Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Read the Small Print

"A handful of common sense is worth a bushel of learning"


A couple of months ago I chanced upon a caption contest. A particular magazine was offering a prize: they showed one ambiguous cartoon frame and the object of the competition was to come up with the best caption or suggestion for what might be taking place in the picture. It might be a single, witty line of dialogue or a bold political statement. For instance, were I to draw a sketch of a dumpster and what seems to a pair of legs indicating a person upside down rooting around inside it, I might caption it with:
"He Loved to Go Bargain Hunting," or some such description.
I very nearly entered the contest. I am, however, extraordinarily careful about signing my name to anything. I read, always, the small print and then the smaller print.
It appeared that the 'prize' would be a physical copy of the cartoon in question, complete with winning caption and autographed by the artist, as well as the cartoon being openly published in the magazine within a month or two. All well and good, you might say. So there was no cash prize to reach for but I felt that it would be an interesting challenge and winning would be splendid. One could always do with accolades and the solace of achievement.
The prize was worth a small sum of money in the region of a couple of hundred dollars but could not under any circumstances be exchanged for cash.
Then I read the very very small print, which tends, more often than not, to be skimmed over by even the most astute of fine-print readers.
Because it had a monetary value, one would in due time be taxed on said prize.
In plain terms, if I won the prize I would be out of pocket.
I would have to pay for the privilege of winning.
I would be dispatching my own money should I win.
Due to the rules being so diminutively printed, and being conscious of the general lack of interest in fine print, it would be safe to suggest it is not common knowledge that the winner would end up, financially speaking, worse off than before.
For all aspiring contestants I would recommend reading every rule before entering. I am certain that for some it matters not that a little money would be handed over; perhaps it is a necessary loss to further one's ambition. For those who are not, however, aware that winning can equal loss, I was alarmed and taken aback by the revelation and I only offer the advice of being very diligent and wary when entering any contest.

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