A couple weeks ago someone backed into my car. I took the car to the dealership for repairs and at the same time, obtained a rental car. As the agent got me a car he gave me a stack of papers and said sign here and initial it here and there. What shocked him was that I just didn’t sign and initial but rather, I read the agreement. As I started reading the agreement he told me it was all standard and there was no need to read everything. I ignored his comment and much to his disdain, I continued to read the agreement.
It has become quite normal in our society for people to sign things that they don’t read and don’t understand. In addition, what has become quite normal is that the people who ask you to sign various agreements get frustrated very quickly when you read an agreement and ask them questions about it. My view is that when you are signing a legal document you ought to read it and ask questions about it. After all, you can be waiving your rights or committing yourself to something that you are unaware of. Remember, there is a reason that they want you to sign something and I can assure you its not for your benefit.
I recognize that in many situations we, as the consumer, do not have a lot of rights and sometimes we have no alternative but to sign an agreement. However, that is not always the case. In many situations, you may be surprised to know you have the power to change an agreement or modify it. The key is you can’t be intimidated or passive.
Another reason why you should read agreements before you sign them is that sometimes they contain clauses or provisions that are just wrong. A perfect example of this is someone I recently met with who is involved in a lawsuit with their mortgage company. They sued the mortgage company because the interest rate they were quoted was not the same rate that was on the mortgage document. Whether they will win or not, I have no idea; but, what I do know is that their legal fees are expensive and they could have been avoided if they had read the document before they signed it.
The great majority of times, it is relatively immaterial whether you sign something or not. However, in situations where things don’t go according to plan, what you sign can come back to haunt you. Remember, companies aren’t asking you to sign the document because it’s good for you; rather, I can assure you that the reason they’re having you sign a document is because it’s to their benefit. My advice is to always read what you’re signing and if you have questions, ask. Don’t assume that because it’s on a printed document or from a large corporation that everything is on the up and up; it just doesn’t work that way. The bottom line: you have to protect yourself at all times and you should never sign something until you read it and understand it first.
If you would like Rick to respond to your questions, please email him at Rick@bloomassetmanagement.com.