JB’s Space: Don’t Forget to Read the Fine Print

According to my wife, most men aren’t very observant. I’m sure most of us guys have experienced that painfully embarrassing moment when we notice that our spouse has a new hairdo and we say, “Did you change your hair style?”, only to have our better halves reply, “Yeah, over a week ago!”.  A nice bouquet of flowers or dinner at a fancy restaurant usually follow such gaffes as we desperately try to make up for our failure to see what’s right in front of our faces.

Then there are those times when we’re so confident in our experience and abilities that we don’t bother to read something that’s very important – like the assembly instructions for your kid’s new swing set or Barbie Dream House.

We live in a world today that seems at times to be going in opposite directions. On the one hand there is the “Twitterverse” where no one has to read more than 140 characters in a tweet.  And on the other hand, today there is more fine print in everything from contracts to prescription medications than there is sand on a beach.

We recently had a meeting with one of our clients who was planning on bringing a prototype of a new product to their upcoming trade show. Our client has a long history of exhibiting at a variety of different trade shows each year, so they are experienced veterans in the industry. When one of us mentioned that they would be wise to insure their prototype against damage that might be incurred at the show, they were very surprised.

“Why in the world would we need to do that?” was their response. “The general contractor for the show has insurance and they would certainly reimburse us if our prototype is damaged during the move-in or move-out.”

Nothing could be so true and yet so wrong at the same time.

Yes, General Service Contractors (GSC) do carry insurance. But in the exhibitor manual for most shows there are sections that are typically called, “Claims for Loss” and “Limitations of Liabilities”.  And while the exact value of your trade show materials (including your booth) that are covered against loss or damage varies a bit from show to show, for the most part they are far less than most exhibitors may think.

When you sign your contract to exhibit at a given show you will typically find wording similar to this:
When an electronic confirmation is sent notifying the exhibitor of their assigned exhibit space, this constitutes acceptance of the contract by “Show Owner”. The Exhibitor and the Managing Directors agree to be bound by rules set forth, including those in this Application & Contract for Exhibit Space, the Terms & Conditions, the Display Construction Guidelines, the Rules and Regulations, the local Fire Marshal Regulations, Exhibitor Guide and Services Manual, and in any correspondence or other notices, etc., all of which are incorporated herein and made a part of this contract.

In many cases the contract you sign to confirm your booth space at a trade show is a fairly short document, but the exhibitor service manual usually isn’t and by signing the contract you are also agreeing to all the terms, conditions and show rules contained in the exhibitor manual. Moreover, there is typically language in the manual that spells out exactly when a claim for loss must be filed in order to be considered by the general contractor - typically between 30 and 60 days following the close of a show.  In the service manual you will normally see a statement that reads something like this: “All claims reported after “x-number” of days will be rejected.”

But perhaps even more importantly is the general service contractor’s limitation of liability. Again this varies from GSC to GSC but it doesn’t vary by much.

I’ll give you a couple of examples. For one GSC their limitation of liability states: “If found liable for any loss, “GSC’s” sole and exclusive MAXIMUM, liability for loss or damage to exhibitor’s materials and exhibitor’s sole and exclusive remedy is limited to $0.10 (USD) per pound per article with a maximum liability of $50.00 (USD) per item or $1,000 (USD) per shipment, whichever is less.”

Another GSC’s contract reads essentially the same except its limitations of liability are $0.50/lb with a maximum per item of $100 or $1,500 per shipment – whichever is less.

Bottom line with both of these limitations of liability is that you might wind up getting up to $1,500 if your booth properties are damaged - but no more. So if the worst happens, you will most likely receive compensation that is far less than the repair or replacement cost of whatever is damaged.

My intention in writing this is not to criticize these limitations, but rather to point out the fact that many exhibitors aren’t even aware that terms such as these exist. Instead they make the assumption that the total value of their properties are covered. And they’re not. In fact, along with the terms and conditions referenced here, most GSC’s clearly state in the manual that they are not “insurers”.

One show service manual reads: “Insurance for exhibits and products is the responsibility of exhibitors.”

While another one reads: “Be sure your materials are insured from the time they leave your firm until they are returned after the show. It is suggested that exhibitors arrange all-risk coverage. This can be done by riders to your existing policies.”

In some service manuals you may also find information about obtaining this type of insurance through a carrier or broker who is referred by the general service contractor or show organizer.

So if you’re bringing a $50,000 machine or a one of kind prototype to a trade show or event, you might want to contact your insurance carrier and find out if you’re covered for damages to your property, including your trade show display, that may occur at the show and if not, talk to them about getting some sort of short-term coverage or an ‘endorsement” (rider) for your existing insurance policy. The cost shouldn’t be prohibitive and the peace of mind it will bring you is more than worth it.

So while reading the fine print might not help you assemble that swing set, or notice your spouse’s new hairdo, it might none-the-less save you countless headaches and untold amounts of money.

That's JB's Space for now. Thanks for visiting.

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