Donelan Andrews has always been attuned to detail.
“I have a folder for everything,” said Andrews, 59, a high school teacher who lives in Thomaston, Georgia, about 65 miles south of Atlanta.
When she decided to plan a getaway to England with some girlfriends, they purchased travel insurance, as they each had someone in their lives who was elderly or sick. Through the website Squaremouth she bought a policy that cost $454, the lowest price she could find to cover all of her travel costs, should she need to cancel.
When the company she bought from, Tin Leg — a subsidiary of Squaremouth — sent her the insurance policy, she sat down to read it.
“I always read all the fine print,” she said, adding that her major in college was consumer economics. “I know I sound like a nerd, but I learned to read contracts so you don’t get taken advantage of.”
Andrews was deep into page seven of the policy when something jumped out at her.
“Pays to Read,” read the contract.
It continued: “We estimate that less than 1 percent of travelers that purchase a travel insurance policy actually read all of their policy information — and we’re working to change that.”
It said the first person to email the company and mention the fine-print contest would win $10,000. Andrews immediately emailed.
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She thought back to the days when she used to write high school tests, and she’d sneak in a bonus for students who carefully read the instructions. For example, the fourth sentence of test instructions would say something like: Circle the number 10 three times for 10 extra points.
“About a third of the class would read it and the rest would get mad,” she said. “The lesson they learned is they need to read the directions.”
On Feb. 12, the day after Andrews sent the email to Squaremouth saying she’d seen the contest hidden in her contract, a representative from the company called her and told her she’d won $10,000.
“It was my lucky day,” she said.
The company had quietly started the contest a day earlier, and in that time had sent out 73 policies to different customers who had purchased them, the company said. Andrews was the first one to email.
She was thrilled to win. Her friends and family were not shocked.
“Most of the comments from people who know me have been, ‘That doesn’t surprise me at all, you’re that kind of person,’ ” Andrews said. “Particularly in my family, I’m the one who gets things straight.”
So why would an insurance company do this? Isn’t fine print the part of the contract the company might not want the consumer to read?
Squaremouth figured that if its customers are informed about the details of their policies, it reduces any miscommunication for filing a claim, spokesman Jenna Hummer said. The 40-person company, which is based in St. Petersburg, Florida, and began in 2003 as a travel insurance aggregator, started its travel insurance subsidiary, Tin Leg, in 2014.
“We want people to read it because we want people to understand what they’re covered for and not covered for,” Hummer said. “It makes everybody’s life a lot easier.”
She said she and others at Squaremouth also thought the contest would get a laugh.
Andrews said her take is that encouraging customers to read and understand the policy makes them feel more satisfied — which is critical in the world of make-you-or-break-you online reviews.
“I think they want to be rated really high with the rating people,” she said.
In addition to the $10,000 Andrews won, Squaremouth donated $5,000 each to the two Georgia schools Andrews works for — Upson-Lee High School and Lamar County High School — as well as another $10,000 to Reading Is Fundamental, a children’s literacy charity.
Andrews said the experience has been fun and “kind of crazy.”
“I might start buying lottery tickets,” she said.
Would she read the fine print on those as well?