Adam Ruins Everything – “Free” websites

There are a variety of “free” services and products that we use every day, but are they really “free”? They’re pitched to us as having no cost, but the costs are much more than we may ever realize. There’s an older saying in the tech world that “if the product is free then you are the product.” Companies offer zero-price services to customers but earn a profit by selling data to other companies who would like to know more about you.

Just because a product or service is listed as $0 doesn’t mean there aren’t costs involved. There will always be an opportunity cost associated with the choice to use the service and that cost includes where your data and privacy end up.

Qwest Communications — Free Wifi

People will go to great lengths to get “free” wifi even though they may not realize the cost associated with the decision. In this commercial for Qwest Communication, they try to offer wifi where people actually want to go.

Straight Talk — “Free” Phone

Have a friend who brags about things they get for free? One of the common components of long-term contracts is that it includes a phone, but the price of the phone is often just built into the contract so the phone isn’t really free.

Bedazzled — No Such Thing as a Free Lunch


Elliot (Brendan Fraser) strikes a deal with the Devil (Elizabeth Hurley) in Bedazzled in order to gain the affection of a coworker. In this short clip, Elliot needs proof of the Devil’s power, so he asks for a Big Mac and a large coke. The two proceed to McDonalds, but Elliot ends up having to pay for it himself because there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Team America — Freedom Isn’t Free (NSFW)

It’s sometimes hard to get across the idea of public services as being a type of public good, but “freedom” may be a simple enough concept for students. This clip from Team America takes a country-spin on why it’s important to pay for public services like freedom. It also can be used to teach the concept of opportunity cost since freedom for people today cost a lot of lives in the past.

Super Troopers — Free Hot Dog

This clip is a great one for the first week of a principles course and can be used to teach a variety of concepts including opportunity costs, marginal analysis, and incentives. Farva isn’t the smartest police officer on the force, and he’s an even worse economist. The gas station offers a “free” hot dog for people who pump 10 gallons of gas, but Farva only needs 9 gallons to fill his car. He has to make a decision on the margin about whether he wants to get that extra gallon. He weighs the costs and benefits of the extra gallon to determine if the “free” hot dog is worth the cost of 1 gallon of gas. Ultimately, the hot dog cost his 1 gallon of gas.

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