We’re all guilty of it. We see an alert that tells us we can’t continue through an online signup before reading the fine print. But they’re often 12 pages of user terms and agreements, if not more. So we roll our eyes and scroll to the bottom. We then check the box saying we’ve read and understood that boring wall of text, despite barely skimming the 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 maybe the fine print in the stack of documents you sign protects your rights as a patient. Both of these examples bear significant weight. Unfortunately, we 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. 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.
With that in mind, back in 2019 a 59-year-old Georgia teacher named 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.”
“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 the 1% of people who actually read contracts. And they wanted to change that. So they were running a contest to actually win $10,000. And that certainly got my attention,” Andrews said.
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 73 policies the day that the contest was live. Of those, she was the only person to read through the entire policy. 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.
That was her last year teaching. She retired from a 25-year career, which was on the docket before winning this contest. What an end-of-career bonus that was.
She used 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.”
Photo Credit: stock photo
Lauren P says
I ALWAYS read the entire document(s), no matter what. Surprisingly, that’s irritated more than a few realtors, bank execs and car dealers over the years. Too bad I never encountered a $10K contest!
Len Penzo says
Me too, Lauren. What really gets me is the last time I signed refinance paperwork, the loan officers there were getting annoyed with me because I was actually taking the time to read everything.
The first time I went into Aldi for a peek, one word came to mind, as I quickly left. It’s a poor budget operation. Some items are displayed directly in packages. But when my mother who was an especially picky shopper, and regularly shopped at an expensive upscale supermarket, told me she bought produce there, I quickly arrived back. Produce Junction is sort produce places where you can choose from pre-packed produce in plastic bags, for prices usually ranging from $1 to $2.00. You can purchase potatoes and yams really cheap. Yams – about 4lbs for $1.00. Romaine Lettuce- 2 heads for $2.00. Top quality varies, that means you just need to be aware of the place, and know the vegetable varieties. For example, Premier Carrots, from California are compared to carrots grown in Mexico.
Do you remember the Seinfeld episode where Kramer purchased a case of canned beef stew, in the warehouse club, that he ended up feeding a new flatulent moose?
Len Penzo says
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Francisca, but what does this have to do with reading the fine print?
Bobby Dale says
Reading the fine print paid off for me last week. Upon arrival for a medical test, which I had priced via phone in advance, I noticed that some fees were not included and I would have to contact other providers for the price. I called from the desk, much to the consternation of the office manager, and discovered that I would be paying an additional $700 versus the facility down the street. I went down the street.
Len Penzo says
Good for you, Bobby!
Karen Kinnane says
When buying a new van from the dealer they offered us a $1,000. discount from the agreed on price if we financed the vehicle. We both read over the purchase agreement several times in the manager’s office and agreed that there was no prepayment penalty clause. We bought the van with a loan and made one payment with interest of around $75. in the payment. I then paid off the balance of the loan saving an addition $925. off the price of the van. It pays to read the fine print!
Len Penzo says
Good for you, Karen! Well played.
Seems a great opportunity for an entrepreneur, create an app that would boil fine print down into a few bullet points and highlight areas of concern.
I heard a story years ago where a journalist found the person who actually drafted the fine print for a credit card offer. Asked if they could re-draft it in plain language. The drafter noted that in plan language, the document would be something like 10x longer (mostly because of the replacement of legal terms by plain language).