Ciao! There truly is no such thing as a free lunch, or even breakfast

BILL KLAUBER

P. T. Barnum is reputed to have said that there is a sucker born every minute. My wife says, and I won’t dispute her, that I was one of them about 41 million minutes ago. (Go ahead, try to guess my age.)

My wife also says that there is no such thing as a free lunch. That I will dispute and I have a waist line to prove me right. From lunches (and occasionally dinners, which are served at 4 p.m.) promoting all sorts of investments to exotic trips and even cruises, the opportunities for a free meal or trip are unlimited.

One such opportunity arose recently when we were offered an almost free trip to a resort city. Once there, the hotel was almost free and there were other incentives that were extremely enticing. So, we took the bait.

I should say I took the bait, as well as the hook, line and sinker. My wife, of course, reiterated her objection, but finally agreed to go, probably to assure that I did nothing rash.

The catch, of course, was to listen to a sales pitch on the value of vacation home ownership. In the “old days,” the sales pitch was accompanied by a film narrated by Arthur Kennedy about the opportunities of belonging to some timeshare club where you can swap your two weeks in Timbukto for two weeks on the Riviera provided of course that you have pink time or chartreuse time or whatever the color of that month might be.

No, today everything is a lot more sophisticated than that. Upon checking in, we were assigned a time for a “brief” presentation the next morning with breakfast provided. Well, I told my wife, we were going to eat breakfast any way. Turns out they kept us so long that they should have provided lunch as well.

We arrived at the resort’s “welcome center” along with about two or three dozen other suckers — eh, couples. We were herded into a large corridor pending assignment to a “counselor.”

“Where’s the breakfast?” I asked. “We were promised breakfast.” (We hadn’t had anything but airline food — and I use that term advisedly — in almost a day.)

My wife said I was acting like David Copperfield when he pleaded for more porridge. I said the Dickens with that, and reminded her that we were promised breakfast.

Before I could throw a real tantrum, we heard our name being called. The “counselor” assigned to us escorted us to a large room subdivided into small nooks, each with a round table and three chairs. We saw the other couples heading toward similar nooks with their assigned “counselors.”

Before I could repeat my plea for breakfast, our “counselor” invited us to go into the next room where coffee and doughnuts were being offered.

“Take what you want and bring it back with you,” she suggested.

This is breakfast, I muttered as my wife smirked at my naivety. “What did you expect, bacon and eggs?” Well, I thought there would at least be some fresh fruit and an assortment of Danish. “They’ll buy you a full course dinner if you sign on the dotted line,” she said.

Once seated, we were subjected to a smooth, but “canned” presentation on the wonderful opportunities that awaited us if we purchased that day. These included ownership in an international company with unlimited locations throughout the free world and beyond.

When there was no mention about seeing the Arthur Kennedy film, or about trading our place in the sun, we felt a bit more relaxed.

Just at that time, our “counselor” invited us to attend a “brief” video presentation of all of the opportunities available as a result of ownership in their timeshare.

In the theatre we were joined by the dozens of couples earlier mentioned. Most of them had that wide eyed stare of fatigue that we had.

There was no mention of the various colors of the seasons except that everything would be rosy. No talk of four walls that could be traded for four walls somewhere else even more exotic than ours. Instead the narrator emphasized the points we could accumulate for stays at places all over the world.

Once the film was over we again were united with our “counselor” who was ready for the kill.

She reviewed all that she had earlier covered, including our individual desires — extrapolated from our few minutes were her earlier. Even our psychiatrist — if we had one — wouldn’t have been that audacious.

She explained that she was going through a checklist that she said she was required to complete. She kept emphasizing the need to make an immediate decision or forfeit the opportunity forever and a day.

Finally, when she realized that we were not buyers, she summoned help. Her supervisor arrived and reviewed all that had been previously discussed. But, he told us, he was in a position to offer us something even better, provided we were ready then to enroll in the program.

He reviewed his one time only offer, consulting several pages of numbers as he did. His final shot was to show us the most special deal he had never, ever offered based on an additional incentive that he was able to promise if we accepted then and there.

My wife, knowing my difficulty in saying no to a perceived bargain, responded with an emphatic no and began to hum the song “Please Release Me, Let Me Go.”

That did it. We were liberated. As we departed, my wife murmured to me “there is no such thing as a free lunch.”

With an air of relief, we strolled away and headed for the closest restaurant.

An unsuspecting waiter approached our table. Tell me, I said, that you have no free lunch.

“No,” he said, “but if you go across the street they are offering a free lunch if you are willing to listen to a one-hour presentation on investing in one of their franchises.”

We both passed out.

Ciao.

© 2010 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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