Here is a list of common phrases you may find in the fine print that should cause you to pause and proceed with caution. Obviously, the guarantee for a $75 DVD player that is economically easy to replace, isn’t as important as an extended used car warranty or a home service contract; but it’s good to know your way around the fine print anyway.
- FREE: Nothing is free. If you aren’t paying for the product, then you are the product. Your information is likely being sold to advertisers who will barrage you with online solicitations. Or maybe it’s free now, but you are committing to pay later.
- FREE TRIAL: It’s often accompanied by phrases like; we will not charge your credit card (until 30 days from now). This enters you into a game of WILL I REMEMBER TO CANCEL ON THE 29TH DAY? That’s a game the corporations usually win.
- FOR 6 MONTHS: Along with the similar, “introductory price,” this is a version of the free trial game. Maybe $39 a month for cable TV sounds good to you in January, but if it is $139 by August is that really a good deal? Will you remember to cancel and transfer to a new company by July?
- AUTOMATICALLY RENEWS: The “walking dead” of the consumer universe; such clauses mean you keep paying even if you don’t realize it or want the service anymore. Sure, if you want the convenience, sign up. But beware if such an arrangement is tucked in the fine print.
- FEES: We rarely compare late payment fees and other penalty charges when shopping, but we should. We all eventually screw up, but the cost of such a mistake shouldn’t be unreasonable.
- OPT-OUT: This phrase means companies can use your data however they wish unless you take a step (you opt-out) to stop it. Most people just accept the default opt-in setting. If you go with a product or service, opt-out if you don’t want them to share or sell your information.
Check back next week for part 2 of our 3 Part series. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.