You’re almost done upgrading your software when up pops a 12-page PDF containing additional information in fine print? Ugh. You just want to complete it and go to lunch. You click ‘accept terms and conditions,’ and head to Chipotle.
But, wait. Aren’t you worried about what you just agreed to? Well, you should be.
Not reading that fine print can come back to haunt you, too. You’re not only agreeing to terms and conditions, but you’re potentially ignoring instructions that can hurt you and your wallet.
Here are four real-life cautionary tales of what can happen when you skip the fine print.
1. A Subscription Worse Than Acne
Backstory: my younger brother Justin was fed up with his resistant teenage acne. One day he saw an advertisement for X Out, an acne medication owned by Proactive. X Out claimed to do the zit fighting all in one step for your busy life.
Justin goes online and checks out the deals. He chooses the 30-day supply to see if it will be compatible with his skin, before committing to the 90-day supply.
X Out ended up being incompatible with his skin, but that wasn’t his only problem. About a month after receiving the product, he received another charge on his card and an additional 90-day supply.
Turns out when Justin ordered his first supply, he didn’t read the fine print as shown below.
If he had taken a moment to read the contract he would have seen, “Approximately 3-4 weeks after your first order is shipped, and then approximately every 12 weeks thereafter, you’ll be sent a new 90-day supply of X Out."
After months of attempting to stop his subscription (a customer service problem we won’t get into), the acne nightmare finally came to an end.
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2. The Puppy That Got Leased (Not Leashed)
Adopting a puppy should be exciting. But how would you feel if you signed a contract to adopt a puppy and later found out you were only leasing it?
Crazy, I know. But it’s happened.
As we all know, dogs can be expensive, like a month’s rent expensive. So, finding out you have the option of financing a pet, well, who could resist?
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But excitement can sometimes blind us from the truth, as Dawn Sabins learned when she received her credit report. Instead of being charged $2,400, she saw she was charged $5,800.
Confused, she called the company. Turns out she failed to read the fine print. Instead of financing the adoption, she was leasing the dog. The fine print stated she would be charged $165.06 for 34 months and only then would she be eligible to buy the dog.
That’s a whole lot of money. Please learn from Sabins’ mistake and make sure you’re leashing a dog out of an adoption center, not leasing it.
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3. Stale Turns Into Potentially Fatal Snack
Speaking of new additions to a family, have you ever read the fine print for the food you feed your baby? If not, you might want to start.
Justin Morrice learned this lesson the hard way while feeding his little girl Gerber Lil’ Crunchies cheese puffs. Although he had fed his daughter these tasty treats a few days earlier, suddenly one of the puffs became lodged in her throat. Fortunately, he was able to dislodge it and save her.
Morrice was shaken up and at a loss for what had changed within days, so he investigated. And you’ll never guess what he uncovered on the container.
In the fine print, it said, “Use within 5 days after removing seal for optimal freshness."
After five days, the cheese puffs no longer crumble easily. They become stale and a choking hazard for babies. Here’s a prime example of when fine print can affect the health of the consumer.
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4. All-Inclusive Resorts or Partially-Inclusive
Travel agencies love to promote all-inclusive resorts. But if you don’t take the time to read the fine print for a resort claiming to be ‘all-inclusive,’ you could end up disappointed.
Let’s say you're planning a vacation and see a resort claiming all-inclusive. You immediately book your vacation. But when you get there, your $599 all-inclusive vacation to Punta Cana becomes $749. How did this happen? Well, some tricky travel agencies include resort fees for each night, but they only state that in the fine print.
If you’re being charged $30/night and you stay for five nights, it can quickly add up. And since you checked that box, you’re on the hook.
So, there you have it. Always read the fine print (and don’t forget copyright laws too). Breaking out that magnifying glass might save you a hassle, a life, and a ton of money in the long run.