My weekend was filled with little lessons in economics.
Free coffee. I started my morning with a few errands. Along the way, I passed a coffee shop, so I decided to grab a cappuccino. Just my luck, it was peak demand time, and the line of customers was excessively long. Fortunately for me, they had set up a table by the door with samples of their new roast in little paper cups. It was barely a shot, but it was caffeine, and it was free. I doubled the volume in the cup by adding milk, and left with just that drink. (I still wanted my fancy tall beverage, so I ended up driving back to that same store later in the day. My free drink cost me extra miles on my car.)
Free comics. Saturday was Free Comic Book Day. I don’t really read many comics, and I rarely buy graphic novels, but the annual event lets me sample what’s new. I found a small comics shop in a remote part of town where I was running other errands. The place was filled with people of all ages, and the staff was helpful. I like to support independent retailers, so I also bought an issue of something from the sale rack for two dollars. (As it turns out, it was chapter 19 of a long series, so maybe it wasn’t such a deal after all.)
That store had a two-per-person limit on the free comics, so I decided to “cheat” and get some more elsewhere. Back in my own neighborhood, the local comic store was crowded, too, but the atmosphere here was different. They had balloons and people in costume, and artists had set up tables outside to sell their custom drawings. To get to the display of free comics, I had to pass a grumpy attendant taking down names and signing people up for their mailing list. I told her I was already on their list, but she insisted that I had to sign in to get a free comic. I suppose even free things have a price to pay? At least their free selection did have a few titles that the first store did not have, but again the limit was two. They also were running a sale, but with a much smaller discount. My desire to support their business cost me six dollars, and now I have issues 1 and 2 of a series that I will probably track down at the library to read rather than purchase.
Free movie rental. Our public library system is an amazing concept. We take out books, read them, and return them without paying a cent. When they first added video years ago, they charged a daily fee per VHS tape. Eventually they added DVDs to the collection, and dropped the fees, lending movies by the week — a shorter term than books but now for free. Today I can “rent” an entire season of a television show in a DVD box set and keep it for three weeks, thanks to my library membership card. The only “cost” is that I need to drive to the library to return them. And this weekend it cost me twenty minutes of standing in line at the automated return window because their computer system was down.
Free sandwich. I needed to pick up something for dinner, and I chose to go to a cheesesteak sandwich place near the library. I had a loyalty card, the kind that they add an ink stamp for every purchase. Buy fifteen sandwiches and get the sixteenth for free! Of course, the free sandwich they offer is only the small size with only the basic toppings. My deluxe options cost me a few dollars more.
Free parking. Everywhere I drove this weekend had a parking lot. I never had to park on the street or pay to enter a garage. People around here take such things for granted. Just wait until the holiday shopping season kicks in, and all the spaces are filled. At least one shopping mall sets up a valet service, where people are willing to pay someone to find them a free parking space.
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