“There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”
This we often hear, and a wealth of evidence underpins its credibility. Example: someone you don’t know invites you to enjoy a sandwich at no cost. Upon arriving, you begin to eat. Ham and meatballs let’s say, your favorite in this hypothetical. The stranger is very friendly, and you enjoy his company initially, but he begins to ask leading questions about where you take your vacations and what you pay for them. Soon it becomes clear that this person is attempting to sell you on the purchase of a time-share property in the dregs of Florida. You pass on the offer, but the lunch has proven to be anything but free. The time you’ve spent listening to the pitch, making your objections, then remaking them, has unquestionably been a cost.
That sort of situation is clear to anyone, and very likely the origin of the saying we’re examining, but here’s another. A friend you like very much invites you to lunch at a sit down establishment. When you’re done eating, and the bill comes, the friend grabs it and insists he pay. You say he doesn’t have to, but he won’t hear of it, and gives his credit card to the server. You think nothing of it, besides what a good friend he is. His name is Ralph, one of your favorite names in this hypothetical, but that isn’t necessary to remember.
A month later, Ralph invites you to lunch again. At first nothing is any different. You discuss various things and share some laughs, and eat your respectable dishes. However, when the bill comes, Ralph makes no motion to look at it. It almost seems he’s ignoring its presence. Your best judgment indicates that he’s expecting you to pay. You want to hold to the notion that free lunches exist, so you pay only for yourself, and with some histrionic sighs, Ralph finally adds money.
Only, you don’t hear from Ralph again. Several weeks later, you try calling him, but he doesn’t call back. You suspect this is based on your behavior at the second lunch, and you’re right. In this scenario, the first lunch has cost you one friend. You seek another friend name Ralph and learn very few men of your generation have been assigned that name. You may never have another Ralph in your life.
Both of these are clear examples of the inability to obtain a free lunch. However, we cannot grow and change unless we challenge our own status quo, and that often means challenging widely held believes. So let’s take a look at a third scenario:
You bring yourself to dinner at a local chain eatery. In this hypothetical let’s say it’s TGI Friday’s, but it can be the Olive Garden or P.F. Chang’s if that’s easier for you to envision. You sit at a table for one and eat an entree. Perhaps an appetizer too. Dessert Even. When you’re done, ask for the check. Only, while the server is preparing it, you flee the restaurant and drive away in your car, which you parked in another parking lot so that it would not be seen, because the chew-and-screw (as we called in this author’s darker days) was your plan all along. Was the meal not free? Perhaps the scheme might appear work-like, but in term’s of its motions it’s just the same as if you had payed, only without the paying step.
Even if you become enamored with the technique and try it many places and are eventually caught, you will likely pay (either in money or justice dollars, which involves fines, community service, or incarceration) only for that particular incident. You will not be held to account for most, or all the other times you pulled off the trick. Hence, those are, free lunches.
And viola, we have proved wrong a staple of conventional wisdom in just a few paragraphs. The careful reader will also note that we have disproven another fallacy, that which states “Crime doesn’t pay.” Crime always pays in situations where one is not caught, and if the amount of crimes you’ve gotten away with outnumbers the amount for which you’ve been caught, this designates a profit. Thus, it is better to the bottom line to commit the maximum number of crimes.
Today, forget conventional wisdom! I can throw all the old rules out window, along with several laws, if doing so benefits me.