Free Candy is Not So Free After All

June 2, 2011 at 8:58 am 11 comments

I get a lot of offers for free candy samples, and mostly I say no. I want to focus on ideas and stories and history. I don’t think I should accept free things unless there is a possibility that I will write about them (not a promise, but a possibility). That after all is the reason someone is offering a sample. It’s not a matter of quid pro quo, but of good faith. They wouldn’t be offering me candy samples if I was running a rubber tire web site.

Even when it is not a matter of candy, I am suspicious of free stuff. There is always a catch. Because if it is something you want, you would pay for it. So when it comes free, do you want it because you want it, or because it’s free? People seem to get a little crazy around free stuff. Do you really want that logo key chain your bank is giving away? Do you really need another tote bag from your public radio station? Probably not. Probably you have too much stuff already. Probably you are going to take these things home and stuff them in the back of the closet. But around free stuff, we all seem to revert to atavistic hoarding behaviors. Mostly, I guess this is pretty harmless. Garage sales and thrift stores are easy purgative outlets for our tendency to accumulate. Eventually, all of it ends up at the dump. Waste, to be sure. Environmentally destructive, absolutely. But not likely to have an immediate effect on your health.

Free candy samples, on the other hand, are a serious menace in my household at the moment. Blame it on the candy show. The whole point of the candy show, of course, is to put candy into the hands of people who can help candy makers build their business: buyers, brokers, and even little bloggers like yours truly. Perhaps I did not fully appreciate that when I packed my bag to go to Chicago. I want looking for stories. I got some stories. But mostly what I got was free candy.

Some of this candy truly interests me. I have been happy to taste some new things. Having all that candy spread over three acres has given me lots of ideas. So overall, it’s been a good thing. The problem is, I somehow managed to bring home 20 pounds of free samples. Although I started with the best intentions of selectivity and restraint, somehow the more I could have the more I took. So I now have a huge quantity of candy sitting in bags next to my desk. And instead of stuffing it in the back of the closet, I seem to be stuffing it in my mouth. Waste, to be sure. Physically destructive, absolutely.

It’s not just me. We are a greedy people. Offered more, we take it, whether we need it or not. This is my conclusion, having spent much of the candy show watching perfectly respectable adults push others aside to snatch oversized handfuls of jellybean packets or furtively stuff their briefcases with mini-MilkyWays. You can buy this stuff for a couple of bucks at CVS if you want it. The grabbing and stuffing is about some more primordial instinct.

And this is normal and expected behavior in our culture. Yesterday I was in a chain bakery shop to buy three cookies for the three people in my family. The clerk points out a promotional deal: buy three get one free. I protest: I only want three cookies. The clerk looks at me like I’m from Mars. The fourth one is free, she insists. Don’t you want a free cookie? Well, no. I want three cookies. If I wanted four cookies, I would have ordered four cookies. But can I really turn down a cookie that I don’t have to pay for? After all, as the clerk points out, it is the same $3.75 whether I have three or four cookies in my sack. Clearly I should take the fourth cookie. In fact, based on the clerk’s incredulous and vaguely offended response to my efforts to demur, I seem to have incurred a social obligation to accept the fourth cookie. But now I have a problem: I have an extra cookie. I can try to give it away, but more likely is this: I’m going to eat it.

The truth is, when it comes to Cokes and cookies and candy, “free” is not free at all. Once I have it, I value it. It’s mine, and I’m not letting it go. And it’s not enough to hoard it in the cupboard. Food is not for saving (unless you’re expecting the apocalypse). Food is for eating. And make no mistake: the price may have been zero, but that fourth cookie costs me a lot when I eat it.

So what am I going to do about this pile of candy that has arrived unbidden and unpaid for? Sadly, I realize it’s time for some candy purging. Much as I hate to see so much good stuff go to waste, better the waste basket than the waistline.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lisa  |  June 2, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    I know exactly how you feel. This year was my first candy show and I went from “Oh, a sample. Thanks!” to “Give my everything you have!” to “Please no more. I’ve taken too much!” It’s kind of a scary phenomenon, actually.

  • 2. Amanda  |  June 2, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    You know what’s sad and silly? When I got to the fairly predictable end of this post, my instinctive thought was “Wait, wait! Send that candy to some of your readers!” 🙂

  • 3. Mark D. (sugarpressure)  |  June 2, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    Great article and I completely agree with you. I give a lot of candy away at work, it is a nice outlet for it.

  • 4. IndianapolisEater  |  June 2, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    You could always share your candy with your readers!

    • 5. Candy Professor  |  June 2, 2011 at 4:17 pm

      Sure! Come on over!

  • 6. Robin Paddock  |  June 3, 2011 at 10:49 am

    why don’t you find a place like a homeless shelter who could give the candy to kids…a little at a time…. or even homeless folks, or maybe a food bank, or its too bad its not closer to Halloween..then you could share it by giving…

    • 7. Candy Professor  |  June 7, 2011 at 9:20 pm

      Great idea. Everyone should get to enjoy candy once in a while.

    • 8. Azara Golston  |  June 26, 2011 at 12:48 pm

      My thoughts exactly! Food only becomes waste when we frame it as such, and one piece of candy can be a great pleasure with no damaging effects to someone who doesn’t often have access to it!

  • 9. Candy Yum Yum  |  June 13, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    The first time I went to the show, I actually threw out a pair of my shoes to make room for all the candy I brought home. Shows you where my priorities are! 🙂

    • 10. Candy Professor  |  June 13, 2011 at 9:56 pm

      Well, you can’t eat your shoes! (Although I just learned that the original version of what we now call “fruit leather” was sold as Shoe Leather, so perhaps if you know the right cobbler, you can…).

  • 11. Loralee  |  June 25, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Don’t throw it away! Do candy experiments with it. You’ll be amazed at what you see if you just start dropping things in water or putting them in the oven (but don’t heat Jawbreakers.) It will also make you less interested in eating the rest of the candy.

    If you still just want to get rid of it, see if any food banks are interested. I wrote an article last fall about candy disposal–hospitals didn’t want it, but some food banks would take it (although they’d rather receive actual food).


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Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

Welcome to Candy Professor

Candy in American Culture What is it about candy? Here you'll find the forgotten, the strange, the curious, the surprising. Our candy story, one post at a time.

(C) Samira Kawash

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