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CCFB News» April 2021

Downwind"The value of free?"

04/02/2021 @ 11:45 am | By Bob Rohrer CAE, FBCM, Manager

Through the years, I have been heard saying the following phrase: “‘Free’ is one of my favorite words.” Free lunch. Free beverage. Free tools. Free wood. Free equipment. Freedom. I frequently offer “free” advice, especially to my kids. There is something about the word “Free”.


For many years, I was much like a college student regarding free furniture. “Sure, I’ll take it!” Quality, appearance, and comfort were optional. Finally, my wife and I have started a much more selective process regarding furniture, at least. We feel like such grown-ups!


I have begun to realize, probably too late in life, that the value of free stuff is usually about what you pay for it.


A classic example of free was when my wife and I were offered a “free” hot tub several years ago. Why did I say “yes”? I do not remember ever wanting a hot tub. The small print was, “We only had to come get it.” That process took some major coordination with strong friends, a large trailer, and a creative moving strategy.


Hot tubs do not look that big or heavy in their natural environment. In order to get the hot tub to the preferred location, we rolled the hot tub on its side and up the back sidewalk to our back patio. In retrospect, rolling a hot tub is probably not good for either its external or internal physical integrity.


To prepare for the “free” hot tub, we paid some serious dollars to install a 220 electric circuit necessary to run the hot tub systems. We paid plenty of dollars for the water treatment products, testing, and balancing. The pool/hot tub company billed us faithfully to come out and repair the hot tub each time we called. Finally, during a subzero stretch of winter a few years ago, the hot tub ceased functioning, resulting in cracked pipes and parts.


That was enough… I spent a great deal of time and energy (and a bit of money) with a reciprocating saw, cutting that free hot tub into small pieces. I then rationed those pieces into the garbage for pickup over a 3-month period. What did I learn about the word “free”? Not much, apparently.


A few years ago, my Dad, the farmer, offered to me a small 5’ x 8’ flatbed utility trailer… for “free”. Yes, I was all in. I had visions of all the hauling I could do for many home projects we had planned. Plus, I could feel more like a farmer with my big rig.


The “free” trailer was great to use in the first couple years. We used it to haul fencing lumber, decking boards, loads of mulch, lawn tractors, grills, patio furniture, retaining wall pavers, attic insulation, wood flooring, and more. It felt like a pretty good use of the word “free” by saving delivery charges, time and time again.


However, today, the trailer’s plywood flooring is deteriorating, and the tires will only stay inflated for a day or so. The turn signal/brake lights work when the wires are wiggled properly. Don’t hit a bump. A giant hickory tree fell on the corner of the trailer, springing its squareness. It is now a bit twisted.


I’m beginning to consider the “Is it worth it?” price point for this free trailer? Two years ago, it did not matter much. The major cost of the trailer was the Secretary of State license fee for $18…inexpensive.


The other day, I was sitting in my kitchen looking at a new license renewal for $118 to the Secretary of State for the right to use my free trailer. Liability insurance coverage is mandatory endorsement on my auto insurance. The county has caught up with me charging another $60 for the Cook County Wheel Tax for the trailer. Throw in the additional $152 license for my SUV with trailer hitch to pull the trailer, the $100 SUV Cook County Wheel tax and I’m beginning to wonder, “Is the free trailer worth it?” I’m going to have to think about it.


Something I do not have to think about is Membership in the Cook County Farm Bureau. The Membership is not “free”. However, it is certainly priced at an incredible value for the wide range of quality programming, membership benefits and discounts, educational experiences, seminars and workshops, public and social service contributions, communications, and support for member related issues!


As a guy who really likes the word “free,” I would certainly pay a lot more for my annual membership to the Cook County Farm Bureau organization. I thank all of our many members for your continued membership renewal. I hope that you continue to find great value in what your Cook County Farm Bureau has to offer.

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