Free – as in mind

An outfit called MacHeist is running an interesting promotion with, as I write, just nine hours to go. The pitch is six applications for your Apple Mac, applications ‘worth’ $154, for… well, for no money at all. What they say is ‘for free’. But I don’t think that’s right.

When they’ve run this sort of thing before, there’s always been a cash price. So far I’ve never jumped in.

My best guess about my own motives used to be this: I was holding back because although the price was low, it was still not low enough, it still exceeded the value I put on owning any one of the applications in the bundle. Just to be clear, each time around there has been at least one application that I really thought I liked the look of.

Well I think my best guess about my own motives was just wrong. Because I’m still not jumping in.

So here’s what I have got out of MacHeist this time around: a clearer insight into why even free – as in no cash cost – is too high a price for me.

It’s the same when the pizza chain guy comes to the door with this no strings money off voucher scheme – and there’s “no commitment” and “if you do it even once you’ll save money”. I say no. The hidden cost is stuff in my head, clogging up my decision making processes, in a way that I just don’t want. When I’m trying to decide who to order my carry out from, I don’t want marginal cash savings to run interference with my choosing style. I don’t want, say, to be steered to pizza rather than curry just because, in a moment of weakness, I picked up some voucher.

So if I am going to install a new application on my computer then, again, I want the right values to inform that decision making. Is the application going to make my time at the screen better or worse, more elegant or more like using a scratchy biro? And, in any case, do I want to be making decisions about that right now, on the seller’s schedule and not mine.

Well, I could just sign up, get the goods and then, at a time of my choosing, evaluate the new applications along with other potential candidates. Couldn’t I? I could just take the pizza voucher and only spring it after I had decided that, tonight, yes, I do want pizza. Couldn’t I? Well, maybe you could. I know what I’m like when I let this kind of stuff get in my head. If I’ve invested a bit, I feel some sort of obtuse obligation to follow through. And then I’ve given away a bit of my mind to pizza guy, sold a bit of my soul to software seller.

These sales folk are smart and creative. For some people they are offering a great deal. But I’m not biting. Not at zero cash cost and, hey, not even if you paid me.