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Taking Care of Business: Read the Fine Print

January 22, 2009
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The other day I was planning to book an airline ticket using my Northwest Airlines Award miles. I hadn’t used them in a few years so I wasn’t aware of any new changes to award travel. After planning the itinerary I went to confirm the purchase and saw a brand new fee called an “Award Ticket Redemption Fee” of $75. Huh?

Then I looked up what this meant and got the following description: “Effective January 15, 2009, WorldPerks members will be assessed a fee when redeeming miles for an award ticket less than 21 days prior to flight date. (WorldPerk Platinum Elites are exempt from this fee.)”

I figure it is just another way for Northwest to cope with its mounting losses or for me to get off my duff and travel more, moving from my paltry “silver” elite to the prestigious “platinum” elite. Either way, this is the fine print I didn’t see until I was ready to confirm the ticket.

It got me thinking if any of you in the contracting world have any fine print in your contracts with clients - fine print that may come back to bite you later on. Maybe the fine print is a way to protect yourself by adding disclaimers (like the ones you see and hear from advertisements for generic drugs or male enhancement potions, which take up over half of the ad).

The next time you get a chance, review the verbiage in your contracts and see if there is any fine print that may cause customer consternation or actually kill a deal. If anything, you may want to increase the font size of that print or put it in bold. There is no need to lose a customer over fine print.
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