The best things in life are FREE, right?  Well, maybe not. At least, not when it comes to finding quality products and services designed to improve and enrich life. Oh, great deals do exist but, “great deal” rarely equals “free.” And most deals, unfortunately, come with a catch.

What’s the “Catch”?

Below are some examples of how many service providers and retailers take advantage of those out to find a great deal. Don’t get caught falling for these “gimmicks:

Bait and Switch

The purpose of the bait and switch is to lure the potential customer (ahem, you) by advertising low prices for a specific service or product, then pushing the customer (you again) toward more expensive deals because A) the item is sold out, B) the sale just ended, or C) the higher quality (priced) service is actually a much better deal than the lower priced (quality) service.

Technically, this method of marketing is illegal. Truthfully, it happens.

Ironically, many legal and document filing services use the bait and switch technique. For example, ads are often floated that claim to provide incorporation services for free. What’s really free? Information. To follow all of the appropriate steps for incorporating, you’ll have to “buy”, er, choose another package.

The Upsell

The upsell induces the customer to upgrade or buy add-ons for an item or service already purchased, or encourages the customer to consider additional purchases–often more profitable items or services–through deliberate exposure. Almost all car dealers, computer stores, hair salons, and restaurants engage in the upsell. You wanted the factory alarm, accounting software, moisturizing shampoo, and fries with that, right?

Banner Advertising

A banner ad is a web site link displayed as a box, usually containing graphics, sometimes animation and, almost always, an enticing deal. Clicking on the banner–called a click through–takes you from the publisher’s web site to the advertiser’s website, where the advertised deal may no longer exist (or is not really all that enticing after all). But wait! You’re at the site, so you might as well have a look around at other “deals.”

Free Trials

“Risk free” offers are rife with risk. No matter how, where, or when whatever-it-is is advertised, there is almost always a hefty shipping and handling charge attached to trial offers. Also, should you take advantage of a free trial you may unknowingly enroll in automatic shipments or get charged for the product later unless you cancel within a certain period of time. (See the fine print. Sometimes, see the really, really fine print.) And canceling can cost you: return shipping fees, restocking fees, time, and aggravation.

Selling your Personal Info to Third Parties

You can opt-in or opt-out of having your personal information sold to third parties, whether you’ve purchased a product or service, simply asked for a quote, or filled out a “Yes! Send me more information!” form. By law, this option of opting in or out has to be made available to you. Of course, many companies claim they do not sell your information to third parties, but may “trade” it to third parties (who, in turn, sell it).

Some companies, like ListGrabber, actually advertise that they grab and sell personal information from places such as online directories (i.e., the Yellow Pages), association websites, and memberships directories–networking services often provided to you for “free.”

NOT FREE, but it’s an honest transaction with good value.

There are companies that offer great products or services at great prices, companies that advertise truthfully and operate ethically., a (legitimate) document filing service operated by a husband and wife legal team, is one of those companies. Incorporating or forming an LLC with CorpNet starts at $49 plus state fees. And they say as much right on the front page of their website.

You get what you pay for.

In the end, no matter what product or service you seek, you get what you pay for. Any company worth your time and money will ethically seek your business and tirelessly work to keep it. Any other sales tactic means that company is just, well, just not that into you.