Break Free From the Free Food Schemes

 

Kelvin Noronha Thinking Caps knoronha@ucsd.edu
Kelvin Noronha
Thinking Caps
[email protected]

Whenever I try to navigate the maze that is Library Walk at lunchtime, I find myself searching for ways to appear disinterested. I stare at a blank screen on my phone, occasionally read the newspaper or try to look just plain angry. The last thing I want to do when trying to make it all the way to York from Warren Lecture Hall is to sign up for meditation classes or assure someone that I will attend their obscure club’s first get-together of the quarter. But when they offer pizza, the whole game changes.

It’s not like there’s much to be gained from a $1.50, greasy, pepperoni slice from Domino’s — on a pure cost-to-benefit level, it’s not really worth trekking across campus to a meeting at night. But the prospect of ‘free’ anything, whether it be pizza, Korean BBQ or tickets to a movie at AMC 12, is usually a pretty effective lure. And so I find myself sitting through another bizarre club event, munching on their free food and coming to the realization that one hour of my time is apparently worth the price of a slice of pizza.

At the root of it is our impulse-driven desire for instant gratification — we jump at the promise of a good deal regardless of whether it will be worth our while in the long run. We’ve been conditioned to love the idea of free stuff, and in my case, the idea of free food. For example, I have personally been known to venture to Costco just for their snack-sample stands. Evolutionarily, the ‘take free things and ask questions later’ mentality may seem a little unfavorable (after all, it’s how animal traps work) but more often than not, we end up satisfied. And even if we do end up regretting our decision, we’ve derived enough benefit to make it seem okay.

It’s really just a clever marketing trick based in effect on the notion that a ‘free lunch’ is nonexistent. When a store offers a complimentary trinket along with a purchase, they’re counting on the fact that people will get excited by the prospect of getting something worthless for free and clamor to buy things that they otherwise wouldn’t want.

This also plays into the idea of sales as a whole. When we see that something is cheaper than the suggested retail price, it immediately seems far more attractive. Whether we need it becomes a whole lot less relevant, and into our cart it goes. Although I feel mighty pleased with myself for the slick two bucks I save, I gloss over the bigger, unnecessary expenditure, whether it’s clothes, movies or the time spent at a GBM for a religious group I have no actual affiliation with.

Essentially, our desire to beat the system trumps rational decision-making. It’s also not all that difficult to take advantage of this. So for those looking to gain a few more student org supporters or get some more blood donations for your charity, make sure there’s an enticing treat in the mix. In my case, my Library Walk allegiance will be to whoever’s got the best food; preferably anything with an abundance of chocolate.