Must we read ads like a lawyer to avoid the traps? Apparently so, as this ad for hearing aids in our local newspaper illustrates:
“WANTED! Miracle-Ear Hearing Centers is looking for qualified people to test their latest product . . . for FREE*!
“Here’s the catch,” they go on. “You must have difficulty hearing and understanding in background noise, and your hearing must fall in the range of the hearing aid.” Actually, that’s not the catch at all. The catch is in the asterisk, as it always is. The catch they describe is a red herring to distract you.
The asterisk reference in small type at the bottom of the page explains you must first pay for the hearing aids (probably over $3,000—they don’t say) but you can get your money back if you return them in 30 days (Costco gives a 90-day trial period). They call you a candidate, but you are a customer candidate, not a test candidate. They then continue with government-mandated statements: “Hearing aids do not restore natural hearing. Individual experiences vary depending on severity of loss, accuracy of evaluation, proper fit and ability to adapt to amplification.” So, they are also warning you their personnel may not fit or evaluate you correctly. Or, you may be the one at fault because you cannot “adapt to amplification.”
No one will arrive for their appointment carrying a wad of $3,000, but I suspect they will have a payment plan with a non-refundable small down payment, and all you will need to do is sign on the dotted line. But maybe I am too suspicious.
They end with more large type: “WE OFFER HEARING AIDS AT NO COST TO FEDERAL WORKERS AND RETIREES! That’s right! No Co-Pay! No Exam Fee! No adjustment fee!”
Well, yes, no cost to anyone if you return them (duh!), no co-pay because most insurance policies will not pay any of it, no exam fee because they cannot legally sell you hearing aids without an exam, and no adjustment fee because that is already built into the astronomical price.
Why do companies run such blatantly misleading ads, especially ones aimed at trusting seniors? Because they only want to attract the most gullible of the gullible. They don’t want to waste their time with alert customers likely to bail when they learn the real story.
In case you missed this 4-day special back in November, don’t panic, they periodically repeat the offer. In fact, they already have.