Free lunch?

中国日报网 2015-04-14 10:32



RFree lunch?eader question:

Please explain this headline: No free lunch in the online world.

My comments:

In other words, nothing is free in the online world of cyberspace.

First of all, "free lunch" here is a metaphor instead of a real meal. This part is easy to grasp. The bigger question is why there is no free lunch in the online world.

I want to ask why for you because clearly we get to read newspapers online for free, don't we? We get to watch movies for free, too. Right?

Right, but that's only because we often can only see things that are direct and obvious. On the surface, it does appear that way – that the newspaper articles we read are free, that the movies are something we don't ever pay for.

On closer inspection, however, we'll discover that somebody, somewhere has paid for the so-called free service. Take the movie you're able to watch for free online, for example. Before the movie begins, you're asked to watch one or two or more advertisements – lasting 15 seconds, half a minute, 75 seconds or even longer.

Those advertisements are the price you pay for being able to watch the movie for free. You watch the ads and may, just may end up buying the product being advertised – and in that way, you pay.

You may insist that you won't watch the ads. You will, for example, just roll your eyes upward and while away the ad time.

Still, you pay for whiling away the time, your time – unless your time is worth nothing.


Reading newspapers online, you'll find something similar. The long articles you read, for example, are often broken into several pages – so that they can put more advertisements in.

The point is, in sum, that there really is no free lunch in the online world.

Or the real world, for that matter.

In the real world, free lunch was indeed offered in American bars in the 19th century. These meals were intended to entice customers to buy drinks, which were much more expensive than what you could get at the store.

Sure enough, later on all people realized that none of this so-called free lunch was free. So the practice gradually fell off, only the phrase "free lunch" lived on.

Nowadays, free lunch is included in casinos and karaoke bars, etc., but nobody's fooled by it.

Nobody's fooled by it any more, I hope.

Anyways, there really is no such thing as a free lunch in this world – everything you get, you have to earn, or have somebody else pay for it, one way or the other.

Here are media examples:

1. You're gonna have to learn your clichés. You're gonna have to study them, you're gonna have to know them. They're your friends. Write this down: "We gotta play it one day at a time."

— Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) in Bull Durham

Like professional baseball players, investors need to know their clichés. So write this down: There is no free lunch.

If you've invested in brokered certificates of deposit, you may think that old chestnut doesn't apply to you. These bank CDs, sold through brokerages, often pay a higher interest rate than you can get buying CDs directly from a bank. And since they're federally insured, you won't lose any money as long as your deposit doesn't exceed federal insurance limits ($100,000 for most accounts).

But as several recent bank failures have demonstrated, there are drawbacks to brokered CDs. And with analysts predicting a rise in bank failures in the months to come, it's important to understand what you're giving up in exchange for a higher interest rate.

When the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. closes a bank, most customers with federally insured deposits have access to their money by the next business day. Customers with brokered deposits, though, may have to wait days or even weeks to get their money.

In May, for example, Pulaski Bank & Trust of Little Rock acquired ANB Financial of Bentonville, Ark., but left about $1.6 billion in brokered deposits with the FDIC. Some customers had to wait up to four weeks to get their money from the FDIC. In the interim, their deposits didn't earn any interest.

- For investors, there is no free lunch, USA Today, August 6, 2008.

2. There's no free lunch in farming but James Aitken honestly thinks high sugar grasses are the closest thing to it.

"Because for each mouthful eaten the animals get a lot more energy," says the prominent Hawke's Bay farmer.

Widely known as a director of Farmers for Change, Richhold, Centralines and more recently Wool Grower Holdings, Aitken (right) has seen animal production lift when stock graze high sugar grass on his family's sheep and cattle farm at Omakere and their dairy farm in Australia.

He first planted AberDart (a high sugar ryegrass) last year in six hectares at the dairy farm in south-west Victoria because there was little to lose in trying a new grass in drought-stressed paddocks.

The AberDart was sown in May and was not expected to survive its late planting followed by three weeks of floods and the region's chilling winds in July but "miraculously" was ready for grazing in spring.

The farm's manager had been doubtful that "this English stuff" would prosper in harsh Australian conditions but was soon impressed by the response of cows after their first grazing and "pushing on the fence to get back in".

Scepticism turned to delight when their dairy factory receipts showed a substantial lift in milk yield, averaging 2L/ cow, on the days when the herd grazed AberDart.

"The production from 240 cows went up 500 litres and would drop again when they went off the AberDart," Aitken says.

He agreed with the manager to plant 60ha more of AberDart in February to take full advantage of planned irrigation.

"If you can grow grass with higher feed value for the same amount of inputs and achieve almost a 10 per cent jump in animal production, which seems pretty achievable, that's getting something for nothing," says James.

- Grass impresses,, September 01, 2008.

3. There's no free lunch - or breakfast or dinner - for President Barack Obama on Thanksgiving Day. Or any other day for that matter.

He has to dig into his pocket to pay for his holiday feast of turkey, ham, two kinds of stuffing, sweet and regular potatoes, and six different kinds of pie. It's a longstanding practice that a president pays for meals for himself, his family and personal guests.

Obama also pays for other basics - everything from toothpaste to dry cleaning.


Gary Walters, who was chief White House usher for many years, said the payment rule dates back to 1800 when the White House was first occupied by President John Adams and there was no staff. Presidents brought staff with them and paid for everything.

Congress gradually began spending money to maintain an official White House staff to oversee operations and maintenance, but presidents continued to pay for personal expenses.

What it boils down to, Walters said, is that the White House is first and foremost the president's home.

"All those things that are personal in nature that we all pay for, the first family pays for," he said.


White House chefs who prepare the president's meals are paid by the government.

For the budget year that ended Sept. 30, Congress gave the White House $19,000 to pay for official receptions and $12.7 million to cover operating expenses for the residence, which may include entertainment. The cost of meals for some White House events, including state dinners and receptions, is picked up by the State Department or political parties.


Since presidents and first ladies can't easily pop into the neighborhood drug store, a White House residence staff member will pick up things like toothpaste and deodorant during shopping runs and keep the bill for Obama.

Another cost is private parties, such as the 50th birthday bash Obama threw earlier this year for first lady Michelle Obama. For private events, presidents pay for food and beverages, use of waiters and servers, and setup and cleanup crews. Taxpayers are only supposed to pay for official government functions.

- No free lunch (or dinner) for the president,, November 27, 2014.



About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑:彭娜)

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