Archive for the ‘Small Print’ Category

Service of False Advertising

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Free Pizza Blackboard

Driving down the street in the small upstate NY town of Millbrook I saw the sign above. Because I was watching out for pedestrians and hoping the traffic light wouldn’t change, my eye only caught the words FREE PIZZA, which was what the restaurant wanted me to see. I had to stop because the light was now red and I then saw what else was written on the chalkboard: That what is “free” is Wifi and that their pizza is “awesome.” The sign may have been an attempt at humor but it annoyed me enough for me to change my luncheon plans that day.

DirecTVKatie Lobosco wrote about a swindle in “The FTC has charged DirecTV with fraud, claiming that it misled customers with its popular 12-month discount package,” on According to Lobosco, “The satellite company advertises a 12-month plan for as little as $19.95, but fails to make it clear that a two-year contract is required, according to the Federal Trade Commission. That means customers are getting stuck with a longer contract than they wanted. What’s worse: The package’s price jumps in the second year by between $25 and $45 per month. Customers that try to cancel early are hit with a fee of up to $480, according to the complaint.”

I recently fell for a promotion. The monthly charge is $40+ more than I thought it would be once the rental of this or that piece of essential equipment and the taxes and other fees are added in. We have a two year contract and I fully expect the price to reach the stratosphere as soon as the contract is up.

Used car salesmanI’ve written before about my grandfather who was the first to draw such chicanery to my attention when I was about eight. I saw banners touting unbelievably cheap car prices and Grandpa mumbled that those were for cars without steering wheels and brakes and that the charge would be far higher if you wanted those essentials in your car.

Laws and regulations aside, this technique is ancient, tiring and off-putting. It focuses on tricking people into immediate sales with no view to the long term. What’s nutty is that the restaurant makes good pizza and DirecTV [which we have upstate] and the company that provides a phone/TV/Internet package we now have provide quality products as well. Why do they need to stoop to such measures? Have you felt fleeced by or noticed similar shady sales practices that irritate you? Have you changed your mind about buying a product or service as a result?

Bait and switch

Service of What You Don’t Know May Hurt You

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012


We’ve had a stream of similar posts lately-a sign of the times.

My EZ Pass bill triggered today’s topic. I love the concept. When I don’t have to wait in much of a line to clear a bridge, road or tunnel toll I celebrate my EZ Pass gizmo. To sign up I had to give my credit card number and I guess I checked “autoreplinish.” Used to be they kept $25 in my account and as I used the service, they’d suck out more money to bring it up to that amount–which now is $30. Why not $50 or $100? What a great way to collect a bunch of interest. I wonder who decides how much they can set aside from each account. sent me this tidbit about a petition created by Eric Schlosser, who wrote “Fast Food Nation,” and Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Stonyfield Farm. It urges the FDA to require labeling of genetically engineered foods. What triggered this petition on The FDA is about to approve for human consumption the first genetically engineered animal–salmon–for sale in supermarkets.

According to Schlosser and Hirshberg, “The salmon is engineered to produce growth hormones year-round that cause the fish to grow at twice the normal rate.” Holy smokes! Salmon is considered a healthy brain food. Who wants to eat something that might cause something that shouldn’t grow, to grow at twice the normal rate in us? The men want the FDA to label this fish “genetically engineered.” They note that Russia and China do along with 38 other countries. Wonder why the FDA doesn’t do this automatically.

lunchbagOn the subject of food, I read Julie Gunlock’s article, “Lunch Nazis on the attack,” in The New York Post. She wrote about a state lunch inspector who tossed out the contents of a lunch bag a mom packed for her four year old because she judged that the meal violated the Agriculture Department’s nutrition guidelines. In the preschooler’s bag was a turkey sandwich, banana, chips and apple juice. What she was given instead, wrote Gunlock: chicken nuggets. They are fried and processed, no? Doesn’t a mom get to determine what her child eats? How come the state–this was in North Carolina–has the right to toss out perfectly good food? Shouldn’t the child have been given back the banana, chips and apple juice which belonged to her? And wouldn’t there be negative impact on a young child from the image of someone throwing out the food her mother made and gave her?

Snake oil salesmen have been around forever, but it seems that the government is not only turning a blind eye, but joining in. Can you share other instances that we should be aware of so we’re not hurt by what we don’t know?


Service of Reading the Small Print

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011


Do you sign up for free computer programs without reading the agreement’s small print? I do and feel nervous every time, expecting to get a bill for $zillions or find out I’ve opened myself up to some kind of catastrophic obligation.

People get married with prenuptial agreements and 50 percent don’t pay too much attention to the “in sickness and in health” part of their wedding vows. Maybe the feeling is that canny lawyers can slip you out of almost anything including employment and client contracts, wills and rental agreements. There’s a joke in our family that when submitting an insurance claim be prepared to learn that the company doesn’t pay for operations done on Tuesdays, when you had yours, and that the tree that knocked a hole in your roof was an elm, and they only cover damage from maples.

nypubliclibraryAccording to Michael Barbaro who wrote “In Elite Library Archives, a Dispute Over a Trove,” in The New York Times, writer Paul Brodeur wants back all the papers he gave to the New York Public Library many years ago. Seems the library distilled to 53 the 320 boxes this 79 year old novelist-turned-investigative reporter donated and told him that he has until August to pick up the remaining boxes or they’ll trash them.

Barbaro reported that archivists “noted that Mr. Brodeur had explicitly given up all rights to the papers when he signed a ‘deed of gift’ donating them to the library. According to that deed, the library ‘reserves the right to return’ any items it wishes and ‘may dispose of the same as the library determines in its sole discretion.'”

No doubt the library has run out of space and is revisiting all of its archives to make room for more papers without having to rent or buy additional space. Whatever the reason, the result hurt Mr. Brodeur’s ego and expectations. He was told in 1997 that his papers had been “reviewed and prepared for public viewing” and were in the permanent collection’s 88 miles of stacks. Last summer, library staff informed him that they had weeded out such things as “photocopied news stories and multiple drafts of New Yorker writings.”

pilesofcartonsWhat’s sad is that the papers–whether in the 267 boxes that the library plans to toss or the entire 300+ cartons if Brodeur wins the argument–will no doubt become moldy and useless in the shed he’s built for them on his Cape Cod property. In any case, it doesn’t appear from the photo of the shed in the paper that researchers will be able to access them from the cramped wood structure.

Do you think the library should give Brodeur back all his boxes? Have you been burned by not reading the small print? Do you feel that anyone with enough money or power can find or create a loophole to slip through whether the print is large or small?


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