Sunday, July 5, 2015


Anyone who thinks there isn’t enough “transparency” in the business world today should see the agreement and disclosure statement I received along with the debit card I applied for. You’ll note I said “see”; I didn’t say “read.”

The reason is that, in what they would probably call a victory for transparency, VISA sent more information than anyone, the most literate among us, could possibly absorb. 

For starters, the type is almost microscopic; I would estimate it at a 4 on the typographic point scale that rates one-inch-high type as 72-point. This mouse type, single-spaced, covers both sides of a sheet that folds out to 14 inches wide and 7-1/2 inches high. The disclosure from the bank itself with the same type runs an astounding 33 inches wide, and it’s an inch taller than the debit card piece. Word count is beyond estimating. But you want full disclosure? We’ll give you full disclosure.

This is a device I’ve seen also used by the utility company, in the enclosure that comes in every bill, informing you of their application for a rate increase. (Not the rate increase from last month; this is a new one.) Everything you need to know for your futile comment to the state Public Utilities Commission is there, but encoded in type so small and so lengthy that only the lawyers who wrote it can be sure of what it says. But it’s there; what’s your complaint, citizen?

There are consumer advocacy organizations and they have lawyers, too, so sometimes we get to hear what all those words really mean, and it’s usually bad news. The organization here in California has celebrated some victories, but whether such organizations can overcome the utility’s lobbying of the state agency over the long haul is a question. You’d think our side would win, considering the unfair advantage we seemingly have: we’re a whole group of people and the utility corporation is just one person. But what if he or she is dating someone on the Commission?