[ the fine print is our tell ]

Have you ever asked yourself 1 what, exactly, is the purpose of fine print? Don’t bother, I already did and I can explain. Please, bear with me.

Fine print is the nefarious handiwork of bamboozlers and hoodwinkers and goes by many names: small print, disclaimer, micetype, flimflam. Its sole purpose is deception. What the plainly worded bold face print promises, the muddled fine print taketh away. Despite most of us being aware of this ongoing deception, fewer than twelve humans worldwide read the fine print. 2 That’s a pretty strong indication, we’re a dangerously complacent species.

As online traffic exploded, so has the use of fine print. It’s everywhere. On credit card offers, terms of use agreements, mortgages, cereal boxes, and most ludicrous of all, television commercials. The wording in disclaimers is mind boggling. What could be said in a simple declarative sentence is buried in pages of bewildering legalese. 3

To make matters worse, tiny flyspeck type is lost in a sea of eye-catching graphics and flashing neon, dancing exclamation points, bells and buzzers. Our eyeballs are exhausted and our brains are overtaxed. Plus, we couldn’t care less and that nonchalance is what makes fine print such a gold mine for the money-grubbing.

This, for example, was posted on the vending machine in the laundry room of my apartment building. 

The laundry room is a place I’ve visited weekly for more than six years. I bought Cokes from that machine. 4 Yet, I didn’t spot this notice until Thursday — two days ago. Who knew? Well, frankly, I should’ve. We all should. Every last one of us.

If we don’t start paying attention, we’re going to be so deep in catastrophe we can’t get out. And not because of fine print, but because we’re woefully disengaged. We are, right now, under siege from a loudmouthed minority of faithless undesirables who are going to great lengths to dismantle democracy, criminalize culture, rewrite history, and return to the Dark Ages. 5 With book bans, repealed rights, voter restrictions, lies, corruption, et al. We are in trouble. I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m fairly certain it isn’t standing idle on the sidelines. 

it’s time to give a sh*t. 

This is a very real danger. It’s going to require a vigorous, persistent effort to overcome the threats we’re facing — climate change, authoritarianism, ignorance, violence, and hate can’t be wished away. They need to be confronted. Rolling backward just isn’t an option. However, all serious ideas, suggestions, recommendations, assistance, possibilities, and thoughts are sincerely welcome.

1 Talking to yourself is normal, asking for information may be a cause for concern.
2 I made that up, the actual number may be higher. Or lower. Or unknown.
3 Lawyers are paid by the hour. Time-consuming obstacles are highly profitable.
4 Without a debit card. Vending machines seem like a hacker’s accomplice.
5 I’m not a crackpot; I’m lucid, sort of sensible, and as serious as a heart attack. 

copyright © 2023 the whirly girl

2 responses to “[ the fine print is our tell ]”

  1. Now, your disclaimers I can get behind.
    I remember the first time I noticed something like this. I had filled up at the gas station using by credit card. At the time, it was a smaller car and gas was cheaper. It was probably around $30. I checked my credit card the next day and there was $100 charge from the gas station. My car would never hold $50 at the time, even bone dry. I sat for some time going through the hoops pushing button after button, listening to on hold music with the credit card company to claim a false charge. Eventually, I was told that the $100 dollar charge was automatic at most gas stations and that it would be removed when the accurate amount went through. I now manually enter the amount to put on hold and never use the auto option.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Are you kidding? You have an option? I’m amazed and steamed. And jealous.

      Liked by 1 person

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