July 18 is the International Nelson Mandela Day and with the drive, ‘give your 67 minutes’, the day is associated with giving and extending a helping hand and a hand of generosity to those less fortunate. On this day, multitudes of people take time off from work and contribute time and effort to help with various projects around the country. Millions of rands of various items are also contributed to various causes where different charities purchase different things and give to those in need. The beneficiaries get the goodies for free or as contributions. The Nelson Mandela Day is not the only day of giving, or the only gesture of giving. Giving happens all the time. In fact, there are various initiatives that take place throughout the year which intend to benefit the poor.
By the same token, individuals and companies also offer some of their products and services to the public or potential customers ‘for free’. More often than not, the products on offer are samples of the main product and are small but sufficient examples to give the customer an idea and a taste of what the real product is like. The idea behind the ‘freebies’ is to introduce potential customers to the company’s product and service offering with the hope and intention that the potential customers will become real customers, and they will buy the products that they have tested or other products on offer.
Is there a catch?
While some people believe there could be a catch, others do not believe there is. Mostly, there are conditions attached to the freebies, but sometimes there aren’t any. Normally, if you are given a free sample of a perfume at a retail shop, there is no expectation that you will come back, at least not immediately. However, where an individual or a company invites you to download a ‘free e-book’ as an example, the condition would be that you ‘sign up’ for their monthly newsletter or be on their email database to receive advertising of their products. The idea behind the newsletter would be that you would be exposed to the thought leadership and articles of interest to you, and eventually, you will buy their services/products (perhaps the full e-book, or a specific programme related to the free e-book that you had downloaded).
On the other hand, the givers of the contributions to the poor do not expect anything in return except gratitude and a good utilisation of the donations/contributions.
Sometimes the beneficiaries of the contributions do not really appreciate what they’ve been given and do not really look after the gifts and misuse them. Look at what has and is happening to some of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) houses that were given to the shack dwellers so as to improve their living conditions – some have been sold, some have been let to others, and the very same people who were supposed to benefit are back where they started – ‘the shacks’.
How about people who actually do not need the ‘contributions’, and simply go with the crowd to go get what is being given and collect as many as they can of what is on offer?
Sometimes there are people who really take the concept of ‘freebies’ too far. I was horrified a few years ago when I attended a ‘marketing’ conference where a number of companies were showcasing their product and service offerings. And no price for guessing: of course there were free samples of the products available to the conference delegates. Not only did I see individuals come and ‘receive’ the free samples, but they came back again, and again, going back to their cars to store what they had received and coming back for more. The result? Not all the conference attendees managed to receive samples.
How about the individual who goes to the same store in different locations so that they can receive the free make-up sample or free perfume sample?
I have also personally experienced the ‘give me for free’ expectation. One individual openly said to me ‘You have to give me your books for free’. When I asked ‘Why?’, their answer was ‘Because I have to get them for free’.
On giving and contributions
- Don’t get me wrong. Giving wholeheartedly is a noble act. However, sometimes donating and contributing, especially at public places where the contributions are dished out to all and sundry, creates a wrong culture of ‘entitlement’. In fact, it does not ‘empower’ individuals to start identifying what they can do to improve their own situations. After all, they know there will always be a Good Samaritan available to give out what they need.
- People who are not necessarily in need of the contributions, are driven by greed, and are not satisfied with what they have, take advantage of the donations and contributions and just take for the sake of taking.
- Sometimes, those who do not really need the donations do not put them to good and beneficial use.
On collecting free samples
- People start to take advantage of the free samples and do not see the need to pay for anything beyond the free sample or the need to buy the product. This creates a ‘bad’ culture of not taking responsibility and stewardship for your life and what you want.
- These people do not value themselves highly nor do they see the value of the product/service, and, as a result, they do not expect to pay for anything and feel entitled to continuously receive for free.
- People who do not invest in what they get for free, do not really make much of it. If I gave someone a free book that they didn’t deserve, they simply do not read it. Their life gets taken over by other ‘important’ things – and they put the book on the shelf, maybe to never be opened. I know, because, yes, I have given free books to some of those that I felt deserved them, but six months down the line, the excuse is ‘I still have not had the time to read it’ … and so on.
Are the ‘free samples’ really for free? Is the concept of ‘a free lunch’ real?
Economists say there is no such thing as a free lunch, because everything that you get for free has to be and is paid for by someone. Also, if anyone is getting you something for free, it is likely that they will want something in return.
Fact: It costs the government, and companies who are giving contributions, a considerable amount of money. Even if it may come out of a company’s ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ budget, or it’s from the government’s ‘service delivery budget’, the reality is that money was spent on those initiatives, and when it is not used for what it is intended, the main objectives are not achieved.
Fact: It costs companies and individuals to offer free samples. Yes, this is part of their marketing costs, and even though they realise that they may not realise the return in the sense that you may not come back and buy their products, the samples cost them money. By the same token, it has cost me a considerable amount of money to self-publish my books – and that is why I sell them at a price.
Can you get yourself out of the freebie mentality?
Of course there are people who, rightly so, deserve to receive donations to help them overcome their life’s challenges. And these people use the donations as would be expected. But, and it is a big BUT, are you one of those people who receive donations that they don’t need and then misuse them? Are you the type of person who does not believe in investing your money and buying something because you feel that you deserve it – for free? What good will anything amount to, if you did not invest in it?
- Do you really need the donations/free stuff or do you feel that you deserve them? The real problem here is your self-esteem, isn’t it? Perhaps you have a negative belief about yourself that culminates in you feeling entitled to donations and free things you don’t need. Could it be that for a long time, you were denied certain things and in trying to fill that gap, you are making up for it by grabbing anything that is freely available? If you don’t value yourself, then how will you value other people’s things?
- Is your chasing after donations and freebies driven by a lack of satisfaction of what you have, a feeling of wanting more? Is it possible that now you are driven by greed? Could it be possible that at some point, you had a real need, but now you overcompensate by being greedy and taking everything you can? If this is the case, then you need to review your motive: separate real need from exaggerated need.
- Is it a matter of life and death that you receive donations? And then sell them afterwards? Is the fact that you are chasing free stuff a matter of affordability for you, that is, you cannot afford to pay for them? Then again, the real problem is how you are managing your money, your budget, isn’t it? Having a personal budget gives you the freedom to plan how you spend your money and spend on your ‘must-have’ items as well as your ‘wants’. After all, you will be spending the money you worked for, but most importantly, you will know what you are spending it on. This is about taking responsibility for your life and planning for it: people who take freebies because they cannot afford to buy them need to learn how to handle their budget and plan how they will spend their money.
- Seeing that the sample that you got as a freebie is just a prototype and is not the full product, can you take pride in the fact that very soon you will run out as it will finish really quickly? What are you going to do? Go back and get another freebie? Then the problem here is your attitude about yourself, isn’t it? Could it be possible that you have a negative view of yourself? Perhaps you see yourself as being worthy of getting free things, and not having to pay for them? Is it possible that your sense of self-worth is so low that you feel you only deserve to get free things and cannot pay for them? If that is the case, then you need to change your attitude about yourself. It’s about determining: ‘What am I worth?’
- Are you a much better person after receiving the donation and the free stuff, and using it at someone else’s expense? Then, the problem here is more than your self-esteem; it is your sense of pride, isn’t it? Have you considered that while you are taking the donations and freebies that you don’t need, you are in fact taking away from people who really need them? Can you feel proud of what you are doing because you are depriving the real beneficiaries? Could it be that your pride doesn’t really matter? If that is the case, then you need to review your personal value system.
Get out of the ‘freebie’ mentality. You can change now. You don’t have to be a freebie person.
My challenge to you? Change the way you perceive yourself. Change your lifestyle. How about you start identifying a worthy cause where there is a real need and you can actually give something that will benefit those who are in real need? It is only when you give, that your blessings will be multiplied.
‘There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up’. John Holmes
The article was inspired by a discussion on the same topic by Ernest Pillay and Bongani Nxumalo on the 2000 fm’s Drive Time Experience in celebration of the Mandela Day on Friday 18 July 2014.