As I looked over the agreement, I noticed that the words on paper didn’t match up with the words that had come out of the salesman’s mouth just a few minutes ago. Perhaps he had emailed me the wrong agreement. But alas, he hadn’t. Although I was disappointed in the discrepancy between what was verbally promised and what the vendor was legally agreeing to, I was glad to discover the difference before the deal signed. Reading the fine print (or making sure that someone else does on your behalf) is a habit that will pay big dividends over the years for a couple of reasons.
If the document is written with five dollar words and tiny writing, there’s usually a reason. Depending on the situation, having an attorney review the document is a great way to ensure that someone is indeed looking after your interests. There is a lot of important information buried in the fine print and it is in your best interest to know the details. Wikipedia has a good entry on this subject and details how consumers are deceived in a variety of common situations.
Sometimes it is Interesting
Recently, while vetting a vendor for a client, I noticed something unusual in the agreement for a call tracking company. Specifically, the contract said that the company would not be held liable if the phone number was re-assigned to another company. After talking with the call tracking company about this, I learned something interesting. Due to the way phone numbers are regulated, there is a theoretical risk that the local phone number used for tracking the response for an advertisement may be reassigned without notice. How bizarre. The vendor went on to elaborate that out of the 10,000 phone numbers that they track, they encounter this situation with about 1 phone number per month and that when this does take place they are able to retrieve the reassigned phone number within 24 hours. At least by knowing about the risk an informed decision can be made.
Peace of mind
Reading the fine print isn’t about looking for problems, it is about knowing what to expect. It is about you getting very clear about what is expected of you and what the other party is agreeing to in writing. The peace of mind that comes from knowing what the agreement actually says is much better than the surprises that sometimes come from not reading the fine print.
I’m a big fan of reading the fine print. I’m an even bigger fan of agreements that are short, sweet, and written in plain English. Have you ever read the fine-print and then afterwards were so glad that you did? Tell me about it.