Saturday, July 15, 2017

"This Four-Letter Word Is Both Great & Horrible To Use - Depending"

Who doesn't like the idea of a bargain? People from every economic background seem to like getting a good deal on something - maybe they know someone who can offer an item to them at a substantial discount, maybe they have a good relationship with their retailer or distributor and can get special pricing, maybe they qualify for preferred pricing, maybe there was sale pricing in effect, or there's another reason that someone doesn't have to pay full price for something.

Maybe we have discovered a little out-of-the-way place that has great items that sell for much less than they would in a more popular or visible location, maybe there's a great little second-hand or nearly new store where we can great bargains, or maybe we are just careful shoppers.

There are many ways we can look for and find a good deal - depending on how patient we are, how much homework we have done (and the internet has helped dramatically in this respect), quantity discounts we can get, and adjustable delivery schedules we are willing to accept.

Nevertheless, one of the best words we can look for - and hear - when it comes to pricing is the word "free." This is a fantastic four-letter word. Sometimes free comes with strings attached or conditions. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes we need to purchase something we didn't actually need or want at the moment but could use just to get the free bonus that we were more interested in having.

When something is totally free - and one can argue that nothing is one-percent free - we feel like we have really accomplished something special. We got something we wanted and didn't have to pay anything specifically for it (except maybe shipping, sales tax, or processing). Maybe we bought something else to qualify, drove clear across town to get it, or bought more than we wanted to to get the special offer. The point is that we got something without directly paying for it. We like that, and our clients and customers like this also.

One can also argue that when something is free, we don't appreciate it as much as when we pay for it - even getting a substantial discount creates more inherent value than just receiving it totally free. One can also advance the idea that when something is free it is not regarded in the same way as something which was purchased. It is somehow deemed less valuable or important.

Often when something is free, and there is an issue with it, we will be told that the item or service was worth exactly what we paid for it. However, the item or service failing to work or measure up to what we expected could happen regardless of the purchase price - free or not.

OK, we understand that the word free is a great word to hear or see when we are shopping for an item. So, when it is it a horrible word? Interestingly, in much the same way.

Because we, as consumers, are attracted to the idea of getting something for free as being quite pleasant to us, advertisers and phishers have begun populating the subject lines of the emails with the word "free." Because of this, email servers are routinely flagging as spam any email that has the word "free" in the subject line - free offer, free for a limited time, free to the first 100 people to respond, free shipping, and so forth. Many times we are interested in such proposals, but we never see them because of the overuse of this word (and serval dozen others like it that have come to mean spam).

When we send out emails, we need to avoid using the word "free" in our subject line or early in the message. We can still convey this, but our readers need to see our message first. If it is never delivered to their inbox, we won't have gained anything.

Interesting that the word free can be both desirable and disruptive.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.