It’s time for another trip [space music] into the Far, Far, Far-out Frontiers of the Free Enterprise.

It’s time for another trip [space music] into the Far, Far, Far-out Frontiers of the Free Enterprise.

Today, Spaceship Hightower takes you on a perilous journey into the dark hole of commerce known as: “Fine Print.” Our intergalactic guide is Consumer Reports magazine, which always reads the fine print and reports on it monthly.

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Take a squint at this ad for an exercise device, for example. It depicts before-and-after photos of a guy who has gone from chubby to svelte. It’s obvious, however, that they simply superimposed the “before” guy’s head on the “after” guy’s body. Still, the ad copy tells potential buyers that the two photos are “genuine” and “unretouched.” How can that be? A little footnote explains it: “Reader understands that by ‘unretouched,’ we may mean slightly altered.”

Let’s move on to a bright star of consumer brandnames, Crest toothpaste. The label proudly proclaims that “This Crest is specially formulated to help prevent staining.” Excellent, you might say – until you read the tiny type, which informs you that the active ingredient in the tube of tooth goo “may produce surface staining of teeth.” Still, the company asserts that this product has a “unique whitening ingredient” to remove stains – apparently including removal of stains the toothpaste causes!

Here’s another fine-print twist to cause consumer alarm. Nips candy changed its packaging last year to include a bold box on the front proclaiming “Value Pack!” Always beware of corporate claims of giving you a good deal. Sure enough, the new package of Nips contains only four ounces of candy – 27 percent less than the old package. The price, however, did not drop even by a penny.

Then there’s the coupon offering “10% off” on a service call. Except the fine print reads, “Not valid on service calls.” Be careful out there.

“Selling it: Goofs Glitches Gotchas,” Consumer Reports, January 2008

“Battling the bastards is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”

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