Tim Istock: Pulling a commercial-grade fast one

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 30, 2022

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By Tim Istock

So you’ve all heard the pitch — somebody appears on the radio and tells you about a product or service that actually sounds halfway decent at first blush . . .

“Own a car or truck? Well then you know how expensive it can be when something breaks and has to be repaired. And it’s not just a matter of if it will happen, it’s when it will happen. Air conditioner compressor goes, that’s $500; catalytic converter fails, $1,500; timing belt breaks, $500; transmission goes on the blink, $4,000. But if you have a, “You Pay The Dough, We Make It Go,” protection policy with Mutual of Cooleemee, for just pennies a day you can rest easy knowing that your vehicle is protected 24/7 against these kinds of financially strapping calamities. So, what are you waiting for, another budget busting repair bill? Call today to start having the peace of mind you deserve, and as a special bonus receive your first month of coverage absolutely free. That’s 1-800-353-3263, again, that’s 1-800 – Fleece Me.”

. . . then, for the remaining 15 seconds and 5,000 words of the commercial, a professional speed talker spewing out words faster than a helium gassed chipmunk on speed, proceeds to spell out the obligatory conditions, exceptions and limitations of the policy, none of which can be deciphered, but all of which are designed to allow said company to cover their rumble seats for any and all damages occurring as a result of unhappy customers suing them for false advertising, and second thoughts about the credibility of the company begin to creep into your noggin.

Now fortunately for me, for a few extra acorns and rent-free accommodations in one of my gutter downspout extensions, I was able to bribe one of my resident chipmunk squatters into translating what was actually being uttered in the closing moments of the aforementioned, frenetic disclaimer, and here’s the poop:

• Actual number of pennies per day is 10,000, or $36,500/year
• Only compressors for window unit air conditioners are covered
• Catalytic converters installed after 1910 not eligible for coverage
• Timing belts must have broken between the hours of 2 a.m. and 2:05 a.m. in the parking lot of a Waffle House in Hoboken, N.J. on Christmas Eve during a full moon. Not valid if motor was running within 152 days of the time of belt breakage.
• Transmission failure will require in house verification by self-certified, YouTube-trained mechanics, at our main garage facility located in SE Borneo, Indonesia. Claimant will be responsible for all transportation costs, necessary passports and translators. Not responsible for personal injuries occurring on premises as a result of king cobra bites.
• First month of free coverage applies only to those opting for 150-year binding contract, and is less required taxes, service charges, handling fees, processing costs, and staff lunch, bar and vacation expenses.
• Payment of claims is handled on the 29th of February on non-leap years, and must be picked up in person at 3 a.m., give or take a hour, from Jimmy “Bonecrusher” Salveroni, in the alley behind the Gun and Run convenience store on the south side of Chicago. Funds will consist of un-marked bills in a small brown paper bag. Come alone, and sorry, no rain checks.
• 24/7 refers to the time you will spend on hold attempting to access our call center located in Mozambique, staffed by Swahili speaking operators who know only the following two sentences in English, “All available agents are currently busy ignoring other customers,” and, “Please stay on the line while we get an address for where to send a postage due card of condolences to your next of kin after you pass away waiting for someone to answer your call.”

So there you have it, everything you ever wanted to know about commercial disclaimers but were afraid to ask.

And listen, try not to let yourself get in a tizzy and end up blowing a gasket thinking about what all you may be missing on some of these slick, doublespeak ads, because for a nominal fee and accompanying long term contract, I’ll be happy to lease you my chipmunk so that you can start getting the lowdown on these charlatans yourself and in the process maybe find out just how much that gasket repair could set you back.