Is free KFC chicken worth a long wait?

Marketplace Editor Paddy Hirsch of the Marketplace Whiteboard illustrates his experience at KFC.


Kai Ryssdal: We learned this morning Kentucky Fried Chicken is going to try another giveaway with the hopes that it goes better than the one they did in May. They partnered with Oprah Winfrey for that one, putting coupons for free grilled chicken dinners on her Web site. Oprah being Oprah, KFC was overloaded with people wanting their freebies. So overloaded that a lot of restaurants ran out of food. Among the faithful was our very own senior editor Paddy Hirsch who I've got in the studio with me now to ask this very simple question: with whatever it is that you make an hour, is waiting in line for a $5 freebie really the best use of your time?

PADDY HIRSCH: Kai, as you know, I work very hard. So when I go home I don't know want to be slaving over a hot stove. So I eat out quite a lot. So when anyone sends me a link that's going to give me a coupon for a free meal, I'm going to take it.

Ryssdal: What we are trying to get at here is this idea of opportunity cost. I mean, $5 freebie, waiting in line for what 40 minutes, an hour?

HIRSCH: Well, it could have been because when I got to the parking lot, which by the way was stuffed full of Mercedes and Lexuses and BMWs, there was a line around the block there, and a lot of these ladies, and they were all ladies by the way, didn't know what was going on. So I sort of elbowed my way into the front of the queue.

Ryssdal: Nice, nice, nice.

HIRSCH: Well, I wanted to find out what was happening. I didn't want to leave them in the dark. And I found out that they had actually run out of the amount of free chicken that they could have given out. They did actually have some more chicken, so I could have bought some for how ever many $5, but I, of course, declined because I'm pretty cheap, too.

Ryssdal: Of course you did. But does this change it at all for you? If it's not a whole dinner like it was last time, it's just a piece of chicken.

HIRSCH: It's free, Kai. That's the point. I mean they could be giving away, you know, diet Pepsi, which I don't drink. But the fact that's it's free is enough for me to get in line. To me it's worth it. Free is good.

Ryssdal: I should probably point out here that you're a freebie...You're the guy who ran over to Starbucks on the morning that they were giving away free instant coffee, too.

HIRSCH: To me, Kai, free just tastes better. Yes, you may have to spend a little bit of time. But the kind of rush that you get from getting something for free, I think it's worth that time.

Ryssdal: Paddy Hirsch. Our senior editor here at Marketplace. You have seen him I'm sure on our Web site doing his whiteboard videos. Maybe, Paddy, I don't know, something on opportunity cost here in the future.

HIRSCH: We could do. I'll have to talk to my agent about negotiation. But...

Ryssdal: Paddy Hirsch, thanks.

HIRSCH: Thank you.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, the most widely heard program on business and the economy in the country.


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