We’re all guilty of it. Most times we see an alert that tells us we cannot continue through an online signup before reading through 12 pages of user terms and agreements, then we roll our eyes and scroll to the bottom. We check the box saying we have read and understood that boring wall of text knowing very well that we never planned on skimming the slightest bit of that document.
The trouble is, those sections of fine print that go ignored are there for our protection, whether we know it or not. For the 30% of consumers who don’t shred sensitive documents before throwing them out, that fine print might help protect their assets in the case of identity theft. Or, even though dentistry is regarded as one of the ten most trusted and ethical professions in the United States, the fine print in the stack of documents you sign protect your rights as a patient. Both of these examples bear significant weight and we so very often flourish a pen like a magic wand with no clue what the fine print holds in store.
Some companies sought to test the idea that nobody reads fine print even though they really should.
“We understand most customers don’t actually read contracts or documentation when buying something, but we know the importance of doing so. We created the top-secret Pays to Read campaign in an effort to highlight the importance of reading policy documentation from start to finish,” said Squaremouth, an insurance company from Florida.
Fifty-nine-year-old Georgia teacher Donelan Andrews got an insurance policy from the company and decided to read the fine print. What she found was a piece of fine print that said Pays to Read.
“And then the paragraph began to explain that they have a contest going on and that if I had actually read that far in the contract, I was one of maybe 1 percent – I think it said – of people who actually read contracts. And they wanted to change that. And so they were running a contest to actually win $10,000. And it certainly got my attention,” Andrews said in an interview with NPR.
When asked if she suspected it was a hoax, she said she didn’t. Her teacher instinct kicked in and she admitted that she had put similar fine print in school exams that meant to measure how many students really read their test materials. Extra points and the like, not anything like, say, $10,000.
The insurance company had sold some 73 policies in the day that the contest was live and she was the only person to read through the policy itself. So she contacted the company and, sure enough, won $10,000. The insurance company donated $10,000 more to the Reading is Fundamental company. Then, when they found out that Andrews is a teacher, Squaremouth donated another $10,000, split in half between the libraries at the two schools she teaches at. Reading the fine print got her — and a few excellent causes — a total of $30,000.
This is her last year teaching and she’ll retire from a 25 year teaching career, which was on the docket before winning this contest. What an end-of-career bonus that is.
She plans to use the money to travel to Scotland with her husband for their 35th wedding anniversary.
Her advice after all of this? Simple: “You know, a smart consumer always looks after themselves.”
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