Practical Dad

Teachable Moments:  The $1 Renewal

I live for teachable moments, those instances when you can take an occurrence and turn it into a small lesson.  Some are spur of the moment and some are items that I keep and set aside for later use; today's mail just provided one of the latter category, an offer from ESPN magazine for a special $1 annual renewal if I use my credit card. 

One of my axioms is the simple if it's too good to be true, it's too good to be true and my eyes floated to the small print - what the big print giveth, the small print taketh away - to look for the answer.  On the upper right corner, several font sizes below the large BEST RENEWAL DEAL! message was Note:  Your subscription will have Automatic Renewal benefits.  See back for details. The upshot of the offer is that if I'm willing to give them my credit card number, then they'll renew for $1 but the renewal will be ad infinitum at the prevailing rates.  It will certainly be possible to cancel, but the reality is that enough people are either too lazy or stupid to bother trying to walk through the steps and the corporate loss incurred on the offer will be easily overcome by the much greater revenue from the automatic renewals. 

I subscribed to ESPN last year for both my benefit and that of Youngest, who is - as labeled by Eldest - the family  jock.  It's actually read in the household and will become even moreso as baseball season takes hold and it's entirely possible that it will be renewed when the subscription expires in about six months.  That said, the offer is something that I'll share with the kids since I want them to view life with a healthy dose of skepticism.  The lessons, in a bite-size format, are:

  • If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is too good to be true.  Great offers usually come with strings attached and while there's a short-term benefit to you, there's a longer-term benefit to someone else.
  • What the big print giveth, the small print taketh away.  It's a point to read every contract and especially so in the presence of the kids.  There have been instances when I've purposefully slowed down the process by reading a contract in their presence just to make a point.  In this instance, I'll share the location of the small print so that they can see it after viewing the obvious big print.
  • Is this the kind of purchase for which a credit card is used?  This is purely a judgment call and if you've got a points reward card, you might say that it's entirely appropriate.
  • Are you certain that this magazine is something that you'll want to read indefinitely?  Can you presently afford it on any budget that you might have?
  • If you have to cancel it in the future, is it easy to do so?  Some organizations have special hoops that must be jumped through in order to actually cancel it.

There might be other items that will come up in conversation and we'll cross that bridge if necessary.  But for now, the offer will take up residence on the kitchen island and await the arrival of the kids.

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