Things that happened today - free

An empty road stretching off across a green landscape. To symbolise freedom. Perhaps.

In which I consider the benefits of free things. Or possibly just ramble on around the subject. It's not clear.

Free stuff

The other day a lady from my broadband supplier rang to point out that for the amount I was paying for broadband I could also have TV and a phone line included and would I like to sign up?

I said no. Clearly baffled, she continued her sales patter, impressing on me the value of the items I would be getting, and how they would technically be free. I still said no. She asked why.

Well, I already have a phone, for starters. It's pretty good. It's not tied to a wall in my house either, so I can take it with me when I go outside. And I don't watch a lot of TV, so I don't need more of it.

Yes, it would be a better deal if I was getting more for the same money. But what's the point if I don't use those things?

Dave Gorman's famous example springs to mind; what's better, 10 combs for a pound or 15 for £1.20? It's 10 for a pound, because you'll have spent less and gained at least one comb, which is all the combs you'll ever need.

Free games

I felt good after I'd managed to avoid getting something I didn't need, so I started to think if there was anything else in my life that was similar. Turned out there was.

Nearly a year ago I signed up to the Humble Monthly newsletter because they were offering an entirely free game if I did so. Every month or so since then they've given away another game. This has included:

  • Psychonauts
  • Satellite Reign
  • Shadowrun Returns
  • The Flame in the Flood
  • Sums of a Solar Calculator: Rebellion
  • Outcast Second Contact
  • Lego The Hobbit
  • Lego The Lord of the Rings
  • A story about my uncle
  • (plus a few more that I wasn't interested in)

That's a pretty decent list of games. And yet even though they were entirely free I've yet to play any of them. They just sit there silently, taking up space on my hard drive.

Why? I think it's a mix of things. Firstly, I don't have a lot of time. And even though those are all fairly interesting games, I probably wouldn't have gone out of my way to buy them. Finally, the fact that they were free somehow devalues them in my brain. I didn't spend money on them, so it doesn't matter if I haven't played them.

Having said that it bugs me that I haven't played them. It feels wasteful. I begin to wish I'd never signed up to get them. Now I have free things that I don't use and feel weirdly guilty about it.

My conclusion is that free stuff isn't worth getting just because it's free. There's got to be another reason for having it. There's already enough waste and unused things in this world. Let's not create more.

Having said all that, Humble do good work, so if you'd like, please subscribe to the Humble newsletter. There'll likely be another free game along in a few weeks.

(Actually, I lied a little back there. I did manage to play 2 hours of The Flame in the Flood once. It was pretty good.)

That broadband company

One more detail on that story that I forgot to mention - after I'd convinced the lady on the phone that I didn't want to change my contract she hung up on me. Just said bye and hung up while I was still talking.

Also, the other reason I didn't want to accept "free" things from them is because twice now they've given me a "free" speed upgrade, only to increase my bill a month later. And they've increased my bill at least eight times (probably more, I've genuinely lost count) in the six years I've been a customer, four of them in one year. In case you're wondering who to avoid, it starts with 'V' and ends in 'irgin Media'.


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