Read your mail carefully

The other day I received a letter from one of the world’s largest department stores, an American chain that has been operating in Canada since the 1960s. I have dealt with this company for years, and even worked for them as a student. So naturally I trusted the authenticity of the “validation form” they sent me, which was marked RETURN IMMEDIATELY.

I have a credit card with the company, and they were asking for my mother’s maiden name “for security purposes”. I was just about to fill in the form and return it when I read the fine print. By signing and returning the form, I was authorizing them to charge my account $15 per year for their “Hot Line” service, which allows me to cancel all my credit cards with one phone call should my wallet be lost or stolen. Apparently, I had been receiving this “service” free of charge for the past six months, and now had to pay for it if I wanted to continue.

The funny thing is, I’d never sent them a list of my credit cards, so the “free service” was absolutely useless. Besides, if I went to the trouble of preparing a list for them, I could simply use it myself to cancel my cards.

The entire mailing is presented in a very misleadi manner, and will no doubt lead thousands of credit card holders to sign and return the form and start paying $15/year for a service they neither want nor need. But a careful reading of the form shows that the company’s lawyers have had a hand in its preparation, as everything is “clearly” marked, in very small print.

The lesson? Read all of your mail very carefully. It seems that even some established companies really do want to give you “your money’s worth and more”.