Accept our terms or go home
Jan. 4, 2016
by Ivan Raconteur

People are funny.

I was thinking this the other day while I was closing on a real estate transaction.

Buying a house can be an infinitely frustrating experience, while at the same time, satisfying and exciting.

The thing I found funny was the signatures.

Lawyers tell us we should never sign anything without reading it first.

And then, when we get to what is, for most of us, the biggest financial transaction we will ever undertake, we sign about a ream of documents without reading a single one.

During my recent closing, the person in charge told me what each document was, but for all I know, I could have been signing documents renouncing my citizenship, giving up my power of attorney, or enlisting in the French Foreign Legion.

I hope I didn’t do any of those things, but for all I know, I could have, because I didn’t read a word.

I relied on the advice of the person in charge.

I’m pretty sure one of those pages was blank. I can’t help wondering if they slipped that in just in case they think of something else they want me to agree to in the future. That way, they will have my signature on the document in advance.

Buying a house is, perhaps, the most extreme example, but we agree to things all the time without actually reading them.

It seems like many websites have some sort of catch like this.

We have to click a box stating that we agree to the company’s terms and conditions before we can move to the next page.

What those terms and conditions might be, we haven’t the faintest idea, because I doubt many of us take the time to click on the link to find out what the terms are.

Even if we did, chances are we wouldn’t have a clearer understanding, because they were no doubt written by a lawyer in his or her best legalese, with the specific intention of making it impossible for anyone lacking a law degree to understand.

And, even if we understood it and didn’t like it, we only have two choices.

We can accept the terms and conditions and get what we want, or we can refuse to accept them, and that will be the end of that.

There is no option to agree, but with conditions of our own.

No matter what we say about not signing anything without reading it, the reality is we don’t have much choice in the matter, and we rely as much on luck and blind faith as we do on careful verification.

People really are funny animals.

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