Freebies Aren’t Free

, , , | Right | September 10, 2018

(I annually volunteer to run a shop for a charity when they have a stall at a country and outdoor fair. This isn’t by any means a ‘professional’ shop; the charity corporate sends items and prices and I set up the shop and basically watch that nothing gets stolen. The bulk of our stock is promotional leaflets and informative things, but also free badges, lanyards, magazines, and kid’s activity books. Most of the items we sell are also promotional or charity endorsed, such as bronze badges and DVDs. All of the funds go back to the charity. A family are milling around my table: a couple of kids, their mother, and their grandfather.)

Me: “Please feel free to help yourself to the things on that table. Would your kids like a badge each, perhaps?”

Guest: “Oh, great!”

(They gather round the table and help themselves, mostly to badges and kid’s activity books. I don’t mind the badges — corporate sent hundreds — but we don’t have that many kid’s activity books and I’m watching a good chunk of them disappear when I’ve still got a good two days of running the stall. But, I realise that I can’t really fault them because I told them to help themselves!)

Guest: *holding up lanyard* “Is this free, too?”

Me: *smiling, not knowing what else to say* “Yep!”

Guest: “Great.” *proceeds to pass one out to all her family members*

Daughter: *looking at the gilt lapel badges for sale* “Can I get one of these?”

Guest: “A pin!” *to me* “Oh, she wants to be like her granddad; he’s a [Charity] member!” *calling* “Grandad come look at this!”

Grandad: “Ah, I’ve got one like that!” *to Daughter* “Tell her that your granddad’s a member, and you get a discount!” *laughs*

Me: *smiling, knowing most of our customers are also members and HQ would have my skin if the money-box came back short* “That’ll be £4.60 for you today, please.”

Daughter: *gets the money out of her own pocket and is very polite* “Thanks!”

Me: “Thank you! Enjoy your day!”

(They leave, I restock my very depleted freebie table and think that’s that. They weren’t exactly the worst possible customers. Then, an hour or so later, the whole troupe spills back into the stall.)

Grandad: “She’s lost her badge. We were up at the archery.”

Me: “Oh… I’m sorry to hear that.”

Grandad: *tugging at the one I have pinned down on the table* “Yes, she wants another one.”

Me: “We still have several here under the table, I’ll just get you a new one.” *I do* “£4.60 please.”

Guest: “Didn’t you hear? She lost it.”

Me: “I understand; that’s very unfortunate. I’m really sorry, but I can’t give you a replacement for free.”

Grandad: *irate* “But she lost—”

Older Volunteer: “Is everything okay here?”

Grandad: *quickly thrusting a five pound note in my direction* “Fine, fine. The wee lassie here was just seeing if you’d any more badges in stock!”

Me: “And here’s your change. Thanks again!”

(They did leave for good after that, but not before taking another handful of lanyards and buttons!)

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