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FTC Gets Angry Over "Free" PC Offers 156

Wister285 writes: "The Federal Trade Commission is going after, Value America, and Office Depot for running 'misleading' free PC offers. The FTC is claiming that the advertisements don't disclose the true restrictions and costs of the PCs, which can be up to $1000. When will people learn that Big Brother is always watching? Catch the story over at ZDNet." This goes way beyond "monitor not included," too.
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FTC Gets Angry Over "Free" PC Offer

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  • I think that while it is good that the FTC is getting involved, I think a little bit of caveat emptor as well as some common sense needs to be applied when people purchase things.

    Everytime you buy one of these "free pc's" you have to sign a contract. I don't know about some people, but when I sign a contract I read it. Anything that is not stated in the contract cannot apply to the deal being made. Unfortunately people sign things without reading them. They forget that they are bound to do with these contracts say. They get screwed by extra charges, they get pissed. Sorry but I think that's their problem.

    Maybe I'm just being an elitist pig again `;^)

  • by gtx ( 204552 )
    you'd think that people would notice the problem as soon as they were asked to write a check for their free computers.

    but then again, their customers are probably born every minute.

  • If its just the cooler fan un-plug it, Mine sounds like a mesquito, so I just pulled the wire off the mobo, but if its in the power-supply= nuts to you
  • D'Angelo's, a sandwich chain here in New England, used to have two types of vegetarian subs. But because they were cooked on the same grill as meat, someone decided they could not be called "vegetarian". They're now "vegetable" subs.

  • I was clearly thinking about the people who post links to [] on slashdot, like me. If you tried to extract any meaning from the post, you overestimated me. Duh.

    By "clearly thinking" I don't mean to imply I was thinking clearly. I must not be, because consumers of stupidity doesn't make sense, but then, neither does falling all over myself. I'm going to go try that now, it sounds like fun, and it counts on my quota of three impossible things I always do before breakfast (and I'm getting pretty damned hungry -- it's past midnight here, and so far I've only figured out what women really want and squeezed the toothpaste back into the tube once I was done with it).
  • You're only saying the opposite of what you mean...

    Don't worry, they couldn't care less.
  • The whole premise though is that I would be buying the exact same computer anyway. Of course it doesn't add up if you're just doing it for the rebate, but my point was I was buying a computer and I'd need internet access. If say earthlink (which I have now) or a decent ISP was offering the rebate, I'd have gone for it, and it would have made perfect economic sense.
  • I find it unethical as well. But those are my ethics.
    I vote with my money, though..
    When an advertisement seems insulting or misleading, I try my very best to a) let the company know and b) not spend any money there.

    And fine-print doesn't always matter when it comes to matters of perception.

  • That $xx.xx9 price for gas in the US dates back to when gas price wars were sending every corner gas station into Chapter #7. The theory was that people wouldn't realize that the price was 1/10 cent less than the next station. In practice, it works almost as well as selling products at $xx.99, with people reading the product price as
    xx, and not xx + 1.


  • You see, libertarianism, much like its almost direct opposite philosophy, communism, is basically just political masturbation. It looks really good in theory, and both of them promise to make things great for people--the difference being that libertarianism makes things great for the really smart and communism makes things great for the really dumb--but the results aren't quite what you expect, and it ends up being virtually impracticable.

    As much as I enjoy masturbation, I try not to mix it with my politics :P

    I disagree vehemently with your statement that libertarianism is impracticable. The United States was and is the single most libertarian nation in history, the formation of the U.S. was the single biggest libertarian event ever, and the Constitution is the single most important libertarian document ever. Modern libertarianism is very much rooted in the thinking of our Founding Fathers.

    America certainly has its problems, but it has flourished and in a mere 200 years (a blip in time, historically) this libertarian nation has been the most free and prosperous one on earth. In light of this, how can you possibly say that libertarianism is 'impracticable'? I say that it's more than practicable - it's proven.

    Look at the more-libertarian-than-now industrial American economy of the mid-to-late 1800s and early 1900s. Free market as far as the eye can see. But everybody ended up getting screwed except for either the really smart, clever, ruthless people, the really rich people, or the really rich, smart, clever, and ruthless people.

    I must disagree with you on this as well. Everyone did not 'end up getting screwed'. Not the rich, not the middle class, and not the poor. Our nation flourished under a free market, and the standard of living went up for everyone, even the poorest of the poor. The Industrial Revolution pulled *millions of people* out of poverty and gave them the means to own a home, and have a retirement plan with benefits - the 'American Dream'.

    Eventually people (i.e., the non-plutocrats) got fed up with it and formed labor unions to prevent just these types of abuses. Congress, after a fashion, finally woke up and started passing laws to enable this to a certain extent.

    I agree that corporations often need a swift kick in the ass, and I support the peoples' right to free association - to apply collective bargaining as a means for achieving better pay and working conditions. I do not think that Congress should play a role in that at all, and I do not think that any company should be forced to accept unions if they choose not to.

    So you see, we had our experiments with libertarianism. We ended up not liking it. We told the Government to get involved. And you're a fool if you think that the government's going to cease its involvement based on the nagging of what (societally) amounts to a political splinter group that most people don't even know exists.

    The libertarian movement is thriving and in fact slowly and steadily growing. Through organizations like the CATO Institue and the Future of Freedom Foundation, we already have a large impact on public policy - far greater than that of a 'splinter group'. We are most definitely here to stay. The Libertarian Party is also growing, and actually getting some candidates elected at the state and local level, but it remains to be seen whether it will succeed at the federal level. Incidentally the LP natl convention is taking place today and tomorrow, and will be televised on CSPAN, if you're interested in watching.

    With all that said, I do not beleive that libertarianism holds a 100% monopoly on the truth. I obviously believe strongly that it contains a tremendous amount of wisdom, but I think that there are aspects of other ideologies that merit careful consideration as well. I hope that someday humankind will figure out the keys to living together in peace, prosperity and freedom.

  • Its good to read the contracts... but since...

    IANAL, I guess I'll have to pay one to be on call 24/7
  • PBG, Please get your facts right.

    and this post about India's moon mission by 348 that was moderated up to 4, Insightful.

    It was not moderated up to four, it went to five and is currently still at top of thread.

    Also the Enoch Root post you refer to was never validated as it was posted as an AC.

    criticize something based on a "friend's" knowledge or facts that can't be shown or proven, or when they post an opinion that isn't that far out there but is in direct contradiction with the general beliefs

    You mean like your post that you've been spamming every thread with? Your facts are not proven, merely rantings of an unstable intravert that more than likely got his karma lost on his primary account. I pity you.

  • by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Thursday June 29, 2000 @05:17PM (#966941)
    As others have pointed out, the FTC feels obligated to step-in not because it shouldn't be obvious that a free PC isn't really 'free', but because the mass of consumers are overwhelmingly gullible, idiotic sheep.

    It isn't too difficult to buffer my statement, either. I can point to a couple immediate things, such as the number of times people drop $17 to buy a formulae pop CD from N'Sync or Brittney Spears or the number of idiots who really thought that if they flew to the Publisher's Clearing House headquarters, they were going to become multi-millionaires, because Ed McMahon had said they might have already won on the envelope they receieved in the mail. Then there are the thousands of idiots who fall prey to telephone scams. They willingly hand out $10,000, $20,000 -- even $100,000 with the promise of securing a million-dollar lottery that you've already won!.

    What's funnier is that, in the last scenerio, these people usually end up falling for the same scam a second or even a third time! We hear them on 20/20 and 60 Minutes blabbering their sob stories to half of the televised world, expecting us to sympathize with their gullability.

    So, while I think this is stupid that the FTC should have to step in considering how rediculous it is to actually expect that the PC's were without attached strings (who cares what the advertisements failed to mention, you don't need more than a handful of IQ points to figure this stuff out), it is nonetheless their duty to look for obvious exploitation of consumers. And, in this case, I think it's safe to assume that stepping in to defend the lowest common denomonator may have been appropriate.

  • "Son, there ain't nuthin' in this world for free. You pay for it one way or the other." - some guy I met at a Pink Floyd show in '89 while looking for...well, nevermind.
  • I don't know about "big fat profit", but they simply have a different revenue model then "charge for the whole thing up front". In fact, they are fairly similar to the Open Source plan of "Give away the stuff and then sell the support."
  • Illegal yes, unethical no. Now you can just about say or write anything misleading as long as you have that really fast talking guy do all the legal exceptions and disclaimers at the bottom. In print it's that fine print you need a microscope to read.
  • That's why I skip breakfast and go directly to lunch.
  • Uggh, I am so sick of these supposed "scams". It says in the fine print all of the restrictions to these offers. (At least in the last year or so of Fry's ads I have looked at).

    The only way that I would be sympathetic to the consumer is if they are either physically blind or nearly blind, whereby they cannot physically read the fine print. To the rest of these yahoos, tough luck, learn to read.

    There was a story on Dateline a few days ago about a company who was selling credit card protection, claiming that you would be responsible if your card was stolen. Of course everyone knows that you are only liable for $50. But not these morons who were taken. Oh no, they are too good to actually read the terms of the card, where it says in plain english, YOU ARE ONLY LIABLE FOR $50. (In fairness I think the company who was actually selling this never really sold them anything, so they are wrong and should be stopped, however, I am sure that a company that would actually provide this sort of protection would be branded a scam by Dateline with little provocation).

    This is the problem with the US, people are lazy, I mean LAZY. They expect everything to be handed to them on a silver platter, when life actually requires you to think once in a while.

    There is a sucker born every minute, but you can no longer take advantage of this in the US without getting busted. Sad, trying to fight Darwin tooth and nail.

    ughh, sorry for the meandering rant. :)
  • Consumers of their own stupidity, since there isn't much else that they are consuming. The con artists consume the stupid "consumers" because of their stupidity. Arrgh.
  • by linuxonceleron ( 87032 ) on Thursday June 29, 2000 @04:37PM (#966948) Homepage
    I noticed that companies like CompUSA have changed their ads to say $0 after $400 rebate, but before Internet charges of $22/mo for 36 months. Is this from the 'goodness of their heart' or from these regulations? Anyway, who can't tell that the cost of the PC is after rebates after reading for a little more than 2 seconds.

  • These ads are placed so everyone can see them, it's not like "Big Brother" is constantly invading your privacy by seeing ads. Besides, I'm willing to bet half of those "Average Joe User"s are the people who want this action to be taken, and certainly don't feel violated by it happening.
  • probably is.

    Free PC -- HA !
  • While in many ways I agree with you in that I find those sort of ads stupid, it's not like they can just grab a camera and take a picture, unless you want it to look flickery, dull and generally hopeless. (at least it's better than pancake ads, where the syrup is really motor oil).
  • What they forgot to tell you that the T1 connection isn't included??

    kick some CAD []
  • A lot of posters have been angrily pointing out that - in various ways - if the good lord had not intended consumers shorn, he would not have created them sheep.

    While there is some truth in that, it's worth bearing in mind that dishonest marketing enables an unscrupulous trader to take market share from the decent and honest merchants that people of discernment, distinction and intelligence (such as are to be found posting here) would prefer to deal with.

    Losing market share yet not wanting to sell at a loss, those decent and honest merchants must needs raise their prices in proportion to their loss of economies of scale.

    Hence, what the FTC is doing is protecting you, the smart consumer, from the financial and market consequences of the stupidity of the herd.

    As such, their action is to be applauded.

  • Got one better. Macintosh catalog, selling iMacs, iBooks, PowerBooks and G3s/G4s. Every last screen shot in the catalog is very obviously running Mac OS 7.5, which isn't supported on any of the computers they're selling. Funny as hell.


  • by jailbrekr2 ( 139577 ) on Thursday June 29, 2000 @04:39PM (#966955) Homepage
    It took them this long to go after them?

    C'mon. These companies are selling a service, not hardware. If the buyer didn't figure this out when they signed on the dotted line, then it sucks to be them.
  • This sounds to me like a Bad Thing(tm). Some of these machines are engineered so badly that you can't add too much extra hardware (second hard drive, faster video card) with the included cooling fans without it overheating.


  • by happystink ( 204158 ) on Thursday June 29, 2000 @04:40PM (#966957)
    Is that free PC as in free beer or free... oh nevermind, I never understood all this beer talk anyway. and I'm thirsty :-(
  • this is shameless, but I had to do it... get free stuff that's actually free [] (but not exactly)

    kick some CAD []
  • is only free if you buy a $250 (or so) DSL router, or if you already have one, or if you spam everyone and everything you can think of and get LOTS of referrals.

    I've heard is better.

    Personally, I want good service, so I'll pay for it.


  • by malahoo ( 128370 ) on Thursday June 29, 2000 @05:20PM (#966960) Homepage
    It seems strange to me that the FTC chose to accuse these particular ad campaigns as being misleading. What makes these ads any more misleading than the hundreds of others with which we are accosted every day? Most vexing to me is this "concern":

    Details about restrictions were either missing from the ads or printed in miniscule type.

    Lack of Details? Miniscule Type? Anyone who has ever watched any TV commercial is used to these sins. cards, automobiles, cigarettes, alcohol, weight loss programs, just about every product or service that can be sold... vast amounts of advertising lies hide behind indecipherably-sized "qualifications" of the adverted claims, qualifications which often amount to "What we just said was true iff you ignore all of these ugly details" or "The results we just claimed occur only in exceedingly rare cases." We are merely seeing examples of such qualification in the other objectionable parts of the "Free PC" ads cited by the FTC.

    I'm not saying that the FTC's accusations are wrong. What is wrong is that when the FTC picks on only certain companies or ad campaigns. The FTC should either address the greater problem of almost universal deception in advertising, or abandon the issue altogether.

  • I wonder what the home shopping networks are going to do about this. Granted, their computers seem typically better and they do a better job at disclosing more (a lot more) information, but they do it much more crypticly.

    They'll say over and over again, "Only...nine...hundred...dollars...NINE HUNDRED DOLLARS! We've never had a deal like this!" and that's what the large bold price in the lower left says. But that price is after rebates, and they don't mention that you have to send in the rebates half as often as they mention how $900 is an incredible deal. Also, on some of the channels, they only show the true price once every few minutes, which I feel is straight out fraud.

    I also feel that the AOL deals you have to sign up for are not as well explained as they should be. They quietly hide the fact that in addition to the $1200 you have to pay for the $900 computer, you have to sign up for $720 worth of AOL. Even though you'll need Internet access anyway, and the "overall" deal isn't too bad, it requires you to put over $2100 up front.

    Anyway, I'm glad someone's stepping in for the consumer. Most people interested in these deals are rather ignorant and rely on the salespeople to steer them right. These salespeople are, in turn, rattling off terms like "700 megahertz Athlon processor" knowing the consumer has no idea what it means. Then they tell the weary consumer how cheap it is, and the consumer signs up, not caring anymore. They just want a computer and to know how much it costs.
  • In Australia at least one major bank has started to offer free internet access, although they are just branding another company's product.

    The bank saves by having more customers using it's online services, and just offers its name to give credibility to the product.

  • Many people I suspect see this as a type of credit. Here is where a "Free" PC could be valuable:

    You're just entering college, and don't have that much money. (What student doesn't?) You have a regular job, but either can't or don't want to put the computer on a credit card. You figure that you'll pretty much need 56K internet access for a couple years any way, and know that you can't afford the $30-$50 a month for a high speed account, and most companies allow upgrades on contracts anyway, if you decide to go that route. So, you get a cheap PC, and get a new internet account setup. I know a lot of students that this worked out really well for.

    OEMs can work out deals with Microsoft to give discounts on Windows computers sold with MSN internet. (Some might even do something slessy, like sell you MSN with a computer, take the rebate check, and not tell the costumer about it at all. This does happen, I have seen it for myself. ) Just because an OEM is offering a discount doesn't mean that its a piece of crap your getting, companies like Compaq, HP, give these rebates also.

    Let's do some more math for our college student:

    Computer purchased on credit at 20% interest, with decent 56k internet access: ($400 * 1.2) + ($20 * 36) = 1200

    Computer purchased with rebate and internet access: ($0) + ($20 * 36) = 720

    I have seen several people get burned with this type of deal, but if one plays there cards right it can work out well. I don't normally recommend it to friends, but their is use in some people getting free PC's.

  • I think saying that this is 'Big Brother' watching is inflamatory troll bait. I really have to question the reporting coming out of Slashdot recently.

    Anyway, what the FTC said was 'be more up front with your advertising'. No one had their children spying on them or their face stuffed in a cage with hungry rats. The point is that you can rip people off all you want - as long as you do it openly. It's the lying the FTC is trying to stop.

    Plus, I think it's easy for us technical people to forget that for most people computers and the internet are mysterious, frustrating and frightening. Little do they realize they're supposed to be frustrating and annoying.

  • Why are they using "there ain't no" ? Simple, they just want to show everyone that they've read at least one book by Robert Heinlein, one of the most over-hyped, militantly anarchistic, (on paper) misogynistic authors our US of A has ever produced.
  • Look at the more-libertarian-than-now industrial American economy of the mid-to-late 1800s and early 1900s. Free market as far as the eye can see.

    If that's what your eyes see, maybe you should consider having them upgraded []. In fact, the government in the Gilded Age was constantly meddling in the economy, on the side of big business (e.g. strikebreaking either directly or by turning a selective blind eye to crimes committed by the Pinkerton gang). Not a free market by any reasonable definition.

    But everybody ended up getting screwed except for either the really smart, clever, ruthless people, the really rich people, or the really rich, smart, clever, and ruthless people.

    More accurately, the politically connected were able to screw everybody else, which is what happens when the extent of government exceeds a certain critical threshold.

    To drag the thread back onto the topic, the fundamental issue here is the definition of "fraud". There is a vast mushy grey area between putting one's best foot forward and outright lying. It is a legitimate function of government to draw some sort of line in the grey area and enforce it. The main concern I see with the FTC action is that it seems to be trying to do the former (a legislative prerogative) when its mandate is limited to the latter.

  • It's a little harsh to criticize the people who fall for such things as the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes.

    No, it's not at all harsh.

    Stupidity should be painful, and excessive stupidity should be fatal.

    Preferably before reproduction occurs, but unfortunately that isn't the case often enough.

  • Is FTC going to get angry over this too? I know there's a catch for Free DSL. :)
    I assume you mean [].
    A few bits from their Terms of Service []:

    You are prohibited from taking any action to bypass, defeat, or disable any functionality of the Service, including, without limitation, any action that alters, blocks, or disables any advertisement, banner, promotional material of any proprietary notices, or labels that are provided on the Software or through the Service. Winfire will immediately charge You for the Enhanced Level Service 1: DSL Plus if You do any of the abovementioned prohibited actions and you hereby consent to such charge.
    If you try to hack the software to get rid of the banners, they'll start charging you $10/month.

    i) Basic Level Service ...
    FreeDSL, with connection up to 144K (depending on Your phone line).
    Terms: No monthly fee. Thirteen (13) month service commitment; penalty for early cancellation.

    It's only 114kbps DSL (slower than ISDN)! And if you aren't satisfied with their service, you have to keep using for 13 months or pay a cancellation fee (uncertain of amount for Free DSL, but for the Enhanced DSL services, the cancellation fee is $200).

    In order to use the Service, it is necessary to have a Modem. This Modem must be compatible with our network.
    Self-explanatory. According to [], DSL modems cost $179.

    You are responsible for providing the proper operating environment for the Modem and You expressly agree not to abuse it, or expose the Modem to moisture, excessive heat or cold, electrical current in excess of its operating specification, or other conditions inconsistent with the Instructions. ... If it is determined that the Modem is damaged or non-functioning due to a breach by You of Your obligations hereunder, Winfire reserves the right to charge You a replacement fee for the Modem equal to Winfire's cost for the Modem, plus an administrative fee for handling, storing, and shipping the Modem, whether or not You choose to receive a replacement of the Modem.
    And if you break the DSL modem, you have to pay for it (another $179?) as well as shipping, etc. EVEN IF you don't want a replacement.

    You agree to only register one e-mail address with Winfire. If You register more than one e-mail address, Winfire may terminate Your Account.
    Not certain if this pertains to only Winfire e-mail accounts or e-mail accounts anywhere (if it's the latter case, eww...)

    All that, and you have to put up with the ads. Anything else I missed?
  • Everybody I know has been refused their rebate, even though they meet the requirements. I think they're being sued. Why isn't the FTC investigating this? In my experience, you only have about a 75% chance of actually receiving any rebate.
  • Remember: not everything is obvious to all people. The people being duped by these kinds of scams aren't all illiterate trailer trash. They're normal people, and normal people routinely do things that require a lot more intelligence than some people like to give credit for.

    The problem is not that people are dumb, but that the human animal has predictable behaviour traits. Psychologists and human behaviourists have studied us as a species for some time now, and they've learned a lot about how we work, what motivates us, and how we can be manipulated. They know our back doors.

    Some unscrupulous people use this knowledge of human behaviour in the fields of confidence scams, telemarketing and shystering. In the corporate world, manipulating people into doing things (especially making purchases) that are against their own best interests is considered just part of doing business; there's no shame in using people's psychological makeup against themselves, so long as it results in increased profits for the business.

    Attempts to mislead abound. Offers for "free" goods that in fact require substantial supplementary purchases to obtain. TV commercials where actors with stethoscopes and white lab coats pimp pain relievers and nicotene patches, never outright claiming to be doctors, but trying very hard to imply to the viewer that they are medical authorities. Music, perfumes and pheramones pumped into boutiques to put consumers into a state of mind where they are better disposed to making purchases. There is a giant industry dedicated to manipulating people into making purchases that they ordinarily wouldn't make, using a variety of methods both obvious and subtle.

    Many of us realize that others are attempting to manipulate them, and so have trained ourselves to be suspicious when we hear trigger words like free. But we have trained ourselves to act against our basic nature. We can't expect that everyone is so disciplined as to completely abandon their basic human nature and treat everything they see and hear with suspicion. In fact, this is really undesirable; it's unconscionable to say that we have to give up being human just to protect ourselves from unscrupulous marketers. A better solution is to demand a higher ethical standard from marketers; to place limits on the kinds of scams they can try to pull.

    A healthy dose of suspicion and skepticism is probably an essential defense mechanism in modern society, but that does not mean that we should sit by and allow advertisers to try to decieve, mislead and manipulate and then blame those who fall for it for failing to suppress their natural instincts as human beings.

  • This is absolutely justified. We buy computers on a daily basis here at work and often need a quick e-Machines buy from a local place. It's ridiculous how some places actually post the after-ISP-ripoff-rebate price ($0) instead of making it plain as day. One local super-store (I won't name names) makes it almost impossible to tell what the real price is so you can compare apples to apples because they use so many different rebates depending on the computer brand. But it's impossible because there should be fine print, and there's nothing!!

    So, you end up standing there looking everywhere (I'm talking about looking for several minutes) for some explanation of why this computer is $0. Sometimes there's a "*" and sometimes not, but either way (at this particular store anyway, and I don't think they're unique) there's no fine print to be found. With some machines like the e-Machines they already have 1-2 rebates from the manufacturer and then the store automatically deducts the ISP rebate which can also vary depending on who the ISP is (although it is often $400).

    Anyway, if the FTC doesn't enforce this I'm sure a lot of newbie computer users will get screwed. Who the hell buys these 3-year ISP deals, anyway?
  • It's time to send in Janet Reno and seize his children!

    Unless she barbeques them first...


  • There is this parable about a lion approaching a couple of people. One person puts on his running shoes. The other person, confused, states that there is not way to outrun the lion. The reply, of course, is 'I don't have to outrun the lion, I only have to outrun you.'

    And here is the fallacy of assuming that consumers are stupid. A consumer does not have to be stupid to fall for ads, just less smart then the copywriters. The FTC is needed not because consumers are stupid, but because advertiser spend their days creating not so obvious lies. The hard job of the FTC is to determine when those lies become harmful. For instance, Pizza Hut can say it has the best pizza under one roof, because that is obvious hyperbole, but Papa John implying that Pizza Hut uses water out rusty taps may be harmful. Saying a PC, or anything, is free when money is required up front is a lie. Even if you get that money back, there is small but finite amount of value lost in inflation. People should understand that this is the case, but it requires a level of critical thinking that many people lack.

    My favorite example of successful deceitful advertising is Sunny Delight. Many people buy Sunny Delight instead of Orange juice. It is cheaper, tastes better to a certain palette, and the ads show happy healthy children. Sunny Delight is also mostly sugar with few of the benefits of Orange Juice. These ads do not lie, but they are carefully constructed to mislead and cajole. The only people who do not fall for these lies are those that are smarter than the highly paid, highly motivated, advertising demons.

  • Has the government ever applied any common sense?

    There is plenty of fine print in each and every one of those contracts. Too bas little Lucy and Bo who live in the doublewide down at the trailer park don't bother to read it.

  • Thank you. And in the future, your rants will have much more credibility if you have your information correct. When you get Sloppy like oh say 10 grams of sloppy latex, you lose all credibility and then you will have no following. No one will read your trolls and spam, it will fall to the bottom like whale turds. So in the future, always tes, validate those links, validate those facts and then submit.

    BTW, even though I think you are just a bedwetting spammer, I did get a kick out of your sig link. Caught me off guard. You get points for that.

  • I have to admit, I can't really muster too much sympathy here. I mean, how can you spend your life in the US without learning how to spot deals like this? When I was buying a PC, I was seriously considering going for one of the rebate deals; I was going to have to buy internet access anyway, so in the long run it probably would have paid off. Around 800 dollar for the three year plan, minus 400 for the rebate, equals about 400 for 3 years of internet access, or a little over 10 dollars a month. I'd eventually get DSL, but I'd want a dial-up ISP for travelling anyway. Only reason I didn't go with it is the ISPs that offer it kind of suck. Other than that I don't really see the problem with it.
  • Regulatory oversight moves too slowly. There's only one way Steve Case will listen...:

    It's time to send in Janet Reno and seize his children!
  • You know what? You are absolutely right. For some odd reason, regardless of the situation, the average computer user, quite literally, shuts off their brain when they get in front of their computer screen. It is amazing how someone who is of above average intelligence can do such stupid things when they get in front of the computer.

    It all boils down to common sense. I have no sympathy for those who refuse to think when typing on a computer keyboard.

  • The article reminded me of the beginning computer class that I taught a few months ago. (One of those this-is-a-mouse, this-is-a-keyboard types of classes). One evening we got into a discussion about those free PC deals after a student brought in an advertisement and asked me what I thought about it. I broke the numbers down for the class and explained that they really were not getting *anything* for free since A)the equipment offered was bare bones (like a whopping 32MB of RAM, a 4GB hard drive) and B) the rates $25/mo for dialup was ridiculously high. In addition, the consumer would have to *hope* they recieved a system that could be updated without voiding some warranty. I know that some of my students said that they only wanted a PC for "email and internet stuff", but I am sure that after my lecture the idea of them having to upgrade their cruddy "free PC" to do the most basic of tasks wasn't an inviting thought either.
  • First of all, unless you're talking about members of some libertatian organization (e.g. the Libertarian Party of the USA), I suggest that you use a lower-case 'L' -- "libertarian".

    Secondly, libertarianism is not anarchism. While it's probably true that some libertarians are anarchists, your garden variety libertarian recognizes that government is necessary for certain things, such as protecting the life, liberty, and property of the citizens.

    Libertarianism is distinguished by the fact that its subscribers tend to have a smaller list of "necessary (or permissible) functions of government" than most people, but that doesn't mean that the list is empty.

    Are you trolling, by any chance?

  • No, it was actually a free lunch with the purchase of a bucket of beer, especially on payday. Fergit the P's and Q's, we murricans went for the pailsful.
  • It took them this long to go after them?

    Makes me wonder. The free PC market has already had quite a few casualties. Am I wrong, or wasn't the big free PC fad about this time last year?


  • I do not believe the average American is an idiot. I believe people should be free.

    Have you never worked closely with people? After working for 15 months at Sears behind the customer service desk, I made the following observations:

    1. Most people have no concept of compound interest; a low monthly credit card payment means you got a "good deal."

    2. A simple sales tax computation is beyond the grasp of a good number of people, including fresh high-school graduates.

    People are idiots because they refuse to think. The brain, like a muscle, atropies when not used. Sure there ARE predators out there that are out to rip people off, but failing to read the fine print on a contract or not doing simple math is no excuse to cry injustice. There are certain survival skills that all of us have to follow, whether it be in the jungle or in the city. Failing to grasp the simpler skills makes you an easy target.

    We can't live in an idiot proof society; idiots won't let us. Libertarianism is fine thing for people who stand up to take responsibility for their lives. Unfortunately, irresponsible people will see this as a license to commit even more irresponsible acts.

    Until virtually everyone decides to practice critical thinking and responsible decision making, we WILL have to suffer fools.
  • Caveat Emptor

    I think this is a point that most people forget. At some time recently, that lesson went out of fashion per se. What we need are some more public service programs (read education) that say, "Before you spend any money, do some research."

    I am absolutely amazed by the number of people that go to a car dealer to buy a car, and they say "I can afford this much per month." I can guarantee that that person will get their car at that price plus 20 per month (what's a few dollars?) and be happy. Then slowly become miserable when they realize they are paying that affordable amount for 6 or 7 or more years.

    If people do research before purchasing anything, they will know what the scams are and what the deals are. And as other posters mentioned, it is impossible to know everything about everything, but this is different. Just know enough about what you are buying.
  • I agree 100%, but like I said in another post, if the FTC has to make them at least put the fine print there so you can make sense out of it then they should make them do it, because a lot of retailers just post $0 and no explanation.

    Also (offtopic), on Sunny Delight -- I'm glad I'm not the only parent who sees through this marketing B.S. and reads the nutrition label! I couldn't believe it when I read the label on a Sunny Delight bottle before (our kids like it so my wife used to think it was just another orange juice and bought it for them) -- it's laughable how close it is to Kool-aid and people think it's good for their kids!

    Same thing with those Lunchables "meal-packs". Products like these are worse than junk food because their makers/distributors try to pass them off as "just as good as" real food or orange juice when simply reading the *government* required nutrition label refutes advertising. But how many people actually read those labels even some of the time?
  • Flakey banner ads? Forced to use Windows for access? Not always. Check out []

    They cover most major cities--unfortunately, not where I live, but I have heard Good Things about the service.
  • Either: 1. They want to make the US people feel like we are being protected from internet scams by going after an easy big target. (which of course does not solve the problem) OR 2. These companies that are being sued are being singled out and discriminated by the FTC, in which case the FTC will probably (maybe in 50 years) be counter sued. (which does not solve the problem either) Either way its all hand waving with no substance to it, I agree.

    Or 3) the FTC goes after lots of people all the time for similar reasons when they step over a line, and this is being reported on because its trendy.

    Or 4) The FTC works on a basis of consumer/Better Buniness Bureau complaints and these companies have been having a lot of upset [would be] customers who are complaining.

    OR 5) The issues they cited were considered bad by degree, and they determined that these companies were violating them to a degree more action worthy than others.

    !OR! 6) They are planning to go after these issues in a more generalized way and are starting with an easy to understand target that a lot of people complain about and has extreme versions of the problems so that they can be sure it will all hold water before spreading out the enforcement.

    Or maybe some /.ers just have to bash govenment one way or another. The FTC does its job and the anti-govs who don't call them fascists complain that they didn't try to sweep the entire ad industry this week. And a big brother comment in the main post, no less. Can we try to be a little less paranoid around here?

    -Kahuna Burger

  • Unlike with the OSS movement, when you go to a commercial electronics retailer, the saying applys: "You pay for what you get, but you don't always get what you pay for."
  • I've always loved seeing the PC ads with what is very obviously a Mac display pasted on the monitor :-)

  • by heidiporn ( 152250 ) on Thursday June 29, 2000 @05:52PM (#966993)
    And he was raving about how he got a great computer for *only* $400. I immediately knew of the "deal" to which he referred... the one where he saved $400...

    Let's see... 36 months of MSN at $22/month comes out to just about $800, a return of -200%!!

    And to think, I was going to trust this guy to manage my portfolio! I should have turned around and ran the other way when he informed me that 70% of the 600 million (!!) people living in the U.S. do not currently own a computer...

    What, do they give degrees out at candy stores now?

  • This kind of thing is exactly why I don't understand the positions of Libertarians...

    As a Libertarian, I will attempt to explain my position.

    (apologies to Eric Raymond, of course). There are obviously people and--more often--corporations who purposefully deceive consumers to the fullest extent possible for the sake of making a big fat profit. That's why we have things like fraud laws and agencies like the FTC to enforce them.

    The protection of the people against initiation of force and fraud are about the only things Libertarians DO believe is the role of government. Libertarians absolutely oppose the use of fraud.

    It isn't easy for average Americans (bless their dim li'l hearts) to see through these kinds of offers, and it's great to see people who know what they're doing trying to protect them. Kudos to the FTC.

    Here is where we actually depart ways. I do not believe the average American is an idiot. I believe people should be free. With that freedom, comes responsibility. A society that protects its citizens from responsibility is not a free society. Would you really want to live in an "idiot proof" society? Are you willing to give up your rights as an adult in order to have the government raise you children for you? Are you willing to give up a free market in order to avoid having to read the fine print?

  • You're just entering college, and don't have that much money. . . . You figure that you'll pretty much need 56K internet access for a couple years any way

    Any college student that figures as such is, frankly, an idiot. For about $30-50 paid at one time, that student can get access to their school's LAN with a desktop PC. A free Internet access provider provides service for those times when the computer is at home (i.e. now). There is no reason to have a traditional dial-up service while at college, unless you move off campus -- always an option.

    BTW, I did know a few people (humanities majors, mostly) who still did keep and chiefly use their AOL accounts while at college. Fortunately, most of them chose to connect via TCP/IP instead of dialing in.

  • My parents are lawyers, and they frequently get people coming in to their office, asking to help them get their money back from some contract that had a lot of fine details. They didn't always read the contract, and even when they did, they often didn't understand it. In some of these cases it was just sheer stupidity on their part, but when a company tells you that you can get a free computer, and it's not free, that's deceptive advertising. It doesn't matter what you actually pay for, if it's required to get the deal, then it's not really free. Sure, people ought to be more aware of TANSTAAFL, but the average person is goes dumb as a fencepost when you tell them they can get a very expensive and desirable thing for free if they just sign on the dotted line. The government shouldn't protect people from all forms of stupidity, but it should take some reasonable measures when feasible, and this is one of those cases.
  • Rebate offers, especially ones that come with obligations for internet service, are just a legal form of "bait and switch," as long as the ads mention nothing other than the bottom line price and all of the obligations and restrictions are in the fine print that consumers don't even see until they're already at the store.

    I think it is also misleading to advertise prices with the rebate amount already subtracted. Rebates and coupons are always "invalid when combined with other offers," so their real value is always less than their claimed value. A $300 rebate on computer equipment for opening an E*Trade account isn't really worth $300 when anyone can get a $75 cash rebate for opening an account with no further purchase requirement. A $400 rebate for committing to an ISP for three years isn't worth $400 if you're committed to paying more per month than other users of that ISP.

    Is there any computer advertising that is not misleading? True monitor sizes are always "viewable area" fine print -- has that carried over to flat screens yet? Printer pages per minute figures practically assume blank pages. 56K modems don't run faster than 53K. Disk drive manufacturers have decided that a gigabyte is 10^9 bytes, not 2^30 bytes (a 7% difference; when we start talking about terabytes it will be a 10% difference).

  • I am a layyer, but this isn't legal advice. See an attorney licensed in your jurisdiciton if you need legal advice. Send me a better keyboard if you're having trouble reading my typing :)

    Even in my office, I had trouble getting people to read the document. Yes, I was their lawyer, and no, I wasn't tryring to trick them. But, damnit, when someone's signing under penalty of perjury that they've read the document before signing, I expect them to read it -- *especially* when I'm notarizing their oath.

    Nonetheless, again and again, people tried to just sign it, and were surprised that I wouldn't let them hand it back to me without actually reading it . . .

    I had this problem even though I was conscientious about it. For a clerk who just has to initial it it will be a lot worse.. . .

    There's also the problem of an "adhesion contract." If you hand someone the contract and tell them what it says rather than making them read it, the contract is on the terms you tell them, not the written contract. A few car rental companies have been burned badly this way.

    hawk, esq.
  • Pizza Hut was forced to withdraw an ad that said it had more cheese than Pizza Haven pizzas. The FTC equivalent down here (the name escapes me) did some measurements on the two pizzas and told Pizza Hut that were false advertising as the amount of cheese was not significantly different to that on Pizza Haven's pizzas.
    Vivek Mittal
    Research Technologist
    Telstra Research Labs
  • No, I wasn't trolling, although I certainly appreciate your correction--indeed, I should have used the lowercase "l" or perhaps even said anarchists. However, I would guess in this case that libertarians would be inclined to criticize the FTC. I probably should have waited until someone did, and then responded to that post. I certainly can be too quick on the draw with my arguments.

    Maybe I shouldn't have named libertarians, anarchists, or anyone--just "those who thing the FTC was wrong to do this." Free-marketers would probably be the most accurate description.


  • Around 800 dollar for the three year plan, minus 400 for the rebate, equals about 400 for 3 years of internet access, or a little over 10 dollars a month

    Nope. $800 for the PC, minus $400 for the rebate, equals $400 for the PC after rebate. The Internet access costs $21.95 per month (apparently AOL sets the trend for such things) for three years, which you must pay even if you never use it or decide to go with DSL instead. The $400 rebate winds up saving you negative $390.20 after you pay for your 36 months of Internet service.

  • by Guppy ( 12314 ) on Thursday June 29, 2000 @06:04PM (#967016)
    I think the FTC could easily solve this problem once and for all with one single step. On each box, the manufacturers should be required to print, in big letters:

    "There Aint No Such Thing As A Free Lunch".
  • A few years ago, the most complicated agreement I had to deal with was my rental agreement. Then came my employment agreement. That was bad enough, and most other things were relatively painless; I had a health insurance policy which was described in 5 pages. Not too bad.
    Now adays it's far far worse. My last health insurance policy was some 50 pages... totally incomprehensible. With complicated legal agreements, a summary in large print is absolutely necessary... and that summary needs to be fairly accurate. Leaving out essential items from the large print like... "only valid w/ rebate" or "only with 2 year $500 service contract" is just plain old deception. Period.
    Pretty soon we will be facing an 15 page ELUA for music CDs on the shrink wrap. I don't have time to scan every legal agreement... do you? What if it says you can't use it with a non-sony player... on page 4, 6th paragraph, sentance 2?
    We have a right to expect the large print to accurately reflect the legaleaze for every day transactions.
  • by dmccarty ( 152630 ) on Thursday June 29, 2000 @07:03PM (#967021)
    What really makes me mad at advertisers is an issue of PC Connection (insert X computer mag here) that shows a picture of a beautiful black IBM computer with a flat screen monitor and $999 price tag boldly emblazened across the front. Then, in tiny print next to the picture it reads: "Monitor not included. System not priced as shown."

    Good grief! Is it not simple enough to make a law that says, "The price you advertise next to a product must match the product advertised?"

  • Perhaps I was a bit harsh in talking about the average citizen--my work involves dealing with a broad range of people who need computer help, so you can imagine the cross-section of people I see. :)

    But whether or not you think the average person is stupid or smart, one thing is absolutely true: he is not able to be well informed on every subject necessary to make him a good consumer. And as long as they are able, companies will take advantage of that fact in order to bleed as much money out of him as possible. Whether they do it through outright fraud or through somewhat deceptive practices, it's going to happen. Marketing works, and it's something that is by its very nature deceptive. (Yes, I know there are exceptions.)

    As for the fact that libertarians believe that government should fight fraud--good, I'm glad you think so. I guess I assumed that they would think it wasn't fraud in this case because a well informed consumer would know better. To me, that isn't a fair standard. (I realize that it sounds fair. Doesn't make it so.) Tell me, do you think it's fraud in this case?

    Would you really want to live in an "idiot proof" society? Are you willing to give up your rights as an adult in order to have the government raise you children for you?

    These questions really cut too broad strokes for me to answer them intelligently, and I'm not sure they're relevant. Mostly they seem rhetorical.

    Are you willing to give up a free market in order to avoid having to read the fine print?

    If you mean perfectly free, yes. Absolutely. Only not to give up reading the fine print. I just don't want it to be fine. What do I really want? A society based on truth, rather than deception.


  • by TheDullBlade ( 28998 ) on Thursday June 29, 2000 @07:07PM (#967026)
    Most people don't read the contract. First of all, they don't understand all the words in the contract, they're usually full of lawyer double-talk that makes it necessary for the typical person to have it explained. Much legal-speak has completely different meanings from the ones in common use. Think of "in camera"; most of us don't speak latin anymore, and consider a camera a device for taking pictures. How bloody hard would it be to say "in the room"?

    Secondly, they put so much boilerplate garbage in there that it is extremely tedious reading. Paid at the wages I'd draw for reviewing such documents, the effort of reading would often be more costly than the real price of the service.

    That sheer length also makes you tend to skim, if you do read it. Instead of looking at every word and thinking "what does that really mean?" (as you should do when dealing with anything written by a lawyer) you are tempted to take things at their first appearance.

    People really should start saying "No, I'm not signing that, this (lease/license/service/purchase) is a simple thing and the contract should be under a page of normal-sized type." But it's become such common practice that you simply wouldn't be able to get many services without signing a contract that the average person just can't fully understand.

    It would take an organized effort to end small-print trickery. Maybe such a group already exists... I'm going searching, I want to join!
  • by TheDullBlade ( 28998 ) on Thursday June 29, 2000 @07:15PM (#967027)
    People in stone houses shouldn't throw glass.

    No wait, stoned people in glasses shouldn't throw houseparties.

    No, that's not it, housepeople should use stonewear not glasses.

    Forget it. I may not make sense, but at least I grammar right.
  • If you're falling all over yourself because you think the 'subject' of the post is grammatically incorrect, try re-reading it again.

    We're talking about the consumers of stupidity. Duh.

  • Big Brother is always watching because Average Joe User is daft.
  • by jhk ( 203538 ) on Thursday June 29, 2000 @04:46PM (#967032)
    For anyone who doesn't want to do the math:

    $0 for a CPU
    $250 for a monitor
    $225 for CompUSA service contract
    $21/mo for 3 years = $756

    Total for a cheap piece of garbage: $1231

    Not exactly rocket science!

    Pop never sounded this good before! []

  • Just want to explain...

    Many people have complained in the past that what they get at/from a restaurant doesn't look like what they saw on TV. There is a good reason for this...


    Specifically, heat from the lamps used to light the "scene" being shown of the food. These lights get damn hot (ask an actor), and food can't stand up too them, so they "fake" the food up in many ways (like motor oil being used for syrup).

    I saw a show on FoodTV (or some other channel) about this - they showed how they made "roasted" turkey for those Thanksgiving meals you see on TV come November/December - they take a regular turkey (or chicken, or whatever), and use a heat gun on it! Makes it nice and brown on the outside, as even colored as they want, in no time flat. Use a knife to cut a little breast meat, then "roast" that with the heat gun. Spray a bit of oil on it - voila! - instant turkey.

    For the turkey, though, it wasn't so much about heat as it was about time, and appearance - it takes a good cook to make a great looking turkey, and even then, they couldn't get it done in the 30 minutes it takes to make a "fake" roast turkey...
  • In my humble opinion, the worst form of PC deception has always been the monitor advertisemnts. All the monitors you see in the magazines and stuff have the pictures just pasted into the frame, they're not really rendered on the monitor. When I was little, I could never understand the concept that the picture of the monitor showing pic of a jaguar from so close you can see its whiskers is really no better then the monitor down below showing a pacman board, and that the just try to make the more expensive ones look better. Oh well, just my thoughts.
  • by pluteus_larva ( 13980 ) on Thursday June 29, 2000 @04:48PM (#967040) Homepage
    This kind of thing is exactly why I don't understand the positions of Libertarians (apologies to Eric Raymond [], of course). There are obviously people and--more often--corporations who purposefully deceive consumers to the fullest extent possible for the sake of making a big fat profit. That's why we have things like fraud laws and agencies like the FTC to enforce them. It isn't easy for average Americans (bless their dim li'l hearts) to see through these kinds of offers, and it's great to see people who know what they're doing trying to protect them. Kudos to the FTC.


  • Now, I'm going to have breakfast! -_^
  • Caveat Emptor.

  • The FTC, in general, does a good job.

    In the bad old days of high fidelity audio equipment, there was a contest among the manufacturers and retailers to see who could write the most misleading ads for audio amplifiers. You would see ads for a 500 Watt audio amplifier, which meant that the amplifier produced 500 Watts, in one channel, for 10 milliseconds, at 90% total harmonic distortion, with a 1% duty cycle. This was unfair to ethical companies that advertised realistic power ratings. The FTC cracked down on the audio industry and made everyone use realistic measurement techniques.

  • Don't be silly. The FTC protects consumers. It infringes on the rights of corporations, which is a good thing.


  • It's a little harsh to criticize the people who fall for such things as the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes. A lot of the people who participate in such things are older, isolated, not very cunning, maybe losing a little cognitice sparkle and from an era where people were more trusting...

    Wait, now that I think about it , isolated, not very cunning and lacking cognitive sparkle also describes most of the people I encountered working tech support. And those people need the FTC to help them out, especially if the FTC could help them type faster and tell the difference between a right and left mouse click.

  • This doesn't count the TCO of the pieces of crap you get. My mother got an eMachine a year ago. It had a fan that sounded like a Harrier, so we sent it back. Every time we sent it back (paying $25 one-way shipping) we got a new machine, meaning we had to set up all the software again, and a new hardware problem always surfaced in the space of two weeks. Going on newsgroups, I discovered that most of these problems are endemic throughout their product line (particularly the unreasonably noisy fan). The FTC should require total cost of ownership disclosures--that machine must have cost us $500 in shipping and time alone.

  • It's not as if these are the first companies to advertise like this. However, it is encouraging that the FTC is going after some but this is hardly scratching the surface. Granted, we aren't dealing with robbery here so I doubt this is an urgent matter for the FTC but I wish they would step in on more issues surrounding technology. For example, it should be a crime for Microsoft to continue releasing operating systems that still do not operate. (that sounds like false advertising to me!) :) PS - sorry for the predictable microsoft rant
  • Is FTC going to get angry over this too? I know there's a catch for Free DSL. :)

  • Falls advertising is not good. This is why I *woldn't* go after "PeoplePC". They have cheesy adds but at least they claim you are renting a PC and internet connection for $X.

    Claiming that something is free when people have to pay for it out of pocket is not healthy. That's rude.
  • Anyway, who can't tell that the cost of the PC is after rebates after reading for a little more than 2 seconds.

    But my problem is I don't want to read the freaking fine print on every single add just to figure the real price...

    About 50% of the stuff at Circut City has a rebate these days... annoying as heck..

    $1354 Original Price - $400 Compuserve 2000 Premier Internet Service Instant Savings - $75 eMachines Mail-In Rebate - $50 Canon Mail-In Rebate - $130 in Circut City Mail-in Rebates - $200 Price Break = $499

    Thats real text from a Circut City add today...
  • Isn't it amazing how many people go "I don't understand that, so I'll just sign it" - rather than "I don't understand that, so I'm not signing it"?? Even more disturbing are people how appear to not like a paragraph, ask what it means and when it's still undesirable after the explanation they still sign it. I've had several contracts changes because someone's tried to slip in a clause that minimises their risk and maximises mine. I've also refused to sign some contracts with the most amazingly immoral stuff in them - and the other parties have the gaul to act surprised and put-out!
  • a lot of people are complaining that the government shouldn't be protecting people this way, that it's easy to do the math, if people are that stupid, they deserve to lose their money, blah, blah, blah.

    i completely disagree. the gov exist for all people, even the stupid ones. a company with some decent marketing can do a lot of damage to consumers before the gov catches up and puts a stop to it, and if the FTC wants to come down on these dumb ads, more power to them.

    one of my friends works with autistic people, and *some* of them just give their money away. they have no idea what it is. they just figure "if you want it, here ya go".

    presumably, there are other people out there that are more functional, but still gullible enough to fall for this "free pc" bs.

    i see no reason why the wolves of our society should be able to prey on them unhindered. if you have to spend money to get the device, then it's not free, and the ads should be clearer.
  • Ads like that in Oz used to have "simulated picture" at the bottom, but about 5-10 years ago it disappeared. I think that was about the time that the government sponsored advertising monitoring board was disbanded in favour of a "self-regulated industry code of conduct" (read: free-for-all)
  • I prefer: "Free advice is seldom cheap". I think it's a Ferengi Rule of Acquisition or some such...

    "The broader the smile, the sharper the knife"

  • This is the third "ain't nothing" I've found in this discussion. Why do people insist on using a double negative? You're only saying the opposite of what you mean...

    "Not using double negatives will be disallowed" - Sabrina:tTW.

  • I agree.
    It used to be illegal to use the word 'free' in advertising *at all* unless something actuall was free.

    An ad saying 'come on down and get your Free mattress today!' meant exactly that. If people showed up, and you said 'it's only free if you buy another one first', you got sued..
  • > $0 for a CPU
    $250 for a monitor
    $225 for CompUSA service contract
    $21/mo for 3 years = $756

    Total for a cheap piece of garbage: $1231

    Oh. I was expecting "priceless" in the punch line.

  • by seligman ( 58880 ) on Thursday June 29, 2000 @05:06PM (#967083) Homepage
    If the buyer didn't figure this out when they signed on the dotted line, then it sucks to be them

    Nope, it sucks to the poor tech support rep that gets to explain the charges appearing on the idiot's credit card statement.

    Background: I worked for an ISP as a lowly tech suport rep(no longer exists, they were bought out by CompuServe / AOL / Mindspring / Earthlink), and we had one of the first single disk setup for windows (maybe the first? can't remember) that a user could use to create their own ISP account, without help from the ISP.

    I to this day am amazed at how many users failed to grasp that when they click okay, after entering their credit card agreement, and picking a monthly pricing plan, that they just might be charged, even if they don't understand what they just did!

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead