Here we are again in the holiday season, which really means “primary spending time” both for consumers and retailers. The flyers bundled with my newspaper on Thursday had many more pages than did the paper itself. While they’re not as offensive as political ads, the frequency of ads for “Black Friday Deals!” on all programming was at week-before-the-election levels. Numbing…
What bothers me about quite a few of these ads is not really restricted to this season but since everyone’s mind is on shopping I thought I’d put it out there today. I have a huge distrust of fine print. You know – the things about the stuff in big type that are written in tiny type and make the great deal not so great. On radio ads it’s when the announcer starts talking very fast and unintelligibly. As Consumer Reports pointed out, it’s getting a “free” download of antivirus software with a recent purchase. By the way, free has a time limit — six months – and then you get billed for $49.99 after that if you don’t happen to cancel. You might see it on a brand’s Facebook page – “like” us and get a coupon for $5. Of course, the coupon is only good when you purchase $25 worth of stuff. Book some hotel rooms online and you’ll probably miss the fine print about “resort charges” or “safe fees” that are positioned as optional but which are anything but. I’ve never heard of anyone getting them removed from the bill. My phone’s “unlimited” data plan allows me the use of unlimited amounts of data but after I get to some point the speed is throttled, making the plan limited in other ways.
I have to think that the revenues gained from these offers is offset to some degree (one hopes to a very large one) by the costs of customer service and refunds generated by the fine print. Think for a minute about how we behave as individuals. We don’t extend offers to our friends with fine print, at least not if we expect to keep them as friends. “Let’s go to the movies” doesn’t come with “unless I can find a better option with someone else” or “of course, you’ll buy all the popcorn.” Why would we behave differently as a brand?
Fine print, except as mandated by law, is a bad idea. No fine print from me on that. How about from you?