It's time for the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore to look into misleading gimmicks that use the word "free".
The word "free" is abused in advertising jargon in all sorts of ways. Shops often offer so-called "free" membership, which allows one to buy their products at a discount, but the catch is that one must spend a minimum amount on their products first. Businesses also give away free products that come with a subscription.
"Free gifts" work using the principle of commitment. Once customers are enticed by a "free" gift, they are more willing to spend money and buy things they don't need.
When people are offered something for free, the positive reaction that arises can cloud their judgment.
Faced with a "buy one get one free" promotion, consumers love the idea of getting something at half the price and end up buying a lot more than they originally planned.
What consumers don't realise is that after the promotion, the same product on its own sells for only slightly more than the one they bought at "half the price".
Getting something for nothing inspires loyalty among existing customers while gaining potential new customers.
Consumers must question the value and worth of a product when given for free. What could be wrong with the product? Why is it free? What's in it for them? What are the terms and conditions? What is the catch behind the free products?
The appeal behind "free" lies with reciprocity: When a brand does something for its customers, the customers feel obliged to do something for them in return.
Cheng Choon Fei