When the question of "Can you really do that?" comes up in dealings with your bank, cell phone provider, employer, or rental car company, the answer is usually, "Yup." Especially if you signed a contract where the questioned surcharge/waiver/agreement/anomaly is outlined in section 69(a)Mii.478. (Lawyers have a unique numbering system.)
Most people know that it pays to read the fine print. Not surprisingly, the bigger the purchase, the more closely we scrutinize the teeny-tiny type on the contracts we're asked to sign, says legal website Findlaw.com
According to its new survey, 85% of the 1,000 adults surveyed nationwide say they read every word (or at least enough to understand contracts) when buying a home. Employment contracts come under pretty heated scrutiny as well, with 82% of respondents claiming to be very familiar with the terms before committing their John Hancock.
Our eagle-eye ways begin to wane when it comes to scouring credit card agreements (77%), housing rental contracts (70%), sports and recreation liability waivers (67%), and rental car agreements (63%). In fact, when asked which contracts they are most likely to just glance at or completely ignore, 15% to 18% of people admitted their eyes glaze over at credit card, rental car, and sports waiver agreements.
We know that you don't want to waste any time getting your turn on the Moon Bounce, but by giving just a cursory look at contracts, you could be leaving your good money (not to mention, your complaining rights) on the table. (How many people do you know slapped their foreheads the first time they used Priceline.com and got stuck with a flight with three layovers for a trip just one state over?)
In the case of credit card agreements, you don't even have to sign anything to notify the company that you accept the terms of the contract. The moment you activate the card, it's yours. And you are at the lender's (legal) whim. (Though we're particularly proud of our clear-language, large-type Motley Fool Visa card member agreement.)
In many cases, you can negotiate better terms than the ones outlined in a contract. Employment contracts and mortgage agreements -- even some cell phone plans -- often have wiggle room. Mention the perks you want (e.g., rollover minutes), and the penalties you refuse to pay (e.g., prepayment fees), before you sign.