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The Bottom Line: Read the fine print

Updated: Friday, August 2 2013, 10:17 PM EDT

ALBANY -- Things aren't always what they seem when you read them carefully, and that can be especially true when it comes to your money.
 
So often, what you think you're paying for isn't always what you get - or little-known company policies may actually be working against your wallet.
 
Over the next several weeks, Dori Marlin will be getting The Bottom Line on some of the most common "catches" facing consumers - by focusing on the fine print.
 
For starters, that means looking at the numbers.
 
Two bags of Lays potato chips might look exactly the same - until you take a closer look and notice the bags went from a net weight of 10.5 ounces, down to 10 ounces, earlier this month.
 
Product downsizing is a common way for companies to boost their profits - and cost you more.
 
"Prices of everything have gone up, whether it be prices of gasoline or salaries, and the prices of food go up too," says Dr. Brian Wansink, Professor of Marketing at Cornell University. "So they've got an option - they can either charge more for the same amount they're giving, or they can give you less for the same amount of price."
 
How about when you buy something at the store, and have to send off your receipt for a mail-in rebate?
 
Many times now, those rebates come back to you - in the form of a card.
 
"There used to be a time when you did a manufacturer's rebate, and you'd get a check - deposit it in the bank - you'd get your money," Edgar Dworsky, founder of Consumer World, tells Dori.  "Now they come on these plastic cards, and if you don't read the fine print on those, you will not learn [the rules.]"
 
And if you don't know the rules, you might stand to lose some of the money you're owed.
 
Something else that's easily lost, if you don't pay close attention - frequent flier miles.
 
"People have to be aware that there are stipulations when you travel, there are rules and regulations, and the airlines are usually pretty strict on them," explains Jean Gagnon of Plaza Travel.
 
And what about new rules, when it comes to store return policies?
 
From declining days, to keeping track in different ways - the key is that you, the shopper, need to be aware.
 
"Consumers are creatures of habit, you learn that you like a particular product," says Dworsky. "I grab the medium-sized mayonnaise jar, or I know I can shop at Target and have a generous return policy of 90 days. You may not catch the nuances."
 
But Dori will be uncovering those nuances for you, by focusing on the fine print - and getting The Bottom Line - throughout the month of May.
The Bottom Line: Read the fine print


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