The Devil Is In The Details

Private Property South Africa
Shaun Wewege

Reading the small print before signing a contract seems like a no brainer and is something that has always been instilled in us. When you signed your first lease agreement or cell phone contract you would have been given sage advice from an old timer, often a parent, “Always read the fine print son. The devil is in the details.”

I’d always thought he was somehow involved in heavy metal music. Finding out that any contract I’d sign would have the same net effect on my soul as listening to music made by bands who wear leather pants was disconcerting. Nonetheless, it was good advice and I try to be as studious as possible when reading any document that needs my John Hancock.

The problem, however, is that being a diligent reader of fine print means little until you work out how it affects you. A very good example is bank charges. Now I am not going to write a column in which I flame my bank. I won’t give their name but let’s just say I used to trust them. I felt as if we were united. Perhaps even allied.

I pay for my internet banking service and for every transaction that involves an external source, such as debit orders or debit card purchases. I also pay for certain bank statements and to move money between my own accounts. The fine print told me what the charges would be but never explained why entering a search query and pulling my own data would incur a cost in the first place. I can access any number of secure, password protected websites for financial institutes and request my information – why am I being charged for similar data requests in online banking?

My medical aid covers me for many things. Lightning strikes, illness, disease. But some wording is very specific. I am covered for “human-to-human” organ transplant. Now unless my attending physician goes by the name of Dr. Moreau I wouldn’t think that getting a replacement liver from a lemur was an option. This does mean that my cunning plan to run faster by having cheetah muscle implants is going to have to come out of my own pocket.

A car policy I looked at stated that insured vehicles would “not be covered for business purposes, but only for purposes of pleasure”. That’s good to know because the likelihood of my car needing repair increases dramatically when I try floating it atop a pool noodle. Luckily my aversion to work reduces the chances of needing to claim should something happen while driving to a meeting.

The fine print contains some unique phrases. An insurance policy I looked at offers something called a “death benefit”. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of an oxymoron in the entire English language. I needn’t remind you that death is never really a benefit unless it occurs while you are watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians or a certain new news network (I would name them but they’ve recently tried to control what people say about them on the Internet).

If it occurs during Idols consider it a blessing in disguise.

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