Saturday, October 24, 2009

Is Anything in Life Really Free?

My Mom loves junk mail. She could literally sit with a good offer and read it over and over again for an entire day. In fact, as I write this she is enthusiastically reading me an offer for a magazine subscription which includes a free garden issue. And... if we reply by November 10th, a free tote bag!
She reads the offer better than the announcer on any game show. Very convincing.
Her two favorite phrases to really play up when she comes across them, "that's right... you could win (fill in the blank depending on the offer)" and "call one, eight hundred (add numbers depending on the offer.)" She very deliberately enunciates each digit to ensure we don't mis-dial. They could literally hire her at a voice over agency.

She's on page two now, they've upped the ante -- if you send the preview card today you not only receive the garden issue and tote bag, but one "best ever issue" and four free special issues. "Well, can I get my tote bag today?" she just asked emphatically. I think she's finally figured out I hold the purse strings. I told her she needed to prove to me it's not a scam. Mistake! She just started reading the entire four page mailing piece. Again. From the top! She pauses after each section to say "what do you think of that?" Her way of luring me in. She's super impressed each time she notices that letter has her name on it. That for sure adds credibility. She just came across the tote bag offer for the 400th time and experienced the same joyful surprise as she did round one. "Wow! Are we getting all that?!" Followed by "I've never had a tote bag like that." Again, showmanship, purely trying to win me over.

During a recent business trip, our caregiver called and said my Mom wouldn't let up on trying to book a free lasik eye exam. Yep, I said, last week it was a storm door consultation (we live in a condo), and the week before that teeth whitening. Sneak the material away from her as soon as you can before the irritation becomes unbearable, I advised.

Sometimes I use the enthusiasm and enclosed response card as an opportunity to get her to work on her writing skills. I have her fill in the name and address section. Her hand does not cooperate with her brain very often, so I have to find several response cards from any kind of offer before we start to fill one in. She gets really worried or distraught if she makes a mistake, concerned it may jeopardize the offer. By having extras on hand we can keep trying to get it right.
Other times, she'll express concern over what day it is so she doesn't miss the deadline. On those occasions I grab a calendar and have her figure out how many days until the offer ends.
They're all great activities and help keep her mind sharp. She's cutting out the response card right now. I might actually let her send this one in. We'll enjoy the magazine and she is really over the top with that cheap little tote.

I can't help but think that allowing this indulgence flies in the face of the bits of wisdom she used to impart on me when I was young and wanted something for nothing -- which I think went ever so cleverly, "you can't get something for nothing." In this case, she keeps missing the part that says -- "all with your paid subscription." And the advertisers don't make it at all that clear exactly how much that is. She'd also put us off by telling us that whatever we wanted was "probably junk." Sometimes it's okay to break the rules and risk getting taken. My Mom also used to caution often that "there are no free rides in life." While I'm old enough now to know that's definitely true, I guarantee you that the ride from filling out the postpaid card to dropping it off at the mail box will be pretty fun! What more can you ask from life?

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