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Learn to Read- Learn to Save

This may seem a little off the wall, but then again, it wouldn’t be the first time I wrote something odd.
You see the title and you are reading this, so we already know that you know how to read. What you read can save you money, or cost you time and money.

You see, there are lots of regulations regarding food labeling, service contracts, and nearly every purchase you make, large or small. There is fine print, and large print, standardized labels, and some – not so much.
In a previous post I wrote about unit labels on the grocery shelves. Here’s a few more tips along the same line.

1. Read the label.
2. Read the fine print.
3. Understand what you are buying completely, the limitations and if and when you can get a refund.
4. Be absolutely sure the product satisfies the need you are purchasing it for.

One very common direct marketing practice  now is the “free trial”.  The way it is done -which is entirely legal, although I find it a bit sneaky – is to get you to fill out your credit card information to pay “just the shipping charges”.

You’ll see it on TV, hear it on the radio, and see it in print everywhere. This is called risk reversal, where the seller actually takes the risk of the price of the goods, and gives you a free trial. UNTIL…..(cue in the creepy music here… better yet, the theme from Jaws…)

If you do not read the fine print, you will miss the part about:

“By sending us permission to charge you for shipping, you are voluntarily being signed up for a monthly shipment of XYZ Brand Multivitamins, and you will be billed $149.95 per month. You have 72 hours from receipt of your free trial to return the unused portion, via insured mail, with a notarized copy of your invoice, proof of residence, and a note from your mother in order to prevent us from charging you every month thereafter until we go out of business and retire to the Cayman Islands.”

Or something like that. And I might add, good luck getting back  any money that has been charged after the fact. You did after all agree to the terms of the “trial” and they did not manufacture your consent or steal your credit card info. You signed up for it.

You would be amazed at the number of people I have run into that complain about this kind of marketing, yet they still fall for it – just “giving them a try”. (Truthfully – I think some of them just want to get something for nothing, and have no intention of doing business with the vendor – its a two sided coin.)

In another example of learning to read labels while shopping at the pharmacy, take a very close look at generic equivalents of over the counter medications. For example, you can buy Tylenol (or any other brand name), or  the house brand (CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, etc…) Tylenol, and the other brand names are primarily made of  acetaminephen (that word cracks me up..say it to yourself  three times fast “acetaminephen, acetaminephen, acetaminephen“). The generic can be 30-40% or more less expensive per unit. Again, check the number of doses, and the milligrams of the active ingredient in each dose to be sure you are getting a bargain. (100 pills of 100 milligrams for $1.00 is not better than 60 pills of 200 milligrams for $1.00)

When you read the label, just be sure that the active ingredients you are seeking in the brand name are actually there in the generic equivalent. This is a no-brainer for most of us, but sometimes we overlook the obvious.

Don’t go so far as just grabbing a generic and assuming that it has the effective ingredient. I once bought the store brand of a cough syrup and found it didn’t work at all. Yes, it was cough syrup, and yes it was cheap.  But no, it did not contain dextromethorphan or even Guaifenesin (those words don’t do anything for me. Neither did the cough syrup.)

But anyway, like a local men’s fashion store says on its commercial : “An educated consumer is our best customer.

Be an educated consumer. Read the labels,and the fine print.  (And this blog!)

ABOUT AUTHOR / Andi

Andi is a Marketing Assistant at ACCC. He is passionate about supporting financial literacy efforts and helping to educate people on the Talking Cents blog!

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