How much do you value freedom?

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Freedom and convenience directly oppose each other. Let’s take two extremes of this in a cup of coffee. If you wanted ultimate, total freedom, you’d grow your own coffee tree, harvest the cherries, dry them, roast them, grind them, brew them with water you sourced from your own aquifer, and have a cup of coffee that was completely and totally yours. You would be completely free from corporate meddling of any kind.

Morning coffee

The other extreme is to pop a single cup serving into your fully automated coffee maker, press the start button, and have a cup of coffee in about 60 seconds. You have no control over the source of the beans, the quality of the water, or any part of the final product, but you have the ultimate in convenience, at the expense of a near-total loss of your freedom.

Think about this: how much freedom do you willingly trade for convenience? How much freedom do you unwittingly trade because you don’t know how to gain more of it?

Marketers have a strong incentive to get you to forfeit your freedom: the less freedom you have, the harder it is to leave their product or service. If you grow accustomed to a certain brand of coffee machine, you’re less likely to switch than if you get accustomed to buying a certain kind of bean. The cost of change gets higher as freedom diminishes and convenience increases – something that marketers covet. To the average marketing department, customer loyalty bought with lock-in has the same bottom line results as customer loyalty bought with a great product.

Try this: instead of buying commercial brands of coffee (or those single serving pods/cups/packs), how would your understanding of coffee change if you researched and bought particular types of beans and ground them at home? You’d sure notice a difference in taste and quality. Would an increase in quality and flavor be worth the extra time and investment to you?

Sometimes it’s not – but going through the exercise helps you understand when you’re making a conscious trade of freedom for convenience. Only after doing it yourself can you fully appreciate and acknowledge the freedom you willingly forfeit for never having to do it yourself. It helps you appreciate better all that you do have, all that you take for granted otherwise.

Sometimes it’s really worth it – you realize that you’ve been vastly overpaying for something relatively simple. If you love the porterhouse cut of steak, once you’ve mastered the basics you realize that restaurants are by and large vastly overcharging for a fairly ordinary cut of meat. You can get the same culinary experience out of the broiler in your oven for 20 that you can for120 a plate at a steakhouse. In cases like this, you’ve been forfeiting freedom for convenience at a very high price.

After you finish reading this article, take a few minutes to examine something in your life that you enjoy for its convenience and see what it would take to gain a bit more freedom. Maybe you’ll pick the coffee example and try buying and grinding your own beans for a week. Maybe you’ll pick a favorite restaurant and see what it takes to replicate your favorite dish. Whatever it is, see what the cost of a little more freedom is, and if it’s not unacceptably high (making your own iPad, for example), try it for a week.

Side thought: take your favorite political party and examine their marketing practices. Are they working towards your freedom or trying to lock you in to a dogmatic viewpoint and sense of identity that ensures customer loyalty even with a substandard product?

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3 responses to “How much do you value freedom?”

  1. As one who used to do the whole 9 yards every morning – grind, brew, etc – I am a total Keurig junky. Love the “freedom” of not doing all that. But then if I have time I can also enjoy the “freedom” of espresso shots from another brewer, flavored creamers, etc. Maybe “freedom” is in the eye of the beholder?

    Also in the case of the Keurig – you’re SPOT ON with using freedom before to try different coffees and then getting locked into a machine and not being able to. But the reason we chose Keurig (sorry, know this isn’t all about them) is that you can “do my own blend” and we can still experiment with other blends and roasts. Again, “freedom” as it comes and as it’s chosen.

  2. I totally agree. In the DIY range, there are numerous projects I now hire out, like tiling, because someone with more expertise in the subject and more experience can do it better and faster than I can, even if I know I can do a good enough job- it’s just not worth the swearing and trips to Home Depot and the lack of time to do other things- it’s a job I gladly outsource.
    What you’re talking about is also opportunity costs. Is the time I’m spending doing X the best use of my time, or can I do more/make more money/be less aggravated if I outsource X to someone who is much more skilled at it- do I gain quality? Do I gain time? Do I gain/lose money by making this choice? Do I lose a chance to make it to my exact specifications and likings, and is that a trade that’s worth it to me?
    I think asking ourselves this daily is important- great reminder!

  3. Coffee is indeed quite convenient as a “gateway food-for-thought.” Not only is it prominent in so many people’s lives, but it has very different values in diverse contexts. From the marketer’s “for the price of a cup of coffee” and the picker’s livelihood to the office worker’s buzz and the barista’s craft. For some, coffee is a commodity while, for others, it’s an incredibly-complex culinary item.
    To get people to think about social responsibility, there’s nothing like it. Give someone some green coffee beans, a popcorn popper and a manual grinder, the experience of drinking actual fresh coffee is worth a whole seminar in social science. (I teach anthropology and sociology.)

    Though Quebec’s climate doesn’t allow it, I have indeed thought about growing coffee plants. In the coffee world, “trip to origin” (coffee-growing regions in the Global South) are the next best thing.

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