I warn you now, I am in 'rant-mode' for this article! :-)
It all started earlier in the week when a colleague posted a message on my forum relating to a refund request that he had received. In a nutshell, his customer had purchased an eBook (a technical eBook - nothing to do with Internet marketing etc) for £9 (about $15) and then complained that he had already found much of the information contained within on my colleague's website and within his forum. Because of this, he felt that his eBook purchase was not value for money and requested a refund. The buyer actually stated that the main reason for asking for a refund was that there was simply too much free information on the website!!!
I was somewhat stunned that someone could justify this in their mind, after all one way or another, my colleague's website had provided the answers to his questions so why did he resent making a small payment for this assistance?
Of course, the customer was refunded and I forgot all about the incident...... for about 5 hours when.......
...an entirely different person emailed me with an almost identical request!!!
They too stated that they had purchased one of my products and found that although it was 'nice' to have the information packaged into one place, 'some' of the content was covered in the past posts of my forum and my archived newsletters. Urm, well, yes I hold my hands up, some of the content matter has been discussed on the forum or covered in old newsletters but do you really want to go searching through over 35,000 forum posts or 3 years of newsletters to find the information you are looking for (especially when not all of it is even there!)? And again, regardless of how you found the information, I have still answered your questions so do I not deserve to be rewarded for that in some small way? (We are not talking big money here believe me!)
It then occurred to me that this happens in the offline world as well....
I have a friend who owns a computer repair shop - this means that he earns his living by fixing computers for people. It may seem like I have just stated the obvious but it seems that a large percentage of the population thinks that he makes his living by standing behind his counter dishing out free technical advice to anyone that cares to enter the shop.
Seriously, I was in the shop the other day and there was a constant stream of people coming in and starting a conversation with the phrase...
"Can I just ask you a quick question.....?"
When someone says this, it basically means 'Can I have some free advice?' and for the record, there is no such thing as a 'quick question' when it comes to computers!
Now of course, some of my friends freebie seekers will eventually turn into paying customers when they realize that they can't fix their computers themselves but the majority won't and when you are being paid for your time (or not), it is not good business sense to stand around giving free advice all day. So much so that he is now looking at ways of charging for those 'quick questions' and why not?
Going back to the online situation, people have always liked something for nothing and that's fine. This is exactly why I set up the forum and my wholesale search engines and why I write this newsletter and in fairness, many people that use these services go on to make purchases from me. But there is something wrong with someone's logic chip if they can justify complaining in the manner described above. How do they think that businesses can operate if they give everything away for free?
Would the customers above have preferred to have had to pay for access to our websites/forums/ newsletters in the first place? Would they feel that this was better value than getting the opportunity to find their answers first for nothing? No, I don't think they would.
I am not saying don't take advantage of the free information that is available online (or indeed offline) but just be aware that in most cases, the person providing the information is not doing it for fun. If, at some point, you decide to spend a small amount of money with them then think twice about whether it is right to ask for a refund of less than £10 because you 'could' have found the answers by spending a day searching the sellers forum.
Remember that the vast majority of information products (and indeed real-world books) contain information that can be found for free IF you were prepared to spend the time researching the subject....