There must have been many times when you've received visits from pushy reps offering profit-enhancing deals if you will sign up immediately. No need to read the contract because the salesman's patter will tell you all you need to know. It's risk free. You can quit at any time if the deal doesn't live up to its promise. As you read this I expect by now you're thinking yeah, pull the other one. I should say that I'm staggered by the number of retailers who do sign up for goods and services and live to rue the day. But over the years cynicism has taken over where astonishment left off. Unfortunately, independents are a sitting target, considered fair game by companies selling anything from bogus catalogue/guide listings to new services such as electronic payment methods. The former often rely on you ticking a box to say whether your listing is correct. Then you get a bill for it (as it said you would somewhere in the fine print). This type of company is often based overseas and is acting illegally. So ignore their threats ­ they won't take you to court. The latter ­ companies pushing new services like cash machines, e-payment methods or surveillance equipment ­ are not in the least bogus but they will be tripping over each other to get their networks established and beat their rivals. Many reps flogging these sort of goods and services are employed on short-term contracts and surviving on commission. They are going to make promises that will not be reflected in the terms and conditions. Very often they will not even know the contents of the contract, because it's dozens of pages long or in too small a print. The short guide on how to separate contractual obligations from hot air is as follows: - Never sign on the spot ­ deals keep and reputable companies won't mind you studying their terms - What's the duration of the contract and where might you be in, say, seven years' time? - What happens to the deal if you sell your business? - Get the rep to show you where his verbal promises are written in the contract (such as "you can pull out without penalties") - The contract was written by lawyers and therefore with its client in mind. Get your lawyer to give it the once-over. {{GROCER CLUB }}