I think this was more along the lines of saying that an important site will still link to a site that has decent content, for the benefit of their users. They probably didn't get solicited for it, but they still link to sites that have good material, hence a link for free.
On a personal note, our site has only about 10 outbounds on the whole site, and they are to sites that are required for the user to be able to properly interact with the site, such as Adobe, Verisign, etc. We don't bother using the rel=nofollow on them because it is good to do a few outbounds, as long as they are to quality (preferably authority) sites. If I really wanted decent content from another person's site, I would just note the facts and rewrite it. This way I wouldn't be infringing on copyrights nor would I have to link out to them.
Granted, reciprocal links are not useless, in fact they can be a good starting point for a link building campaign, but I think we all know that one ways are better. This company probably finished their pitch with "We can get you 10,000 links for $39.95!"