This discussion has come up between Ruth and I on a few different road trips, and in a few different circumstances. Is something free, or is it included in the price you have already paid for another service?
The most common reference to this is when you see a highway sign advertising a hotel, and it usually has big letters saying "Free Breakfast". Well, of course everybody knows that they mean if you stay at the hotel, and pay for a room, part of the deal is that you get breakfast. But to be clear...the breakfast is not free. It is INCLUDED in the price you pay for the room. So the proper wording on the sign should be "Breakfast Included".
One of these days, I am going to stop in at one of those hotels, and take advantage of the Free Breakfast that they have advertised on the sign. Ruth says she's not going to join me! Maybe I'll do it on our way down to Florida next month.
The other instance that we regularly see this poor choice of wording, is at campgrounds. Usually, you will see advertised that the campground offers "Free wi-fi". This one really bugs me, because while many campgrounds say that they offer the service, it's usually a very poor excuse for wi-fi, and that's if it works at all. Then, when you complain that the campground internet doesn't work, they have the attitude that, "well, you didn't pay for it, so you can't complain". Ah, but I DID pay for it, because it's INCLUDED in the price that I paid for the campsite, the same way that electricity and water is.
In my mind, if something is free, it is available to anybody, and with no strings attached. That's the meaning of the word "free".