When you think of fine print, you might think of your local car dealership ads in the newspaper (you know, that roll of gray paper that used to show up on your doorstep every morning when you were a kid. It had the funnies in it…you now use it to pack things when you move. You know.) Or perhaps you think of the announcer at the end of the drug commercials reeling off all of the side-effects in three seconds. The more imaginative of you might have thought up some cartoonish devil figure in a fabulously tailored suit, tempting you to sign his contract, it’s all legit, never mind what it says, you don’t have to read it.
Thus, this tip in providing substandard customer service is a no-brainer: Don’t make it easy to find simple information. And you don’t even need to use the .01 pt font to make things difficult to read. You can write it as big as you want, as long as you couch the important information between lines and lines of innocuous, seemingly unintelligible business jargon.
My health insurance company did this to me when I requested a brochure that outlined my health insurance policy. There is a table of contents, but it’s about 25 pages in, long after the point where I’d started cursing because I couldn’t find what I was looking for.
Which is, of course, the point, isn’t it? The harder it is to find important information, the less likely I’ll be successful, the more resigned I’ll get to the natural disorder of things, and the more they’ll be able to take advantage of me when I next need to use their services.
One of my close friends in the insurance industry takes a more measured stance. “Jeff,” he says patiently, “the companies expect you to understand the contract you are signing. The agreement is long, involved, and jargon-y; it’s couched in vague terms like ‘reasonable’ and ‘acceptable’ which they are free to define however they want; and they make sure there’s absolutely no opportunity to go through that contract line-by-line with a qualified, knowledgeable, and caring customer service representative. And they do all that because they love you.”
Oh. Now I get it. Thanks for clearing that up.