08 August 2011

Getting the Best of "31 Flavors"

I was a kid in Clovis, New Mexico and one of the things that my family did occasionally, as a treat, was visit the local Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream Shop.  They had all those flavors (31 varieties was advertised at the time) and I could get a scoop of anything I wanted, although I was very, very shy and always went conservative with "Rocky Road" or some such.  It was a nice memory and good ice cream!

I don't know when I noticed it, but I finally figured out the concept of "taste spoons".  I suppose I was watching other kids and they would buzz around the counter like flies and constantly ask for a stream of free tastes of ice cream.  It didn't take me long to decide that these little devils were working some kind of pre-adolescent scam, abusing the marketing generosity of the shop just to "score" some free ice cream with no intention of ever really legitimately buying anything.

The shop in Clovis is now closed and I can only think it was because too much ice cream was being doled out for free on tiny taste spoons and not enough ice cream was getting purchased.  The whole point of the shop was selling ice cream products, not handing out an unlimited stream of free samples.  Promotional tastes of ice cream are fine, but at some point, you have to discriminate between paying customers and thieves that are taking your stock away one plastic spoon at a time!

This brings up a certain class of people that I absolutely abhor:  "free-stuff" hucksters.  People getting ice cream for free one tiny spoon at a time is just one example.  You have surely seen others.  There are the people selling intricate information about how to get grants and interest-free loans from the government by posing as something they are not.  There are the people who show you how to spend your life cutting coupons and saving hundreds of dollars on groceries that they would normally never have bought.  I have even heard of a guy that sells the free baseball caps he hoards at fairs and farm shows on eBay as his sole source of income!

These things are not illegal of course, but I find them distracting to the sort of honest life people might be living.  It is all just a variant of the classic "get-rich-quick" scheme designed for gullible people with, in this case, little "scamming" money.  Of course, people can spend their time on whatever they choose, but I hope there are better things to do with time and effort than trying to save or make a few pennies by working some small hustle.  For some people, this "free ride" becomes a severely limited lifestyle and desire is lost for a better, more expansive and fulfilling future.