A special realm of hell is reserved for the moneygrubbers who invented the buy-three-get-one-free concept. Wouldn't the world be a better place if, instead of buying three pairs of, say, $8 underwear to get a fourth pair free, they all just cost $6 in the first place? Market economics be damned!

An especially heinous twist on this form of consumer swindling slam-dunks the Portland Trail Blazers' apparently desperate ticket pushers into the net of Roguedom this week.

At the Blazers' Dec. 27 home game against the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets, marketers with Portland's NBA team continued to promote a weeks-old deal that included a fourth "free" ticket to the Blazers' game against the Miami Heat with Shaquille O'Neal this upcoming Sunday, Jan. 7. "Buy 3 Get Shaq Free" the materials screamed.

Trouble is, Miami superstar O'Neal has been benched since mid-November with a knee injury that required surgery, and according to media reports before Dec. 27, he won't hit the court again until mid-January or later. (The latest reports this week peg his return at Jan. 15.)

Blazers spokesman Art Sasse says Shaq was healthy when the team designed the promotion, and that even after Shaq was injured he was expected back on the court by the Jan. 7 game.

The Rogue Desk's call: This is a classic bait and switch. The Blazers' attempt to "Shaq up" with the 7-foot-1-inch, 325-pound mega-player is the equivalent of their stealing fans' milk and getting their cash cow for free.