Not more than a minute ago as I walked up the stairs to the office, a guy clearly from some student organization offered me a free T-Shirt. Barely thinking, I turned him down.
No doubt this was not his first rejection in this matter and I'm sure on several occasions he and his peers mused as to why anyone would refuse anything that's free.
Beyond the fact that I didn't know what organization was or what the shirt said (it was drapped over his sweaty shoulder, which was probably another reason I refused so quickly), I can think of several reasons why people would turn down free things, all of them related to non-pecuniary costs. For your benefit, sweaty guy, here they are.
1. I still have to carry the shirt. Granted shirts don't weigh a lot but space in my bag is limited.
2. I have to store it somewhere. Again, my dresser isn't that full but it's not so empty I won't have to move it out of the way of quality clothing.
3. If the shirt said something I didn't care for ("Fair Trade Now," "Rush X Faternity" or "I did your mom last night"), I get disutility from not only having it but from having touched it or even knowing it exists.
4. This goes double if someone I know saw me accept the tainted item.
5. Often accepting a zero-priced item includes an annoying rant about how great Y organization is and how I should join or otherwise support them. Sort of like telemarketers but harder to hang up on.
6. They weren't operating from one of the school's kiosks, thus making their organization all the more shady.
7. While the length of time is small, I could be doing something else when I'm grabing the shirt and finding a place to put it.