4.25.2006

Read the Fine Print

Everyone gets them from time to time. They come in almost everyday looking either plain or interesting and usually they come in multiple groups. No, I’m not talking about rashes, I’m talking about credit card offers.
A standard credit card offer comes with a lot of paper. One could probably fuel a wood-burning stove well into the dead of winter with enough of these babies. They either come with additional offers, fake looking checks, some sort of gift idea that you really want to give anyone even yourself, or some promise of a reward point for being an idiot. In any case, what you have is a letter that means one thing and says another.
In every letter, they have text that tries to make you feel good like you did something right just because you exist. “And you deserve it!” Well, hey thanks! That’s awfully nice! There’s a lot of nice people in Wilmington, DE. Or is there?
Of course there is a lot of info about credit cards, how bad they are, how they suck you in and you can’t get out … blah blah blah. You don’t even really have to get into that. Just look at the letter. If you take out all the inserts and the additional pamphlet of words in a font the size of a grain of salt, you are left with a strange letter that seems ominous.
One letter stated that I should really get a new deck for my home to entertain people during the summer. Of course, they don’t really know me because it says plainly on the address that I live in an apartment. If I set out to build a deck on the second floor, it wouldn’t take long to see that the endeavor would be fraught with peril. Along with their suggestions of illegal modification to my apartment, they offer rates and dates and great other things all accompanied by strange little symbols. The symbols refer to footnotes at the end of the letter in the similar grain small font that negate everything promised in the letter. To illustrate, I will write a letter using similar tactics. Behold a letter to a long lost imaginary friend:

Hey Topo,

It’s been a long time and I just wanted to catch up.† I’ve been doing well at my job at the financial company. Yeah, I’m still there! It’s a good job.†† I’ve moved out of the apartment and am now a homeowner. Never thought it would happen!§ Last I heard you were still up doing some freelance with that ad agency. Still doing that?1 We should keep in touch more often. My email address is
onebadgopher@yahooey.com ‡ Don’t be a stranger!†

Later,

Bubba

† - I feel guilty about not keeping in touch, so I’m doing this out of purely selfish reasons
†† - My 500lb coworker constantly reeks of bad fish
§ - I’m in over my head
1 – You squeaked by in college and you make more than me doncha? Can you spare some?
‡ – I’m not giving you my main email address


As you can see, there’s a lot hidden in the fine print. Rather than a quick letter of an attempt to rekindle an old friendship, you have the pathetic cry of a broken man wondering how he can escape. Credit Card letters are the same except that the person sending it to you is the 500lb fish-eater with the interesting rash.

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