Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Read the Fine Print? Don't Bother!

People love to say things like "be sure to read the fine print!" - but why bother?

Counter-intuitive advice always sells.   So here is some for you.   When you see some sort of contract or deal or advertised special with lots of fine print, don't waste your time reading it.

Instead, just walk away from the deal.

That's right.  It is as simple as that.  If someone puts acres of language in 4-point type (usually in red for some reason - I think to make it harder to read) odds are they are screwing you.

Do you really think that terms in a contract that are advantageous to you are going to appear in teeny-tiny print?  Of course not.

They put things in "fine print" for a reason - it is stuff they don't want you to read because it likely would scare you off from signing.

One thing I am learning over the last decade is that shitty financial deals really aren't that hard to spot.   And yet, on the Internet, "financial blogs" like to play the opposite game - read the fine print, take the deal, try to "steal the cheese" and come out ahead by playing someone else's game where they set all the rules.

Let me know how that works out.

The deal is, you can spot shitty deals a mile away just by the way they are presented.   Just about everything advertised on television, for example is a shitty deal.   A new prescription drug will set you free from Compulsive Farting Disorder (CFD) but sadly, the side-effects (read in a monotone at a compressed breakneck speed at the end of the ad) include massive hemorrhaging though your ears. I'd say that's worth the trade-off, wouldn't you?

That's why I say, just walk away from television - the broadcast and cable kind.   Any kind of ad is by its nature, deceptive, and if you buy something based on advertising, you should expect to be screwed.  Whether it is magazine or newspaper ads, or billboards - or even a cardboard sign on a telephone pole that promises you weight loss or wealth without work - odds are it is a screw-job.  And it goes without saying that subliminal ads - product placements for example - are the worst.   Well, right up there with creepy Internet ads that read your e-mails and Facebook postings and then pitch similar products to you.

But there are other ways to spot raw deals for 1,000 yards away.   Anything pitched to the poor is suspect.   If you cruise through the ghetto, you see raw deals abound.   Liquor stores sell pints of cheap booze for more than I pay for a half-gallon of "the good stuff" at the wholesale club.   Buy-here, pay-here used car dealers offer crappy cars at inflated prices at outrageous interest rates.   Payday loan, title loan, and pawnshops abound - all offering crappy deals.   Storage lockers are also popular - and a waste of money when your possessions are not worth even one month's rent!

This is not to say all deals aimed at the poor suck.   You'll find good prices (although maybe not the best service!) at Wal-Mart and Dollar Tree (NOT Dollar General!) has amazing things for just a dollar.

But rich folks - or at least middle-class folks - get screwed all the time and it ain't hard to spot the bad deals aimed at them.  Anything that uses a high-pressure sales pitch is basically a shitty deal.   You go to the boat or RV show and they tell you that you can sign today on a new boat or RV - but that the day after the show ends, you won't be able to get the same price at the dealer (really? why???).   You get a card in the mail for a "free vacation" at a timeshare resort - and then are subjected to four hours of pain while you sit in an overheated conference room and are "sold" on interval ownership.

Even real estate - especially real estate - where the agent implores you to "buy now, before you are priced out of the market!"   Opportunity is knocking - they tell you - but only for so long.

Here is a clue:  The "opportunity" to buy shit for your personal use is rarely an opportunity.

The long and the short of it is that we simply don't have time in our lives to read through all the fine print and break down every financial deal to see whether maybe there some gold nugget or diamond hiding in the rough.   Odds are, there isn't, so just walk away.   You are not missing out on anything by not spending three hours analyzing the fine print on a crappy lease deal.   Cut to the chase - all lease deals are crappy.  You'll realize this the moment you go to turn the car in.

Rather than try to game the system - a system designed for fleece you, designed by people far smarter than you are - simply seek out better, rational, and transparent deals.   The odds of getting screwed are far less, and it will save you a lot of time as well.

Oh, and one other thing.  If more people did this, the marketers would have less incentive to offer shitty fine-print deals.   The reason why our society has so many raw deals out there isn't because the government fails to regulate enough but because people sign up for raw deals over and over again.

Maybe if we stopped acting like chumps, they'd stop treating us like ones!