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July 22, 2013

Readers Spot the “Gotchas” in the Fine Print (Part 1)

Filed under: Retail,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:16 am

Mouse Print* readers have been busy scouring the fine print of ads and product labels, and have come up with some doozies. (Here’s how to submit your finds.)

Example 1


Cathy S. found these sheets at a flea market and also noted that some people online were complaining about them. Why?


These sheets that appear to be “1600 thread-count Egyptian cotton” aren’t 1600 thread-count and aren’t even cotton! The fine print above that claim says “experience the same comfort, luxury, and softness as” 1600 thread count Egyptian cotton. How deceptive can you get? Incidentally, the label above is enlarged from the original, so the qualifying language is even harder to read.


Example 2

T-Mobile just introduced a new plan whereby customers can upgrade their phones whenever they want.

Becky sent along this commercial and urged us to focus on the fine print rather than the spoken words.


While the words say “upgrade when you want,” the hard-to-read fine print says something else.



“Upgrade up to twice a year after 6 months” is not exactly “when you want” says Becky. We agree.



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  1. As someone who is generally horrified by deceptive small print, I appreciate seeing the sheets which I would have missed at the first glance and been pretty peeved about later. That said, the T-Mobile example doesn’t bug me one little bit. I saw the fine print without straining or pausing the TV during the first time I watched the commercial. Given that their competators make you wait at least 18 months, 6 months is actually great! This would save me from paying 5-10 bucks a month for insurance becasue if something happened to my phone after 6 months I could just re-up and get the intro rates. The big catch would be if they start charging more for the upgrade phones to offset (e.g. no more free droid when you sign up).

    Maybe I’ve just come to expect that cell phone companies will be sneaky so this actually feels like a reasonable deal!

    Comment by Charli — July 22, 2013 @ 7:36 am
  2. The sheet set example is pretty slick. I didn’t catch what was wrong with it at first glance, but going over the wording again I caught it. I typically read the tags on the products I buy so once I got those sheets home and read the tag I would have likely taken them back to the store. Not sure if that’s possible at a flea market though.

    The problem with the new cell phone plans is not that the period of time you can upgrade is limited, it’s that they still charge the full price of the plan! If they take the phone subsidy out of the plan and allow me to pay for the phone separately, then I expect the plan to be cheaper. If you’re upgrading your phone more than every 6 months then I think you might be the problem and not the phone companies.

    Comment by Wayne R — July 22, 2013 @ 10:15 am
  3. That sheet thing should be illegal (maybe it is). If it is legal, imagine how you could make an ad pretty much saying anything.

    Comment by James — July 22, 2013 @ 10:41 am
  4. re: Wayne R – I’ve never understood the supposed logic of the phone companies either. They say they have to have people commit to a 2 or 3 year contract to recoup the costs of subsidizing the phone.

    Then when people have paid their phone off or bought their own suddenly the price of the plan has nothing to do with paying off the phone subsidy.

    Apparently here in Canada at least one phone company is going to offer a price break to people who aren’t paying off subsidized phones. This and many other customer friendly policy changes are going to come into affect in the near future.

    Coincidentally, this is all happening just as the feds were about to lower the boom on the big cell phone providers. Of course that was totally unrelated to the announced changes.

    Comment by Jimbo — July 24, 2013 @ 10:42 pm
  5. I’m going to go off on a slight tangent here (related to the cotton sheet example) but I see bands do the similar sort of thing. I’ve seen a bar advertise a band playing and will (in big letters) print “from The Doors” or “Lynard Skynard” or something, to make it either sound like it is that band or members of that band.

    To find out that maybe some guy might have played with them once or was maybe an extra guitar at a performance, but now they use it to advertise it like it is the real thing.

    Then again, movies do this stuff when you have a famous director or producer that maybe just worked on financing on another film but the do the old “from Director Steven Spielberg”.

    Honestly, this is sort of false advertising as well.

    Comment by James — July 28, 2013 @ 4:15 pm
  6. re: Wayne R – I believe that’s the case with Verizon and AT&T, but I think T-Mobile is different. When I was shopping around, T-Mobile’s bring your own phone plan was $20 cheaper than the subsidized phone plans.

    Comment by Marc K — July 30, 2013 @ 8:48 pm
  7. I love that the TMobile doesn’t even mention the extra $10 a month charge, the fact you have to return your old cellphone, and, if the phone gets lost, damaged, or doesn’t work, there is a deductible. So, this is pretty much a miss-advertised cellphone insurance plan.

    Comment by Jon C — August 6, 2013 @ 3:55 pm

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