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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Free food

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When I was student of undergraduate studies at Madras, I was unaware of the phenomenon which was soon to take an important part of my life, and will continue to bring smile on my face forever in life.

I was introduced to ‘free food’ in MIT. MIT, probably like other US universities, had uncountable number of student groups, seemingly unlimited funds — to my eyes accustomed to IIT situation — for student activities, and almost daily events, seminars, lectures, conferences and bouquets in any of its myriads departments and organizations which constantly provided free food to students. In fact, many students attended those precisely for that reason. This trend continued in Ahmedabad as well, though in very reduced form, and I found that despite there being no dearth of funds to spend on food for me, magic of free food was irresistible. And that’s just not for me but for almost every student I’ve met. It appears that any eatable, when made available free of charge, even of non-descript nature, never fails to tempt palate of any person who is or ever has been an student of graduate studies or higher in any institution across the world, irrespective of how much money the said person makes or whether he has already satiated his hunger extensively. At MIT, we even had a mailing list (freefood@mit.edu) where any student can post message about availability of free food anywhere on campus and subscribers of the same will hasten to devour it. And because MIT is a large university, free food was an almost daily occurrence so much so that person with eye on above mailing list and speed in his feet can almost survive on leftovers for full term.

Even at work in Los Angeles, in my company, free food had people rushing to cafeteria. I’ve moved out of college now and mostly will not enter one again but I cannot understand why it holds such a strong grip on people? Corollary to free food is freebies, however trifle, which students would fight to get hold of. I suspect, but am not sure, that this phenomenon is bachelor specific. Does free food holds special place in your heart? What was your experience?

(It seems that attraction towards freebies is well known to marketers. A large lump sum price and free products/services tend to have more customers than individual price for each product/service. It has something to do with how our brain treats sunk cost.)