Monday, July 17, 2006

Read the Fine Print

The difference between a wise man and a fool is that the wise man learns from other people’s mistakes while the fool learns from his own. So, here’s some advice from a fool: Always read the fine print.

Actually, I enjoy reading the fine print, all the little “catches” that negate whatever good deal you’ll think you got in the large-print version of the contract, coupon or agreement you are about to sign. Phone companies have them, car dealerships are notorious for them and you can certainly find them in magazine and newspaper ads. They say things like “not redeemable with any other offer,” “some restrictions apply,” and “on approved credit only.” My favorite fine print gimmick is “results not typical,” which are usually found in association with weight-loss commercials, and since it’s summer, there’s oodles of them on TV these days. However, people tend to listen to what they want to hear, and if “results not typical” doesn’t tell them that they’ll still be fat a year from now, then I think they’re beyond help.

A couple of weeks ago, I read an ad in the PennySaver for a car auction that had a $500.00 off coupon when you successfully bid on a car. I bought a car at an auction once (Kara’s 1986 Audi Coupe, a great car!) so that’s a pretty good savings on the price of an auctioned car. But, alas, the fine print: At the bottom in a half-point type it says: “Must be accompanied by four family/friends to validate one coupon with purchase of $5500 for live auction only. Any lower bid than $5500 will receive a $50 discount.” Get that. One of the stipulations is that you have to have four other people with you to save that money, and isn’t that the stupidest coupon ever?

Sometimes, it is the fine print that you don’t read that could benefit you. Case in point, today I got a raise from one of my long-term clients; let’s be clear: Today’s the day I found out about it. They renewed my contract for the rest of 2006 on July 7th, and sent it out for me to sign and return the following work day, the 10th. Well, on the 11th, I remembered about it, printed it out in a rush, flipped to the last page, dashed off my John Hancock and stuffed it into an overnight envelope bound for New York faster than you can say, “Read the fine print, you moron.”

From then until now, I didn’t even know I was making more money each day because I never bothered to even read the contract. I was told that they were renewing it and no mention of a raise even came about, so I just figured I’d do my work for the same pay; I don’t have a problem with that, as it is good money and I don’t have to work that hard that often (but when I do, oh boy, do I), but if I can do it for a few dollars more a day, I’m not going to complain. The reason I never looked at the contract was because it was exactly the same as the one I signed a year ago… apparently, the only thing that changed were the six numbers of my biweekly income, from $x,xxx.xx to $y,yyy.yy. Who would notice that?

I guess I should have. So you can be wise men and women, learn from a fool: The contract you may be reading might be your own, so read it carefully.

Next time I might not be so lucky.

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