Did the gotcha getcha?
How often have we been prepared to hand out a stiff telling-off to a mobile phone company, or a utility provider, or a car dealer, only to find the wind disappear from our sails as soon as the old red tape comes out and you find yourself being asked to revisit the tiny little words that they call small print?
In it you will find a plethora of get-out clauses, indemnities, body armour and gotchas.
Drive a car off the lot? Sure! Go ahead and enjoy, because that price just halved the moment you did. Just try selling it back to the car dealer the next day.
Mobile phone not quite what you expected? Well tough, because you’re stuck with it for the next two years. You must have known this because it’s in the terms of the contract, dummy.
Until recently, many banks and financial companies in the US and the UK avoided accountability by putting arbitration clauses in their contracts that block groups of their customers from suing them.
In the agency world it gets even murkier, with outsourcing, in-sourcing, service level agreements, non-compete clauses and termination of contract clauses snapping at you the moment the ink is dry on the contract.
And don’t get me started on the ultimate employment contract gotcha, the zero-hours contract. This style of contract allows employers to hire staff without actually guaranteeing them any work, sick pay – sometimes holiday pay – and if you don’t like the work offered, you’re fired. These contracts are popular but hopefully not here to stay. In 2013 they were 1.9% of the workforce. Within a year their popularity rose to 2.3% - 2.2 million people. Ed Miliband calls them an ‘epidemic’. I’m not sure they deserve the same social status as Ebola, but as I said – don’t get me started.
It seems that gotchas will getcha every time. It doesn’t matter what you do, what you buy or who you buy it from, hidden just beneath the smooth, glossy surface lies a viper’s nest of lock-ins and safety rules, usually invented by the vendor or provider, that protect them from people trying to ruin their business by calling “foul”.
And in most cases, the foul call is justified, it’s just.. well, not something your particular contract allows for. And then you have to pack up your grievances, put on a brave smile and take it like a customer. To quote the TV show The Walking Dead “If you have to eat sh*t, best not to nibble. Bite, chew, swallow, repeat.”
Is that the way you want to do business? Is that fair? Especially in these penny-pinching times. Should companies treat their customers like mugs and fools that have unintentionally wandered into a street corner game of “Find the Lady”?
Well at Creative Systems, we don’t think so either. There is a great scene in the film A Night At The Opera, where Groucho Marx and Chico are reviewing the relevant parts of their contract. I don’t want to spoil great comedy for you but it’s typical of how we view red tape and jargon.
If you have been burned before and now approach contracts with extreme caution, or you’re fed up with swimming in a shark pool of Ts & Cs that would baffle the wisest fellow, you really should talk to us.
Our approach to service contracts is like no other, we are so confident in the service we provide; we do not tie our clients into hard to exit agreements.
If you would like the best support available with no nasty surprises, you really should find out more about our zero commitment contracts, the cure-all for Gotchas.
Terms and conditions are a useful thing to have but buyer beware! Remember that he who writes the heads of terms always wins.
Lee Williams, Technical Director
Commercial Creative Systems