be fair, anyone's free shipping offer that requires a minimum purchase). Retailers know that we're incapable of rational thought when the word "free" starts being bandied about. Which is why we've all bought things we don't really want or need just to reach the $25 necessary to qualify for free shipping. These are not the actions of rational human beings.
3. Free gift with purchase. This always reminded me of a sign I once saw outside of a coffee shop: "Free coffee in exchange for $1.50!" Yeah, that gift ain't free, it's just included with the purchase price.
4. Kids eat free. Show up at the restaurant with hungry kids and adults who ate at home and see if they'll let you just feed the kids for free. Bonus points if it takes more than 10 minutes for them to escort you out.
5. Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. No, we don't pay for these services. But someone has to. And that someone is paying close attention to what we do and gearing advertisements toward our interests. This is why I keep getting ads for credit counseling (since I look that kind of thing up all the time for my personal finance articles). It's a little Big Brother if you think about it too hard.
Okay, so what am I missing? What else do we mistakenly think of as free that we end up paying for?
Image courtesy of Jamie Zawinsky