January/February 2018 Marine Electronics Journal 45
ine print often refers to the small wording on the back pages
of contracts, forms and online documents that contains the
full disclosure or the terms and conditions of the larger print
offer, product or service.
Have you used the Amazon website, signed up with
i Tunes or used PayPal? If so, did you read and agree to
the terms and conditions or user agreements? PayPal’s
user agreement is more that 30,000 words, i Tunes over 19,000 words
and Amazon’s website terms and conditions is over 5,000. To put it in
perspective, the 1952 novel The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway contains 26,601 words. Yes, shorter than PayPal’s terms and conditions and certainly The Old Man and the Sea is more interesting!
How often do you read all the terms and conditions for a service you
used or a contract you agreed to? Routine events like buying a car and
getting a credit card are accompanied with too many pages of fine print
that could take days or weeks to read and understand. Many of us
ignore the thousands of words of legally binding “end-user license
agreements,” terms and conditions we agree to on a regular basis.
Should we read everything in full before we sign our name or agree by
checking the box?
Fine print is controversial in today’s society because it is known for
its deceptive nature, often negating an advertising claim or indicating the
opposite of an attractive offer that appear in much larger format that the
Terms and conditions
The business of marine electronics is not immune to the wordy dis-
claimer; long terms and conditions appear in boat-related contracts,
agreements and even on the screens of our multi-function displays. All
modern chartplotters have disclaimers that usually need to be acknowl-
edged each time the chartplotter is powered up. While sold as naviga-
tional devices, the plotters’ many words of on-screen disclaimer seem to
lead you to the conclusion not to rely on the device for navigation. As
an example, one marine manufacturer’s electronics charts disclaimer
contains 3,700 words indicating that the chart is a “travel aid” and not
used for “precise measurement.”
Addressing the numerous small businesses that make up a majority
of the NMEA membership, how do terms and conditions fit into your
SENSE PUMPING UP PROFITABILITY
Fbusinesses? For many of us, owning or running a small business is more passion than fear. Many businesses close the deal with a customer in many ways; some use the traditional handshake and some may use the modern text message. Other businesses may require a signed estimate to be returned to the sales office and others may have a lengthy multi-page
contract to be signed by the customer and the dealer in person. While
the verbal acknowledgement may work for many businesses it isn’t
always the best way of conducting business. The popular expression
made famous in the People’s Court TV show—“get it in writing”—is more
important today than ever.
How do we incorporate and convey some basic terms and conditions
into a work order or contract in the marine service business without
being overbearing? Let’s look at a few challenges and solutions for a
marine business when it comes to getting work order/sales documents
approved or signed by our customer and explaining the terms and conditions.
Who are the customers? Is the customer the boat’s captain, charter
operator, corporate owner, governmental agency, leasing company,
bank, etc? Sometimes it’s hard to tell who has the authority to enter into
an agreement/contract when requesting work on a boat. Sometimes the
person requesting the work is many degrees away from the person in
charge of paying for the work—be sure you are working with a legally
authorized agent when not dealing directly with the vessel owner.
Where is the owner? Boats used for recreation are often stored or
moored at a location not immediately local to the owner. Often the boat
is a weekend hobby; the owner is absent from the boat’s location most
of the time. It’s not unheard of to work on a customer’s boat before meeting the owner face-to-face and sometimes never meeting the owner.
When this occurs, how do marine business owners communicate the
costs and scope of work to a potential customer? Email? Phone call? Text
message? Maybe one or all three is needed during the project’s duration.
Being skilled in all of these communication methods is important and
can help you maintain agreements and conditions necessary to satisfy
the vessel’s owner in the performance of your work and to obtain proper
financial compensation from the owner.
The best way to confirm the sales of products or services is in writing
The Fine Print
Balancing legal protection with good customer relations
BY STEVE KATZ