best things in life are free, or so pop songs and well-meaning grandparents insist.
While love and sunlight and smiles still don't cost a cent, much of what used
to be free isn't anymore.
bones" at the butcher.
"Once it was OK to ask for them and the butcher would wrap them up for you,
but now they call them soup bones or soup starters and they are $1.69 to $1.89,"
says Spider, a semi-retired artist in Mesa, Arizona.
Extra cheese at the pizza parlor. Forget having a little more cheese, just
because you're the customer and it's the restaurant's job to make you happy. "Now
everything is premeasured and instead of flipping an extra handful on the pie,
they ring up another dollar and grumble about going to the refrigerator for it.
Or worse, charge you for it, but 'forget' to put it on," adds Spider.
Butter at restaurants. Expect to pay for it at Bruegger's Bagels, in the Midwest,
and at many Dunkin' Donuts outlets on the East Coast. The cheaper the restaurant,
the more likely you'll pay for butter.
"It used to be available in bunches at no charge," says Glennis McNeal.
"It helped flavor the soup made from 'dog bones'
also provided free by the butcher, who was kind enough not to ask for proof of
Coffee refills. The local diner may refill your cup for free, but don't expect
the pricey coffee house to give you a second cup of java for free. At $3 or $4
a pop, Starbucks won't give up profits to be that generous.
Water. Sarah Courteau, who grew up in Arkansas, sometimes has to pay for a
glass of water. She's not the only one complaining about that indignity. In fact,
Arizona had to pass a law making it illegal to charge a parched customer
for a little H2O.
cups. In the old
days, a deli might give you a paper cup to take a pill or split a soda can between
two kids. But a sign in a funky Des Moines coffee shop spells out the hard modern
"We don't give out paper cups."
wrapping in many stores is an extra-cost item now and that used to be the bachelor's
salvation," says Spider. "The people wrapping them seemed to care and
they had some real skill. "Now it's plain paper and a stick-on bow that won't,"
he says. "You're supposed to pay for a fancy bag to put the gift in since
everybody is too busy to even unwrap what your hard-earned money went for."
9. Supermarket carts. Remember when you could just take a cart
and shop? At some chains, you now need to lend the store a quarter for the use
of the cart. No quarter, and you'll be stuck carrying, not wheeling.
Bags. Call 'em what you like sacks, bags, wraps they now cost
money at many grocery stores. ALDI, a discount food chain with outlets in Illinois
and Iowa, charges 10 cents a bag.
Shipping. Von Maur, a department store in the Midwest, will ship your merchandise
for free. But that doesn't happen too often anymore.
for the lost. "Highway
maps at gas stations used to be free," says Dave Bertollo, a computer scientist
in Orangeburg, New York. Seldom the case now.
gas stations. You
pretty much have to pump your own gas in nearly every state, except New Jersey.
That isn't the way it used to be. "Going to get gas for the car meant somebody
would check your oil and clean your windows
all of 'em. And mirrors," says Spider. "Now you pay extra for 'full
service' and that just means some bored person will stand by the gas filler to
make sure the tank overflows onto the paint." The gas-station freebies are
gone, too. No windscreen cleaning, oil checking, radiator filling or tire-pressure
checking," he says.
Air for the tires. Free air for your flat or water for the overheating radiator
was common, according to several older drivers. In fact, they point out that someone
usually came out to help and that was free, too.
School supplies. Kris Jones, a health economist in Orangeburg, New York.,
remembers free rulers and pencils. No more.
for college students.
The cost of copies used to be included in tuition. "Printing and copying
at university libraries used to be free," says Brian Martin, who recently
graduated from George Washington University in Washington, DC. "It's eight
cents a page at GW now." And at the famed University of Iowa Writers' Workshop,
a $12 "copy fee" is tacked on for many courses.
Cashing a check. "Banks are supposed to cash checks written by persons
who have accounts with them," says Don Baumgart, a writer in Nevada City,
California. "A free service, right? Wrong. A recent story aired by KCRA TV
in Sacramento told the story of two workers who don't have checking accounts who
(took) their paychecks to the issuing banks to cash them," Baumgart says.
"And they were charged $5 because they were not customers of that particular
used to be a state law in Iowa prohibiting ATM fees," says Laura Crossett,
an Iowa native who now lives near Chicago. "Obviously, that's a thing of
the past. I no longer have an ATM card, as a protest." Go to an ATM and try
to find out your balance, and you might be charged a buck for the privilege.
They're harder and harder to find.
Telephone information. Remember when you could call the operator and
get a human operator, not a computer to give you a phone number, free of
it's still free. Even in this time of rising consumer complaints, great customer
service is still free if you can find it. "I'm a bicycle commuter,"
says Marge Murray, a mathematician. "A couple of weeks back I brought my
bike in to have them check an annoying, potentially ominous clacking sound in
my bicycle crank. They took me right in, looked at the bike right away, made a
couple of adjustments and sent me on my way, gratis. Aaah.
bottom line ...
Some things are still free, but you've got to search for them.
So walk outside, and look at the sky
there, and still free.
Story by Aviya Kushner at Bankrate.com