Stop using ‘free’ to describe products, services

To the editor:

The Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business should discontinue use of the word “free” when referring to products and services being offered at no direct cost to the recipient. Whether an article promotes free meals, free Covid tests, or, in this case free business advice (“7,271 Washington businesses got free pandemic advice,” September 2020 issue), those products and services are not due to an unlimited supply of manna raining down from heaven. There are costs associated with each offering and those costs are borne by someone else. It requires time, talent, taxes, earnings, effort or resources, and someone else has paid the price to make something available to others without receiving payment in return.

I am not suggesting that such programs are wasteful, wrong or unimportant, but the term “free” is inaccurate, and it also subtly implies that such help is insignificant, easy, or of minimal value. Maybe we could adopt a new acronym similar to the phrase, By One, Get One (BOGO), as used by the sales and marketing folks. Let’s try, Donated by Someone Who Cares for You (DONSOCY), Provided by Others (PROBO), or maybe No Payment by Recipient (NOPAYR).

Don’t minimize the kindness and generosity of the good folks providing the products or services mentioned in the Journal. Just be sure that the word “free” is eliminated from the offer.

Bradford J. Sewart, Richland

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