On the surface, free is the best price for anything. When it comes as the price tag for essential data-producing services, all the better. Right? If you could save ~$5k and have someone processing your samples who seemed to be really interested in the project, it would be a win-win, right? It would be, except for that saying "you get what you pay for". Stupid sayings.
Having work done for "free" also means "free from accountability" and "free from being required to communicate with you regularly". I should have known this already because I have dealt with it before, but when you don't have to pay for the work someone is doing, they don't feel obligated to get it done on anything other than their own time frame. Your samples are at the back of the queue and they'll get done when it's convenient. No money = no leverage. Thus, we are waiting for critical data without any ability to strong arm the center that has our sample into doing anything at all.
The good news is that we've streamlined the process to produce the samples we need to send out. The first one took us two months and has now been sitting with Free Center for another 6 weeks. The second sample took a month and was sent to Paid Center yesterday. Now we have a race. Paid center has been very good about communication thus far and expects a two week turn around on the analysis. Free Center said they were going to get to the sample two weeks ago, but nothing has been updated in their online system and I've had no response to my emails since. If I really do see data from Paid Center in two weeks, the next question will be when do we cut the chord with Free Center and just send the first sample out to Paid Center and bite the bullet? Free or not, I need the fucking data.