Home > Leadership, The Monday Musings Column, Useful Tools > Brushing off the Small Print

Brushing off the Small Print

Over the weekend I was informed by a major UK retailer that toothpaste is not a dental product. You may find that as bizarre as I did, but it is true, as far as they are concerned within the limits of the relevant promotion.

Whatever their logic in drawing that line for their promotion may be my view is that it is another symptom of a malaise that we really should have stamped out by now; that of the Small Print. We had started to make real progress a few years ago with having clarity about things, even in those last bastions of the Small Print, the insurance and travel businesses, but it has begun to make a comeback.

Probably one of the drivers has been the budget airlines where, in some ways rightly, they have segmented their product to offer the customer a wider choice. We haven’t quite reached the “Inside or outside seating sir?” level, but, like many, I began to use budget airlines for business travel and was more than happy to just take a briefcase and be able to waft up to Glasgow and back for about a fifth of what it would cost me for a return fare on the train to London. The trains have followed suit with advance bookings and such since and it all helps to keep costs down if you can make the timings work and accept the risk of not making it to the airport or station in time for your booked return. Personally I don’t find that the web sites that you book through are particularly misleading or hard to use; fortunately I still have enough functioning brain cells to understand that being late is too late whether it is one minute or thirty. Either way I’m late and it will cost me regardless of why I’m late.

I’ve read recently that the Government want to introduce legislation to stop such companies  not telling you that there is another 3.5% or similar to pay by credit card until you get to the late stages of the transaction. That’s fair enough I suppose, but in general I’m not hugely in favour of legislation at this sort of level. In fact I’m not in favour of Government interfering in business at all if we can help it, but the problem with some of this is that the people marketing these products view their customers as gullible enough to be drawn in far enough towards the purchasing decision before they clobber them with the real deal. However, this is the dodgy second hand car salesman technique that people of my vintage will be familiar with and sooner or later there will be a backlash.

So much for the B2C world, but we’re not like that in B2B are we? Unfortunately we often are, most often because we haven’t taken the basic steps of being sure about what we are buying and understanding the deal. Like me at the weekend we have rushed into the transaction thinking that we were on to a good deal but not having made sure that it was as good as we thought.

For me the choice was easy enough; pay up or walk away, but what if the deal had been for equipment costing a six figure sum or a three year service contract? That is not the sort of deal that you want to make a mistake on. Take your time to understand what you want and why and always make sure that, Small Print and all, the deal you make will deliver what you need.


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