Tuesday, April 27, 2004

There's No Such Thing as a Free Ice Cream Cone

Julian alerts us to Ben & Jerry’s annual Free Cone Day. “TISATAAFICC” (There Is Such a Thing as a Free Ice Cream Cone), he says, playing off Robert Heinlein’s TANSTAAFL (There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch) slogan.

Julian’s only joking, as I'm sure he realizes the slogan doesn’t mean that you personally always pay, but that someone always pays. B&J’s pays the cost of production and (most likely) classifies it as a marketing expense. But in this case, it turns out that the free cone recipients have to pay, too. I went to a B&J’s store a few years ago on Free Cone Day, and I ended up waiting about an hour in line to get my free cone. That could be a pretty steep price for someone with a high opportunity cost of their time. In retrospect, it would have made more sense to just a buy a pint at the convenience store.

Incidentally, Heinlein actually didn’t invent the TANSTAAFL slogan (though he may have been responsible for the acronym version). Here’s the origin of the saying.

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