The Fine Print

What’s the worst that could happen if you don’t read it?

I think we’re all guilty of checking the “I agree” button at the end of a full-page disclaimer, just to get an app on your phone or sign up for a “good deal” on a purchase.

No one I know really reads all of the legal mumbo-jumbo in the fine print, do they? After all, what’s the worst it could say? Requiring you to forfeit your first-born child? Canceling your birthday? Costing you thousands of dollars?

One of my most painful “whoops!” took place because I didn’t do even the minimum of due diligence: read the fine print. I don’t remember all the details, but my therapist recommended that I remember the lesson. I have.

I had been looking for a new form of noncredit-check program as a way to overcome the sales objections of some of my less-than-credit-worthy customers. It came in the form of post-dated checks. Yes, I know. But I just wanted to say, “Sure we can do the repair and give you some time to pay for it.”

On my never-ending list of things to do was finding a company that would offer no-credit-check financing, and the process had been dragging out for a while. One day, while speaking with a trusted industry leader, he recommended a company that some shops were happy with.

I contacted the company and, with less research than I normally do, was convinced to lease equipment necessary to process the checks, which the company would hold, and then deposit at a later, contracted date. I mostly focused on how it processed the payments, when I’d get my money and how it treated my customers. I didn’t study the lease, and that was the stinger.

I was locked into an automatic checking debit for the equipment, but after six months, I determined the process wasn’t the best for me and or my customers. I wanted out, but they said, “No, you have to finish the terms of the lease,” and pointed out the fine print. Instead of smashing the equipment with a truck, I boxed it up and saved it in the storeroom.

On the final day of the lease, I faxed in the appropriate paperwork to terminate the contract. Unfortunately, I didn’t follow up to make sure it had been done and the company kept pulling the payment from my account. I contacted them and advised them my lease was up, so I should no longer have the ACH from my bank account. But the company then tried to get my credit card processing business, which required, of course, leasing new equipment.

My bank was able to stop the withdrawals, and the company put me into default, listing my account as delinquent. Figuring they had more lawyers on their staff than I had staff, I decided to stay calm and speak kindly. It worked!

I found a nice lady willing to help me get out from under this handcuff lease by sending back all the processing equipment. To her surprise, I could comply.

I photographed and documented all the serial numbers, enclosed the necessary paperwork and shipped it all back. Within a week or so, I received confirmation my nightmare was over. Whew! Lesson learned: Read the fine print!

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