Free is good right? Or, getting something at a bargain price that’s almost free. Either way, getting something for minimal outlay can be enticing. How about a free trip to Japan, with roundtrip airfare paid. Good deal, right?
Well, maybe not.
At first, my eyes lit up when I saw news stories pop up that the Japan Tourism Agency might be offering 10,000 free roundtrips to Japan. Word was that if funding was approved, signups could begin as soon as Spring 2012. The idea appears to be to kickstart tourism there again, to get visitors coming again and spending money, following the fears after the nuclear disasters there. I had posted months ago about my concerns about being near the Japanese nuclear facilities. Seems like people like me would be candidates to have our minds changed, at least on the surface.
Here’s the part that really got me even more interested: they would want the recipients to be able to promote the trips on blogs or social media. So of course I thought “Hey wait a minute. I have a blog, I have a Twitter account…hey, why not me? I could see it now, The Wise Squirrel in Japan…”
There is No Such Thing As a Free Lunch
This is a saying that my father mentioned to me on more than one occasion when growing up. I had previously relayed a story on a free lunch that I had received which got me thinking how it wasn’t truly free. It was sponsored by a company promoting the upcoming launch of a new television show, and they also gave out some promotional material with the sandwich. Of course that got me to tell people about it, and search for it online.
Well, that concept of “there is no such thing as a free lunch” can apply to this trip to Japan too. Note that the terms of the free trip as mentioned in news reports indicate that round trip air fare would be provided under that potential program. Hotel accomodations, food, and other expenses were not mentioned.
That’s a big deal, actually. Tokyo is well known as being a very expensive city, with hotel rooms that cost an outrageous amount of money. Plus, food can be expensive there as well. Want to get around the city? Interested in venturing to other parts of the country? That will cost you money from your own pocket as well. All of these costs are not insignificant.
If someone is on a strict budget, or is carrying debt, is a vacation that will ultimately cost thousands of dollars anyway really worth it?
The trip to Japan is a compelling example as it’s based on more recent news. However, there is another example that comes to mind. I had written a post in 2010 about $1 houses in Detroit. In that post, I commented on how a house can be purchased for the price of a cup of coffee. After looking at this further, it’s clear that there’s more involved than just getting a cheap house. In reality, those houses might require some signficant work to become habitable. Additionally, there are taxes and other expenses that generally don’t go away. As I noted in another post, just by paying off your home and owning it outright, you never truly “own” your home free of major costs.
Back to the “Free” Japan Trip
Based on how this has been described, would I take this Japan opportunity if offered to me? No, probably not.
I would like to visit Japan someday. I’ve visited a other Asian countries (China, India) and would like to explore Japan. Frankly, I’m not worried about the nuclear plant in terms of visiting other parts of the country – such as Tokyo, for example.
However, as I noted, those other costs would be too high. Sure, the overall trip costs would be a lot lower than if I would otherwise take the trip. However, just because something is on sale or at a discount, it doesn’t mean that it’s worth it. We understand this concept with normal consumer purchases, so it applies here too.
Of course, if people could turn around and sell the free trip on some secondary market, that might be a win-win 🙂
My Questions for You
Based on the terms of trip as you know them to be (roundtrip air provided but nothing else), would you take them up on such an offer?
Do you see this way differently from how I do, or are you aligned with my position? Curious about why or why not?
Have you ever experienced situations where you had a chance to buy something for a big discount, but turned it down?