Sunday, March 4, 2007

Now that's what I call fine print

I saw a banner ad on a college sports website today. It was animated, as far too many web ads are. It said:

Book the NCAA® Final Four® Package

And then it said:

Your Chance to Randomly Win VIP Seats to the 2008 NCAA® Men's Final Four®


The NCAA® Final Four® Package Starting From $89

Then came the fine print. There's a representative sample above; click on it for a look at the whole thing in actual size.

This is wrong on so many levels.

First, "final four" is a descriptive term for the semifinals of a single-elimination bracket tournament. How could the NCAA get away with registering it as a trademark? (They also claim trademarks on such phrases as "The Road to Atlanta" and "The Road to San Antonio.")

Second, why does an organization whose "purpose is to govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner, and to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount," need to register the abbreviation of its name as a commercial trademark?

And finally, how does anybody get away with the obfuscation of so much legally required information? It's bad enough when they put misleading commercials on TV that show paragraphs of fine-print disclosures for fractions of a second, so that you have to record and freeze them in order to read them. This stuff isn't legible at all, no matter how much time you have to look at it!

As near as I can make out, it says:
By entering this contest, you sign over to the sponsors the right to use your likeness and name for any purpose they choose, without compensation to you of any kind. No purchase is necessary to enter, because we're not allowed to require that, but we're figuring you won't bother reading this notice and will fork over $89 for about $50 worth of goods and services plus a minuscule chance of winning tickets to next year's national championship. Speaking of minuscule chances, the exact odds depend on the number of entries, but our reliable estimates say that you have about as much chance of winning the grand prize as you have of spitting off the top of the Empire State Building and hitting a Coke can on the sidewalk two blocks away; otherwise you won't get anything worth the annoying spam you'll receive for the next five years by virtue of having established a "relationship" with us by taking this bait, other than the dubious value of this overpriced "package."
Whatever it says, I'm sure they put that fine print there because they're legally required to, and not because they actually want you to read it. But if they're required to show it, shouldn't they be required to make it legible? There's no way this is in compliance with the spirit, if even the letter, of whatever laws or regulations require that they show it in the first place. But do you think the FTC, or whatever government agency supposedly enforces such regulations, will call them on it? Yeah. Me neither.

By the way, I tried clicking the "Package details" button in the ad. It led to a Radisson Hotels website that was "temporarily closed for maintenance." Go figure.

1 comment:

  1. OK, the package consists of a Coke, a TGI Friday's coupon, and a "collectible sports bottle" in addition to entry in the drawing. I think I must have misread the actual value of the package in the fine print. There's no way it's worth $50.