Reading the small print ...


Being an avid reader of books at home and when I am travelling, until last week I had never bothered to read “the small print”, considering it a waste of real reading time.

Apart from the annoying fact of the size of the script, I guarantee, no one other than under-45s will be able to decipher the texts without a magnifying glass or spectacles.
However, looking through a brochure advertising holidays in Greece, I could not help noticing all the ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ which lawyers had obviously insisted on being included in even the simplest offers in the brochure.
If you have ever bothered to read them, you know, what I mean.
“A minimum stay of one night is required. All taxes are the responsibility of the purchaser. The offer is void where prohibited”. The latter statement threw me completely, but after pondering it for a while, I think, what he meant is that in some countries government rules can make such offers illegal!
Well, I rarely stay less than one night in a hotel. We know, we always have to pay the taxes and, of course, the offer is definitely void where prohibited!
It gets worse, I was just about to enter a draw for a luxury watch, when I noticed at the bottom of the advertisement an application for the subscription for the magazine with automatic entry to the competition and underneath, presumably the mandatory: “No, I do not want to subscribe at this time, but please enter me into the contest.”
However, closer scrutiny of the small print pointed out the fact that the draw was only open to legal residents of the US and the district of Columbia.
Ah, well, better luck next time.
Now I was really hot on the trail of the “invisible writers”. In another competition reading down the competition rules, I came across this gem: “In the event the winner is a resident of Canada, the winner may be required to correctly answer a time-limited, skill-testing question.” This was the last sentence in competition rule number ten!
Sometimes it is better not to look at the small print. In the pack of aspirins prescribed by my doctor was this printed message: “This is a medicament... a product affecting your health and its consumption contrary to instructions can be dangerous for you.”
This statement was then followed by 12 lines of warnings which should be read, of course, but if you do, you would probably be reluctant to continue with the “medicament”. Nowadays most people are aware, if you respond to an offer and provide your name and address, you will be immediately swamped with spam and e-mails from around the globe.
The initial perpetrators protect themselves from lawsuits by saying: “When you respond to offers and promotions, we will use your information for administration, customer ser-vice and targeted marketing”. Note this last point! It goes on “In order to fulfil our commitments to you, we will disclose your information to our service providers and agents” etc.
It seems that whenever we travel, we are confronted by the “silent writer”... look at the conditions on the inside cover of your airline ticket. You know, the ones I am talking about the “conditions of contract”, which we never bother to read.
In these rules you will find that the airline does not have to fly you to your intended destination just because you have booked a seat! “There is a slight chance that a seat will not be available on a flight for which a traveller has a confirmed reservation. If the flight is overbooked, no one will be denied a seat until airline personnel first ask for volunteers willing to give up their reservation in exchange for a payment of the airline’s choosing!”
When you book to become a delegate at a conference, there is good and bad news. Good: “We always provide vegetarian options at our conferences, but please inform us, if you need us to cater to any other dietary requirements.” Not so good: “Cancellations made after this date, will be charged the full invoice total.”
One of the funniest examples of small prints I ever saw, was in Scandinavia a few years ago, where an airline was advertising “Daily Flights to the UK”-with an asterisk in very small print saying “except on Saturdays and Sundays”.

Speaking Out Jonna Simon