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Contracts have 2 important duties. The first is to lay out the obligations of all the parties. When the terms of the contract are written simply the first duty turns from a list of obligations into a road map of success for the parties. The second duty is to let the parties know what should happen when a term or obligation cannot be or is not satisfied. A well written and easy to understand contract turns what could be messy litigation into just a hiccup.
Here at Hansen Legal we take pride in our attention to detail when it comes to writing and understanding contracts. The firm invests in the training and resources to stay up to date on the most recent case law and writing techniques. This combined with our years of practical business experience allows us to make contracts and their terms simple and easy to understand.
No matter what business your company engages in it will have to deal with contracts. Knowing and understanding the terms of those contracts lays the foundation for successful business transactions.
Before becoming a Lawyer I spent time both as an employee and as a business owner. One of my first businesses was a contracting business with my friend. We started out with sheds and playhouses and made our way into finishing unfinished houses during the great recession. Many of the original contractors could not finish the houses due to the economy and flaws in their own contracts. I paired up with a business lawyer who helped me understand the contracts i was getting into and made sure i would get paid upon completion. It was here where i first gained an appreciation for attention to detail in contracts.
THE TALE OF TWO REFRIGERATORS
With all of these contracts being made, many people are allowing themselves to become bound without knowing to what they are bound. One of the main places this happens is with online shopping.
When I first started off as an Attorney I knew I was going to want a mini fridge in my office. I really like cold drinks and I knew I was going to want to meal prep and store my food in there. I went on a hunt for the perfect fridge within my budget and finally found what I wanted on my favorite online shopping site.
While I knew it was the fridge I wanted, but for some reason or another I felt as if I needed to read over the sites purchase and return policies (i.e. the contract). I read over it and found that I could return the fridge within 30 days no questions asked. With that assurance, I placed the order. Not even 4 hours after i place that order a friend of mine contacted me and asked me if I wanted a fridge he had bought but never used! Knowing that the terms of the contract allowed me to cancel or return the fridge I had just ordered, I gladly accepted the fridge from my friend.
In an effort to minimize any issues with canceling the order, I checked the site and saw my order had not shipped yet. I then tried to use the online canceling system the site had in place and it didn't work. Confused, I contacted customer service and was told not to worry and to simply return the fridge once it arrived at my house. I thought that was slightly odd, so I made sure to keep a transcript of the conversation.
When the fridge arrived I contacted customer service again and asked how they would like me to return the fridge. They told me that I couldn't because refrigerators are not a returnable item and if I had any issue with that then I could contact their legal department. So I took down the information for the legal department and despite the advice from my lawyer friends telling me it would be a waste of time, I sent them an email.
In the email, I provided a copy of the contracts between me and the company for the purchase and shipment of the fridge, and a copy of the transcripts from both times I contacted customer service. I pointed out the return policy and the customer service agents promise that i could return the item. I then asked to be able to return the item for a refund as provided in the contract.
In less than a day, I received a reply from one of the company's lawyers. He apologized for the trouble I had gone through, told me that my interpretation of the contract was correct but that the company did not want the fridge back. Instead, he told me to keep the fridge and that the company would be giving me a refund of my purchase and a small payment for my legal fees if I agreed not to sue them for breach of contract.
Surprised, I told him that I really only wanted to return the fridge and just get a refund. I had no desire to take anything without paying for it and no use for a second fridge. He insisted that I take the fridge, the refund, and the small payment. I went ahead and took the offer and now I have 2 fridges.
After accepting the offer, I called my wife and told her that what had happened. Surprised she asked, "What did you do!?" all i could think of to say was that I out lawyered them. After saying that the whole situation started to disturb me a bit. I came to a realization that had I not read the contract I would be stuck with 2 fridges and would be out the money for them. My own lawyer friends told me that trying to return the fridge and get a refund was going to be a waste of my time.
There have been so many times that I have heard both lawyers and non-lawyers say things like, "well that is such and such company and you are never going to win against them." There is such a stigma that if you do dealings with a large company you should expect to get screwed over when it comes to a contract dispute so don't even bother with disputing it. Fortunately for consumers, there is case law that says contracts cannot be manifestly unreasonable if they are to be upheld. That means there is always a fighting chance and in my experience, a knowledgeable attorney with an understanding of the contract greatly increases the chance of success in a contract dispute.