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Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams
New York,
November 09
I work here. In my other incarnations, I'm the culture critic for PRI's The Takeaway, and my book, "Gimme Shelter" comes out from S&S 3/3/9.

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JULY 10, 2009 1:11PM

The price of free: How long would you stand in line?

Rate: 7 Flag

As it continues its incandescant run, the Public's staging of Twelfth Night at the Delacorte has become the hottest ticket in town.

(I was lucky enough to see it in previews, and I want Anne Hathaway to be my boyfriend.)

The line is getting longer every day, though, with folks gathering outside Central Park well before dawn.

This week people camped out in LA for mere proximity to the Jackson memorial. And this weekend, 7-11 is celebrating the anniversary of the Slurpee with a brain freezing giveaway.

So my question today is -- how long are you willing to wait for a freebee, whether it's a free cone or a little Shakespeare? What's the biggest wait you ever endured, and was it worth it?


Were told there would be cake.

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I had to laugh because KFC ran out of grilled chicken on the day of their giveaway.
I was going to Peru for a travel story. The Peruvian airline ticket was comped. Wound up waiting in Miami's dear airport for 13 hours for the plane to get repaired before we could leave. Does that count?
Personally, I would finagle some kind of equation that factored in the perceived value of the item and the perceived value of my time, and probably give up on anything that took more than 8 hours or so, because, that just seems like torture.

Ocular, I heard about that, and not long ago in these parts, there was some kind of $.26 pizza promotion, and riots and violence happened when they ran out of dough... violence because your free stuff (which clearly notes 'while supplies last') isn't coming is soooooo icky for your karma.
I had to pay for my longest line waits, so I'm probably not a good person to judge. Disneyland, concert tickets, movie tickets . . . all costing money.

These days, if I can't buy a ticket on the internet, I think twice about going. Maybe I'm getting old.
Well, I'd wait a lot longer for a Twelfth Night ticket than a Slurpee. Those things are nasty. And give you brain-freeze.
Off topic but I for one am amazed and gladdened that so many people are waiting in line to see Shakespeare! I know, it's NYC, but still! Gives me hope for the future of mankind.
Love the caption for your photo. I'm sure Freaky would appreciate it.
I won't wait long for a freebee if at all. It would have to be expensive and guaranteed that I would have one before I would even consider it. Maybe a free Harley or something like that, but I wouldn't wait if it was just a chance to win something. I've never been lucky like that.
If I bought a ticket to something or an event I'd wait as long as it takes, but "FREE" always has something attached to it. Even if it is only your time. I'd rather pay for my chances to get screwed Raffles , Lotto, gambling, etc. I suck at all of these.
Here on OS I had Dan Ariely's book Predictably Irrational, on behavioral economics, recommended to me. One of the cool things Ariely describes is the power that the concept of "free" has over us. If the play charged as much as a single penny for entry, I'd expect that the lines would be much shorter. We saw something similar in an OS post a few months ago about some crappy chain restaurant giving away free breakfasts. People waited in line for hours, not to save five bucks, really, but because they could get a five buck breakfast without having to pay for it. We're strange creatures.

As for me, knowing something about math and statistics and my own preferences and behavior, I actually pass on these sorts of things. At buy-one-get-one-free sales at the grocery store, for example, I'll sometimes buy one and not take the freebie, because I know that I won't be able to get rid of the other one and it'll go bad before I can eat it.