Taken for a ride, for free


It is sales season. There are advertisements galore in newspapers and on television, banners in every market place announcing the ‘End of season sale’-free gifts and heavy discounts. The moment I see the word ’free’, excitement overtakes my rational mind. My ability to analyze objectively the need and evaluate the pros and cons of the offer goes for a toss. I end up buying things that I don’t even need, all for the lure of ‘free’.

There is wisdom in the adage, ‘There is no free lunch in this world’ but I forget. I have fallen prey to the bait not once, but many times, purchased in excitement to regret later. The other day, attracted by a bargain offer, ‘Buy three, get three free’, I walked into a showroom of a known apparel brand. After spending an hour or so in the shop, I bought six shirts when just one was on my agenda. Penny wise and pound foolish! A classic example of my imprudence is huge sum I spent on a heavy coat, not worn till date, though bought years ago, all for a free travel bag with the purchase. My children chide me for collecting a set of six bright-red mugs, each mug supposedly ‘free’ with a coffee jar. Don’t ask me how much coffee I have in my pantry.

While free gifts by business enterprises excite me, I become apprehensive when it comes to freebies offered by political parties. Come elections, politicians turn into Santa Clause with bagful of goodies as every party joins the bandwagon of freebies. Development may be low on agenda but the focus is on appeasing the electorate with generous doles, from monthly stipend for women to free electricity, free water, free mobiles and laptops for the students. And what a completion it is among the parties in outdoing one another in promising freebies and subsidies! If one party has promised 200 units of free power, the other offers 300 units free.

The downpour of doles and freebies in the election season tickles my grey cells; my rational mind gets activated. I wonder where the funds for giveaways would come from. Won’t these freebies and subsidies wreck the finances of the states that are already in doldrums? Doesn’t free bijli, paani lead to misuse, overuse and unnecessary wastage of precious resources? My economics background comes to the fore. I muse freebies may get the votes of gullible, but giveaways are certainly not good economics, not even good politics in the long run. Ultimately, everyone wants development and job creation, but if significant funds get diverted to freebies, there won’t be sufficient money left for public investment needed for growth.

While I am contemplating, an ad of a popular brand, ‘Buy one, get one free’ distracts me. The moment I read’ free’, my rational mind goes into hibernation. Without wasting any time, I make a beeline for the sales outlet.

(Published in THE TRIBUNE as MIDDLE on March 10, 2022)

22 Replies to “Taken for a ride, for free”

  1. Yes Rama the sale does tempt one and all. But now at our age the requirements have decreased so i have stopped going. I hardly go for shopping.
    But the political angle is important. Political parties promise freebies and deliver with so many riders. And the below poverty line people or even those on margins don’t want to work and live on freebies. Plus waste power and water. They are ruining the country in their own way.

    1. Yes Alka, you are bang on . The first part was basically to pep up the article but basically my idea was to air my views on freebies, a gimmick to woo the gullible voters unmindful of the impact.

  2. As ever,,a beautifully written article Rama…We all can relate so well to the trigger the word ‘ free’ generates .But the sorry state of affairs is how masses are being enamoured with the freebies by the political parties for their vested interests.

    1. Thank you so much Mrs Dhawan . It is no less than a blessing for me that you not only you read with interest whatever I write, but also never fail to uplift my spirits by leaving your encouraging comment.
      Actually , my idea behind the post was to write about freebies offered during elections and their disastrous consequences.

      1. It is a fantastic article,ma’am.It is easy to do political analysis,but writing such an unique and original blog is very difficult..It touches serious burning problem but in humorous way.
        To my surprise ,the government provides free ration to the poor family since the pandemic started.True,but theirs some symbolic services could have been taken instead of this facility.Free distribution of ration is not the solution in long run.

        1. I am really impressed with your feedback…Yes Garima , there is a thin dividing line between welfare schemes and freebies.As a welfare state it is imperative to help the poor and deprived. And during the pandemic, when there were huge job losses, poor had to be provided with free rations.What I object to is the competitive populism in announcing freebies which may never be met or may have disastrous consequences in terms of finances and also may lead to wastage of resources.

          Thank you Garima. Thumbs up ! I justifiably take pride in being your economics teacher once upon a time.

  3. How true….. l have also landed up buying things ll have never used or will use in the name buy and get free things. Although l know that l had been stupid then but l also know for sure that l will be stupid again and again.

    Kyaa sahi pakda hai Rama.

    1. Thanks Vijay for reading the article with interest. True, if we keep falling for these baits, tall promises will continue to be made.

  4. May be Punjab is prosperous than UP, but I think now public in UP is politically more aware than of Punjab people. That is why AAP free lollypops totally failed in UP.

    1. Feels good to have your feedback Mr Ojha . Of course,being a journalist you are more aware of the ground realities but my feeling is people in Punjab have been fed up with traditional political dispensations , whether Akali, Congress or BJP. They have voted for change.
      It has been competitive populism,one party overdoing the other in announcing poll time freebies.

  5. Rama ji you have warned us of the consequences of freebies offered by political parties st the time of electiobs in your own humorous way.you have wiven the background in such way that the article makes a light reading but able to conveyba strong message.

    1. Thank you so much ma’am … a matter of pride for me that you liked the post.Giveaways and freebies without bothering about their feasibility and sustainability are just a ploy to take the voters for a ride with disastrous consequences to the economy of the states.

  6. Very interesting article . It is a fact most of are tempted to these advertisements. Dear Rama you have spoken the mind of many of us . It is very true that writers are the psychologists .
    Your article looks as if I am speaking my heart . That is the beauty of good article Congratulations again , I enjoy each and every article of yours

  7. Another worth reading attempt from a masterhand!
    The beauty of the piece lies in the brilliance and ease with which focus gets shifted from
    light vein to something very serious and thought provoking.
    Bravo, Rama.
    Looking forward to another’morsel for thought and soul’.

    1. I have no words to thank you ma’am for teaching me Economics, inculcating interest in the subject. I shall always remain grateful to you for developing passion for teaching in me. Ma’am, this one I dedicate to you.

  8. Very lively article Rama.lt is said, if you have to judge a person see how he reacts to free things but nowadays free is reigning and has a unique Christma. As soon as we read get one free if you buy two. we go out of our budget to collect unnecessary things to over crowd our house.lf the bisnessmen have six senses politicians have seven senses.During the epidemic of carona, when all of sudden sutters were put down, transport were stopped , all the activities were forced to come to stand still resulting various difficulties for the daily wagers .They had no choice but to walk down empty stomach under the burning sun to their respective home town.And we witnessed pregnant women old people and thirsty children walking but it didn’t take long to sufferers to forget when they were offered free ration, electricity, laptops, etc etc and they were prooved right we need to be enlightene ourselves that there is nothing free, even the free things have a hidden cost.

    1. So nice of you Mrs Behl for taking time to read and leave your comment. Thank you so much.So true ‘Politicians have seven senses’.They know how to en-cash on lure for freebies.
      But I feel we ought to have welfare measures for the poor.

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