As is often the case, come March, it’s time for me to head to Indian Wells with 400,000 other tennis fans to watch the BNP Paribas Open. I’m always excited to take a week off, see friends, enjoy that yellow ball in the sky that Seattleites occasionally recognize as the sun, and, hopefully, score a Roger Federer sighting.

As a busy lawyer, I was more than happy to leave the accommodation decisions up to my friends. They researched alternatives and ended up booking a nice house with a pool through a popular vacation rental website. Since it is inappropriate to name the company operating this website in a blog post, I will hereinafter refer to it as “Evil Spawn”. After booking the Evil Spawn vacation rental, my friends told me what I owed, and I mailed them a check.

Then, my friends unexpectedly ended up purchasing their dream house in nearby Palm Springs! Since the vacation rental was no longer needed, my friends then went online to cancel it. Easy, right? The cancellation occurred approximately five months before the rental date. Since Palm Springs in March is a popular choice for many, the house was re-rented for “our” week in short order. My friend noted on Evil Spawn’s website that a $300.00 cancellation fee would be imposed, which we all happily agreed to split with the idea that the rest of the money would be refunded.

But sadly, like probably 98% of people accessing Evil Spawn’s website, my friend did not thoroughly read the terms and conditions related to the vacation rental, a.k.a. boilerplate. These terms and conditions stated that, in addition to the $300.00 cancellation fee imposed by the management company operating the vacation rental, Evil Spawn would also charge an additional $425.00 cancellation fee on top of that! Who knew? Certainly my friend didn’t know, and was surprised when the refund came in which was less than expected. Sadly, he spent several more hours in frustrating emails and telephone calls until Evil Spawn finally explained the nature of the additional fee.

Lesson learned? First, never do business again with Evil Spawn. Second, the devil is in the details. Think of how many times people click “Yes” on approving the terms and conditions when they have not even glanced at it. Or, how often people sign various forms and even contracts without a thorough review. These actions, although they undoubtedly save time, can also prove to be costly. Here, they cost us an additional $425.00. Boilerplate matters, and it important to review everything, and to understand it, before you agree to it.

This post is for informational purposes and does not contain or convey legal advice. The information herein should not be used or relied upon in regard to any particular facts or circumstances without first consulting with an attorney.

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