Finessing the freebies

You can’t watch, listen or read the news without being aware of the many scams out there just waiting to help you part with your hard earned cash. Phrases like, If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is; there’s no such thing as a free lunch; and you get what you pay for ring in our ears when we get a “too good to pass up” offer in the mail or email.

I received two postcards last week offering what appeared to be freebies. One proclaimed that “VACATION CHOICES is offering you a fly away ESCAPE!” and offering “2 Round Trip Airfares to Hawaii or anywhere that US Airways or Allegiant flies in the continental US.” The first red flag was my eye-roll response. Without giving this postcard more than a glance, my internal warning system had already triggered a negative response. The second red flag is the word “FREE” seems implied, but is not included anywhere. The third red flag is the small print which reads, “Taxes and reservation fees are the responsibility of the recipient.” I understand the taxes portion, but what are the reservation fees? I’d already decided to recycle the postcard, but decided to do a little internet search just for fun. Surprisingly, a search doesn’t reveal anything negative about Vacation Choices on the first page of the search engine. Digging a little deeper, however, there’s plenty of negativity. Lesson? Trust your gut!

The second postcard offered a “FREE DINNER. “ In fact, the word “FREE” is used two additional times on the front of the postcard. The back of the postcard reveals that Fire Safety Etc. is sponsoring the dinner and that “NO PURCHASES OF ANY KIND ARE PERMITTED AT DINNER.” Additionally it states “The entire program is informational only. Leave your Checkbooks at home.” It’s pretty clear that the dinner includes a program explaining fire safety tips and fire prevention. Since the free dinner was at Olive Garden, we decided this offer was worth our time.

We weren’t disappointed! Our host was fun, entertaining and just as concerned about making sure everyone enjoyed their dinner as he was about presenting the program. He was extremely courteous to the waitress who was serving the crowd of 30, and tried to make her job easier. The meal began in typical Olive Garden-style with breadsticks and salad and we were offered an entrée choice of eggplant parmesan, fettuccini Alfredo, lasagna or spaghetti. The entrée portions were substantial (too much for me). Start to finish was two hours, and in our opinion, well worth it.

My advice is to grab those opportunities that are truly free and worth your time, but just toss those that aren’t.

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