Confused.com have pinned their entire current campaign (or a one-off TV ad) on it: the notion that ‘free’ rarely means just that.
In fact, ‘free’ is usually a bullshit term for ‘and now we’ll try and flog you something’ or ‘it’s only free if you pay for something else’.
BT will usually offer you three months’ ‘free broadband’… if you buy into an 18-month TV and broadband package.
I’ve lost count of the number of times O2 have called me to offer me a ‘free iPad’… if I take on another 24-month phone contract.
And how many times have you been approached to have ‘your website reviewed for free’, when you just know they’re not going to come back and say ‘yup – all fine’ (and lo and behold, they come back and say you need £1k worth of changes made…bore off).
I’ve written sales funnels where ‘free’ – usually in relation to an online course or a book full of tips (as generic as they come) – either means ‘only if you buy this’ or ‘only if we can endlessly spam you with emails and calls to upsell you into this’.
Imagine my surprise then, when I was offered a ‘free CV review’ by Top CV (‘what’ve I got to lose?’ I thought, ‘I can just ignore their emails if they’re salesy’) and they did just that – reviewed my CV… for free.
In fact, not only did they review it, they reviewed it in great detail. They produced a full report, 2 – 3 pages, with clearly actionable points which referred to specific parts of my CV (I knew it was tired looking).
Towards the end of the report, there was a ‘read more’ button and I thought ‘here we go – the full report will only be available if I pay £x’, but no, I was able to read on.
It looked, to me, like a good 3 – 4 hours’ work had gone into reviewing my CV, and I’d been asked for nothing in return. In fact, I’d been left with changes I could make to my CV, to make it better.
I emailed the person who’d reviewed it, to say thank you, and got a polite response back, wishing me the best of luck: no upsell.
I’ve since checked their site and you can buy certain packages, starting at £99. I assume people very often can’t be bothered to change their CV and pass it over to the professionals.
So there you have it, free – for once – actually meant free.
Should I be less cynical or shall I revert back to thinking of ‘free’ as a bullshit term for ‘if we can flog you this’?