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It's All Free...

  |  January 24, 2000   |  Comments

Nick had a bad dream. He woke up and found that his home was full of free stuff. Free appliances. Free food for the dog. Free clothing. Even a free entertainment center. Not too shabby for a bad dream. Trouble is, nothing is free. Not even in a dream.

I had a bad dream.

I woke up and found that my home was full of free stuff.

Free appliances. Free food for my dog. Free clothing. Even a free entertainment center.

Not too shabby for a bad dream.

Trouble is, nothing is free. Not even in a dream.

My free fridge was given to me on the condition that I purchase all my food from a supermarket owned by the fridge manufacturer.

In fact, my groceries are automatically delivered to me based on the current contents of the fridge. The items in the grocery order are selected according to my prior eating preferences, with allowances made for holidays and birthdays, which I input through the appliance keyboard.

And of course, if I want an extra bag of chocolate chip cookies, I can add them into the order manually.

Well, I could. Until the appliance manufacturer was purchased by the interactive arm of my health insurance company.

To keep their costs and my premiums down, I am now prohibited from food items that are high in sugar or cholesterol. So they simply never appear in my fridge or cupboards.

Same thing with the dog, which I don't like. Never have liked dogs.

However, the same insurance company is convinced that the companionship of pets reduces the long-term medical costs of their owners.

As for the free clothing... Well, the underwear is also supplied by my insurance company. I can't tell the difference from regular underwear, but apparently it contains sensors that monitor my heartbeat, breathing and the molecular make-up of my sweat. Twice a week, I pop the used items into a FedEx envelope. I guess they go for analysis somewhere.

From time to time, I receive some suggestions as to my diet and exercise routines. And I'm noticing more fruit in the fridge.

I'm also having medication delivered once a week. I received an email explaining its purpose, but have never had to visit a doctor.

As for my other clothes, they're free too. And although I didn't think I would, I'm getting used to the advertising slogans on the back and front of every item. At first I felt like an over-hyped professional athlete, with product endorsements from head to toe. But you get used to it.

The home entertainment center is great: a 72-inch TV with programming personalized to my preferences. And the ads it puts in front of me push items and services I am most likely - according to the central database - to buy... from companies owned by that interactive arm of my insurance company.

I did a little research into the ownership of the insurance company. Apparently, they are owned by a transnational food giant that also owns both the pharmaceutical company that provides my medication and the cable company that delivers my TV programs.

A food company? Who would have guessed.

But as they say, the way to a man's heart - and income - is through his stomach.

This wouldn't be such a bad dream (if it really was a dream) were it not for the fact that I'm getting the sense that my "free will" is becoming horribly aligned with my "wallet of preferences." That is to say, I seem to be living the demographic and psychographic profile assigned to me by some nitwit from Minnesota.

It would appear that one of the last remaining things in my life that is not free is me.

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Nick Usborne

Nick Usborne speaks, writes, and consults on strategic copy issues for business online. For Web sites, e-mails and newsletters, he crafts messages that drive results. He is the author of the critically acclaimed bookNet Words - Creating High-Impact Online Copy.

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