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AN AGGIE LINE: USU cheerleaders perform during the Aggies' final exhibition game. It's time to cheer for basketball. / Photo by Brianna Mortensen

Today's word on journalism

Friday, November 10, 2006

Q&A with Ed Bradley:

Q: What single issue should be covered more at CBS News?
A: Foreign news.

Q: Have you ever been assigned a story you objected to? How did you deal with it?
A: When I first started in New York at WCBS radio, the assignment editor automatically assigned any story that had a minority in it to me. I objected to being typecast and told him if I didn't get a variety of stories -- as other reporters did -- then I would take it up with the news director.

Q: If you were not in news, what would you be doing?
A: If I had the talent, I'd play bass guitar and sing in a kicking band.

--Ed Bradley, reporter, "60 Minutes," died yesterday of leukemia at age 65 (2006)

Tough lesson to learn: Read that contract before you sign

By Holly Adams

October 23, 2006 | This summer my husband attended an Army school for 10 weeks at Camp Williams. We went hunting for apartments a month before we needed to move in, and found a nice apartment complex in Draper. It was one of the cheaper ones at $688 a month.

Of course, that doesn't include the $100 a month fee for a short-term contract -- we would only be staying there for three months. So every month we were paying $788 for a one bedroom apartment with windows that didn't open, cigarette smoke seeping in from next door, and a maintenance man with a golden elephant head glued to the front of his golf cart.

Three months went by and we were glad to move back to Logan. My parents came up with their trailer to pack up our stuff. This was the first time we realized we were dealing with idiots.

We pulled away from the apartment complex and were headed down the road when we got a phone call.

"Hi Shane. You hit a carport with your trailer. You'll need to come back and file a police report," the lady on the phone said. It was the secretary at the apartment complex.

Completely oblivious to what she was talking about, we told her we hadn't hit anything and basically, that she was full of it. She said she would call back when she knew more about the situation.

A few minutes later she calls back to tell us that it was a mistake and the carport had been hit on the other side of the complex -- too far away from our apartment to be us.

"Oh, and you didn't give us 60 days notice that you were moving out," she said.

We didn't think much of her last comment then. Who cares, they weren't going to charge us for their stupid carport that we didn't hit and we were finally moving out. No more smoke and no more golden elephant head.

A few weeks later we get a closing statement in the mail. It said,"Rent due through 60-day notice. Balance due from resident: $1,620.74.

When we signed the three-month lease to live in the apartment we told them the exact day we would be leaving -- August 30. We gave them 90 days notice, but that wasn't good enough. They needed us to write it on a Post-it note so they could remember. So my husband called them and talked to them. Then I called them and yelled at them. But it was no use. They had a contract with our signature at the bottom that said we would give them 60 days notice.

To some, $1,620.74 is a drop in the bucket, but we are college students.

So we set the bill aside and forgot about it for a while. If you let anything simmer for a while, it usually won't feel quite so bad. Then, it came to the point that we had to face it. My husband called the office and to our surprise they were now charging us $333.67. Someone had moved into our apartment 13 days after we moved out and would be paying rent -- therefore, we did not have to.

We should all be happy right? Well, I'm hard headed, as my dad would say. Why didn't they send us a second bill and why were we not informed of this as soon as the apartment was rented? Probably because nothing in that contract we signed said they couldn't keep our check for the full 60 days rent, even if someone else was paying that rent as well. That was just a nice gesture.

The lady on the phone told me we should have read our contract better and that it wasn't their fault. She's exactly right. Never sign your name to anything -- especially something involving your money -- without reading it. We learned this the hard way. It all worked out for us, but you may not have the same luck.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate a contract.

-- Many people, like me, think they've been ripped off. But their contracts show that the company hasn't done anything wrong because you signed on the dotted line without reading the contract. (Read the contract.)

-- You should not only read the contract, you should read it until you understand it. If you can't figure out what it's saying, get a friend to help.

-- If you are having a really hard time understanding it, make a copy and underline only the important parts -- like "you must give 60 days notice before moving out" -- it should make it a little more clear and you won't pass over those things that are going to hurt you in the future.

-- Don't sign any contract that contains blanks. Cross them out, and then sign.

-- Contracts normally cannot be canceled. The seller -- or lessor in this case -- can legally refuse to let you out of the contract. Your signature on a contract says you have read and understood it, even if you haven't.

-- And finally, never, ever leave without a signed copy of your contract.

When it comes to your money you need to be a little more careful than most people are. We didn't think twice when we signed in 25 different places on their seven-page contract. It was just one of those hoops you have to jump through. It's definitely a lesson learned the hard way.


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