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How A Georgia Teacher Won $10,000 By Reading The Fine Print

Mar 10, 2019
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Now a conversation about what happens when you actually read the fine print. Donelan Andrews is a high school teacher from Georgia. And she won $10,000 when she found a few words hidden in the text of a travel insurance policy. That section of the fine print was part of a contest run by the Florida-based insurance company Squaremouth. And she joins us to explain. Welcome to the show.

DONELAN ANDREWS: Thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So tell me what happened when you got this contract.

ANDREWS: When I got the contract, I printed it off and decided, certainly, to read the contract because I always read contracts and noticed this fabulous paragraph on the seventh page. In bold letters, it said, Pays to Read. And then the paragraph began to explain that they have a contest going on and that if I had actually read that far in the contract, I was one of maybe 1 percent - I think it said - of people who actually read contracts. And they wanted to change that. And so they were running a contest to actually win $10,000. And it certainly got my attention.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It did. Did you think it was a hoax? And what did you do?

ANDREWS: I didn't think it was a hoax because, frankly, it reminded me of when I was a classroom teacher and would prepare tests for my students. I would always have directions on the first page of the tests, and I would usually hide something similar - not that they'd win money, but maybe they could get 10 bonus points if they circled the number 10 on Page 2 of the test or something.

And it really piqued my interest because I recognized kind of the lingo. And so I certainly read further and totally believed it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And it turns out that you were one of the only people to actually read the fine print.

ANDREWS: Right. During that 23-hour period, they had sold, I think, 73 policies, including mine. And evidently, I was the only one who had read that far in the contract.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) We should mention, because we can hear it in the background, that you're at school at the moment, as all good teachers should be. What are you planning on spending the money on?

ANDREWS: Well, I'm retiring this year after 25 years of teaching, and...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Congratulations.

ANDREWS: Oh, thank you. I have 52 days. And my husband and I are also celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary this summer. So we're taking a trip to Scotland in June. And this money will pay for just about all of that trip. So I'm very excited about that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And I understand that the schools where you teach are also going to benefit.

ANDREWS: Right. Part of the Squaremouth campaign was that they were going to donate $10,000 to the Reading is Fundamental company, which is a nonprofit that donates books to elementary and primary schools.

And in addition to that, once they found out I was a teacher and very passionate about my job, they added another $10,000 - $5,000 to each of the high schools where I teach - donating that directly to the libraries at the schools. And you better believe those media specialists are my new best friends.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) I can imagine suddenly you're very popular.

ANDREWS: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I've got to ask you before we leave you - any advice that you would give about reading and signing those contracts?

ANDREWS: Well, I just think it's a - you know, a smart consumer always looks after themselves. And the good thing is a lot of these companies are now making these contracts much more easily readable. And I think everyone should try reading them again to see that they are not as cumbersome as they used to be.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Donelan Andrews, high school teacher and eagle-eyed contract reader, thank you so much.

ANDREWS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF RAC'S "SIXTEEN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.