Friday, May 18, 2007

Free

I was going to have a family post today, before I got into my next ideas for blogs, but another blog inspired me to get caught up. So my next post will sort of be related to a post by Peddlinshutterbug. I'll put up another link when the relationship will be more obvious.

I manned a booth yesterday for the SLC bicycle collective at the Utah state PTA convention. I was "selling" free bike ed classes for kids (or adults, although at the PTA meeting the focus was for kids). Of course I wasn't the only one there with a booth handing out fliers and stuff, there were several large rooms full of vendors selling things, and giving things away. I'll come back to my part of the meeting, but I want to focus on the "free" stuff that almost every booth had to give away.

Nothing you pick up at a booth is free. Nothing. I think of the trade shows where you get little rubber balls that light up when you bounce them and the lights you can put on the valve stems of your tires that light up when they are moving. You go to the booth, you don't give them anything and they give you a product, it seems to be free. It's not.

First off, do you think that the toys given out by Kraft or other food manufactures are purely from the goodness of their souls? Or, do you think that you pay for those stupid little toys every time you buy products made by that company? Is the toy worth the extra that you pay for the product? I don't think it is.

Now you're thinking, "Sans, I got you, because I don't buy stuff made by that company, and in fact the advertising doesn't influence me, I just get the free stuff and other people pay for it". (You shouldn't think in run-on sentences like that). First off, you're wrong, advertising is persuasive in ways that people don't recognize. That is the reason companies spend millions upon millions of dollars on advertising. Second, even if you don't take the stupid little toy and you don't buy the product, you still had to pay for the product, in a roundabout way. That toy was produced using electricity, plastics, and electronic equipment. The electricity and plastics used in the production let off gases that influence global warming. Additionally the factories (or the power plants providing the factories electricity) will produce gasses and particulate matter that leads to asthma, cardiovascular disease, lung disease and other health issues. Finally the plastic toy will end up in a landfill where it will not decompose for thousands of years. That's probably a good thing since once the plastic does decompose it will allow the heavy metals in the electronics to leach into ground water.

So that "free" item that you take from the booth contributed to global warming, air pollution, contaminated ground water and the filling of landfills. I don't think that's free for anyone. In fact that is VERY expensive for all of us. Even the simple fliers that I was handing out took trees, energy, and chemicals to produce. That has an impact on the environment.

Am I saying that you should never take another trinket or flier from a booth at a fair? Well, that certainly would be nice, but I don't think it's necessary or realistic. If you don't need it, don't take it. Resist the "oh, little Johnny will really like this". Yeah, he might, but it will be short lived and if you don't take it, they won't make as many in the future. You might even save on some of your bills in the future (or let some really rich guy have just a little more). If you come upon a booth that has something that interests you and that you will certainly look into at a later date, take some information.

So how do I justify my participation in this event? First off, I wish I had said more to people about only taking stuff if they were interested. So many people came by, took a few things because they were there and then left. Will they ever look at them again? Maybe some of them, but the majority of my fliers will end up in the trash, or if we're lucky the recycling bin (this is Utah, most will end up in the trash). Those who will look at them again may sign up to have a bicycle safety class taught at their school where kids will be introduced to safe cycling (and their parents may even catch on). I hope it makes a difference. I hope it makes kids more confident in riding a bike to school. I hope it makes people realize that a bicycle is more than a toy, it's a form of transportation.

Don't pick up free stuff just because it is free. It is more than is worth paying.

1 comment:

Emily said...

Here Here! I hate free stuff.