Fine print, which used to be the domain of legal, what ifs, has become the place where merchants hide sneaky stuff. Most of us only glance at the small print on documents or websites. That has opened the door for some poor sales tactics.
At a grocery store, an item is put on sale. It’s a loss leader, designed to get people into a store. In his cart, a customer stocks up on the item only to be told at checkout that there’s an arbitrary limit on how much of it he can buy.
Was there a sign on the shelves that said, “Limit X?” No. Store employees argue that their weekly grocery flier contains the phrase, “Stores have the right to limit quantities.” So the store has an open ended way to limit how much you buy of its sale items. It could be 4, it could be 20. You have no way of knowing.
While I can understand a store wanting to protect the stock on its shelves, the limit should be visible by the product. That keeps customers from experiencing a frustrating moment in the checkout line, something I’m sure will be repeated later on to their friends and family.
Another example is common with businesses that offer things like moving or parking services. Here you partially pay for a service over the phone or online. You use a credit card. But when you show up in person to pay the remainder of the bill, you’re told that you must pay it with cash. Why you ask? Because it’s in the fine print of the agreement.
It’s a real gotcha moment for the customer. If you don’t carry a lot of cash, then you have to race to find an ATM. You’ve already put down money with your credit card, so you don’t want to walk away from the service. And there was no option to pay the full amount with you credit card ahead of time.
These are just two examples of this problem and feel free to share any others in the comments section.
My beef with these policies is that if there is something is that important to convey to the customer, then it shouldn’t be in small print. Sure, we could read everything in the small print but how much of a burden of discovery should be held by customers? The hidden details should be in big print and maybe even italics.
Some may argue that this pulls back the curtain on what appeared to be a smoking good deal. In many cases the deal is nothing more than a mirage. I’m sure it’s the kiss of death for repeat business.
It’s wrong for businesses to use fine print to try to hide sneaky sales tactics in plain sight.