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Episode 386: The Power of Free

Navy veteran Howard Dunn and Army veteran Tom Kaine remember when the Red Cross briefly charged servicemen for doughnuts during World War II. Many veterans still resent it.
Chana Joffe-Walt
/
NPR
Navy veteran Howard Dunn and Army veteran Tom Kaine remember when the Red Cross briefly charged servicemen for doughnuts during World War II. Many veterans still resent it.

If you think about every other price in the world — a dollar, $12.99 — free stands out.

Free has the power to make us do completely irrational things. It can drive us to break rules, and take risks we never thought possible. It can make us feel savvy and smug and exhilarated.

Everybody likes free. But free can be dangerous, too. Today's show is what happens when you take something that was free — and you give it a price, a decision many Internet companies face today. That is a highly risky move. And the damage can be enormous.

Free of charge, we bring you the story of the Red Cross and free doughnuts — that suddenly weren't free any more. It happened 70 years ago and the Red Cross is still feeling the consequences.

Note: This episode originally aired in July 2012.

Music: The Mynabird's "Generals." Find us: Twitter/ Facebook/ Spotify/ Tumblr.

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