The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use "Plain English" to Rob You Blind

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Overview

“No other modern country gives corporations the unfettered power found in America to gouge cus­tomers, shortchange workers, and erect barriers to fair play. A big reason is that so little of the news . . . addresses the private, government-approved mechanisms by which price gouging is employed to redistribute income upward.”
 
You are being systematically exploited by powerful corporations every day. These companies squeeze their trusting customers for every last cent, risk their retirement funds, and ...

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The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use

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Overview

“No other modern country gives corporations the unfettered power found in America to gouge cus­tomers, shortchange workers, and erect barriers to fair play. A big reason is that so little of the news . . . addresses the private, government-approved mechanisms by which price gouging is employed to redistribute income upward.”
 
You are being systematically exploited by powerful corporations every day. These companies squeeze their trusting customers for every last cent, risk their retirement funds, and endanger their lives. And they do it all legally. How? It’s all in the fine print.
 
David Cay Johnston, the bestselling author of Per­fectly Legal and Free Lunch, is famous for exposing the perfidies of our biggest institutions. Now he turns his attention to the ways huge corporations hide sneaky stipulations in just about every contract, often with government permission.
 
Johnston has been known to whip out a utility bill and explain line by line what all that mumbo jumbo actually means (and it doesn’t mean anything good, unless you happen to be the utility company). Within all that jargon, disclosed in accordance with all legal requirements, lie the tools these companies use to rob you blind. Even worse is what’s missing—all the contractually binding clauses that companies hide elsewhere yet still enforce and abuse. Consider, for example, how:

  • An insurance company repeatedly delayed paying for a paralyzed man’s vital care despite court orders to pay up.
  • Laws in nineteen states let companies like Goldman Sachs, General Electric, and Procter & Gamble pocket the state income taxes withheld from their workers’ paychecks for up to twenty-five years.
  • A little-known government rule gives safety waiv­ers to deadly industrial facilities secretly located underneath schools and playgrounds.
  • The “FCC Charge” on your phone bill, which appears to be a government fee, actually goes straight to the phone company.

 
Johnston shares solutions you can use to fight back against the hundreds of obscure fees and taxes that line the pockets of big corporations, and to help end these devious practices once and for all.
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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
David Cay Johnston is one of the few journalists who understand and write about the inner workings of the U.S. tax code. He's made a fine career of chronicling how large companies and the wealthy have plundered the government's coffers, often with help from the politicians who write our tax laws. His accolades include a Pulitzer Prize for exposing outrageous loopholes used to shelter vast amounts of income…The Fine Print expands on that theme, showing a gamut of ways in which big corporations, especially regulated utilities, cheat ordinary people (as well as each other) out of their money. Some of the examples could leave you feeling so disgusted and powerless that you might wonder if you were better off not knowing. But if you enjoy learning about the dirty little secrets behind the ways powerful businesses make their profits, you probably will like this book.
—Jonathan Weil
From the Publisher
"Todd McLaren narrates at a good pace, keeping the energy high throughout. Reading with conviction and enthusiasm, he makes it sound as if the words are his own." —-AudioFile
Kirkus Reviews
Veteran investigative reporter Johnston reveals how businesses, with the consent of government agencies, rip off consumers in plain sight. This book completes a kind of trilogy, after 2003's Perfectly Legal (about tax scams) and 2007's Free Lunch (about government subsidies). The "fine print" refers to a variety of bills--telephone, electric, water, insurance, credit card, hospital--and other documents that technically disclose costs to the bill payers but are intended to obscure as many hidden costs as possible. Although Johnston's research is meant to shame the powerful for accumulating eye-popping wealth by exploiting the less fortunate, the book also serves to empower recipients of the bills so they can demand repayment and maybe even systemic reform. In a closing chapter, Johnston recommends self-education by consumers, and he provides a start by delineating, for example, how to analyze a utility bill in order to fully understand the many clever surcharges and fees. The author hopes to encourage organized campaigns aimed at all levels and branches of government. The influence of the ballot box can speak truth to power, Johnston believes--perhaps naively but with heartwarming passion. Minimum-wage laws once seemed hopeless to achieve, he writes, yet they are now prevalent because consumers banded together effectively. Investigative journalism at its best, as Johnston seeks to comfort the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591846536
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 8/27/2013
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 270,681
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON is a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter who has been called the “de facto chief tax enforcement officer of the United States.” His most recent books, Perfectly Legal and Free Lunch, were New York Times bestsellers. He was a reporter for The New York Times for thirteen years and now writes a column for Reuters. He also teaches at Syracuse University College of Law and the Whitman School of Management, and he was recently elected board president of Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. He lives in Rochester, New York.
 
Visit www.davidcayjohnston.com

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2012

    Worth reading

    Johnston brings up many points that cost American people and companies excessive money. It will help you understand how we have created the mess that we are in. Primarily he is saying a couple things that I took away; large corporations have excessive influence on what and how something is over regulated or insufficiently regulated & many of our important services (utilities and transportation) are essentially monopolies. Money buys power and influence which is pretty much common knowledge.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 22, 2012

    Highly Recommended - So much to learn!

    David Cay Johnston continues to amaze. I'm learning much about how Goverment and Corporations bilk the common family out of funds that should go to the betterment of all society.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2012

    NPR

    I just heard about this guy on NPR. This guy is so cool.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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