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Fred's Views


More Pet Peeves

We're continuing our countdown of my top ten pet peeves. What will make it to the top of my list? Read on and see.

  1. "Untested" Products: I don't know about you, but I've bought enough "nearly-there" products to be convinced that many manufacturers never try out a new product using an actual human being before placing the product on sale. I guess they must employ a legion of monkeys and figure if one of them, eventually, can get the job done using the product, then the product must be just fine. Right.

    Previously, I've mentioned my frustration with a weed-trimmer. It uses two spools of plastic "string" that must be fed into two holes, one on either side of the spindle. Feeding the string through these holes is almost an impossibility. You get one fed through, but the other spool has unwound. Or, just as the second goes through the hole, the first comes out. It's a wonder any weeding gets done at all! To me, the solution is obvious: change the hole into a slot. The cover should hold the string in place. (Of course, getting the cover on while the string is still in the slot could be a problem.) Another solution which might add 25¢ or more to the cost is to use a spring mounted mechanism which slides or pivots out of the way converting a "hole" into an easier to use "slot". The mechanism then goes back in place and keeps the string in the "hole" while you complete the other side and put the top on. If only a real human had tried to use the device first!

    In a similar vein, I've complained about electronic devices with clock re-outs but no battery back-up to keep the time and other settings when the power dies. Don't any of these manufacturers have engineers who live in the real world where the power does fail (if only for a brief second) on a regular basis? Resetting a half-dozen devices every month is NOT fun. Battery back-up is such an obvious need, and yet, still, no one (to my knowledge) does it - except for some clock-radios.
  2. Line Jumpers: No one likes the person who cuts into a line or queue, such as a line for a cashier or a movie. More than a few fights have broken out as a result of such rude and thoughtless actions. So, why is it, as soon as you put someone inside a car they think it is perfectly proper to cut into lines and wreak havoc on dozens of their fellow commuters? You see it every day. If you try to maintain a safe distance between you and the car in front, you know, you know for a certainty, that some fool is going to cut in front of you. If you are trying to exit on a busy off-ramp, you either keep your vehicle bumper-to-bumper with the next guy, or some fool will try to cut in. He may save a few seconds, but he will cost everyone else more time than he saves - and he will increase stress, road rage and wear and tear on your car in the process - not to mention a few fender-benders when everyone applies their brakes as a result of his thoughtlessness. It's time the police did something about this moron!
  3. Spam! No, not the luncheon meat which has received enough insults already. Unsolicited e-mails! It's not so much the number I receive, or even the fact that I receive them at all. It's the fact that I receive so many of the same boring thing! Does anyone ever actually respond to any of these "offers"? I get spam about a half-dozen or so "get rich quick" schemes every week. And I get multiple copies (often from different senders) of the same drool. Some spam senders know enough to dress up their offer in some attractive HTML coding. Most don't. Some are so inept they send you a message in plain text that displays all the HTML-coding that they didn't quite get right. Now, I could use some extra money as much as (probably more than) the next guy. But I don't want some "get rich quick" scheme. I'm perfectly willing to work hard and get ahead slowly - if only I could find a way to do it while doing something I enjoy - like writing or building web sites or sleeping. I've been around long enough to know that the only person who is going to get rich from these schemes is the initial guy who sells the scheme.

    I also get spam offering low rate loans or mortgages or prescription drugs. Most of these are intended only for a U.S. audience. I know it is difficult to tell where a person lives from many e-mail addresses, but these people should try harder. Sending country-specific spam around the world is not going to win friends or influence people positively. I also get weight-loss schemes and alternatives to Viagra. The funny thing is, I could probably use a lot of the stuff they're selling, but, because it is spam, I simply delete it. Sometimes I try to get my address removed from a mailing list. Usually I get back a message saying the recipient's mail box is full (big surprise) or some other error. Sometimes, it is nearly impossible to unsubscribe or get removed simply because I don't know which of my e-mail addresses the spam was sent to. When I try to view the details of the message, I sometimes discover the mail wasn't sent to any of my legitimate addresses, sometimes not even to my domain name. Yet it still gets delivered, sort of. I've read that it may not be a good idea to try to remove your address, all it does is tell the spammer that he's got a legitimate address to keep on using - and selling. I don't have a solution to this problem. If the government wants to get involved with the Internet, legislate the spammers. I believe the Internet should remain free and untethered by governmental regulations, but sometimes, I wish there was a way to effectively kill spamming.
  4. "Pop-Up" Ads. I actually opted in to receive e-mail from X10.com. And, every day, sure as clockwork, there is a message from "Brian Edwards" warning me that today is positively the last day I can save gazillions of dollars on the latest spy camera. I like the kind of gadgets that X10 offers. I have even made a purchase from them (which was handled very satisfactorily and arrived promptly). If I had more "free" cash, I'd ordered some other products. Why am I even mentioning X10? Because I've heard that they are one of the most prominent users of pop-up ads that accompany some e-mail and several web sites. I understand that some sites, such as "Tripod" which offers "free" web space, must make some money from advertising and "pop-up" ads is one way to do it. I don't like any type of automatically popping up window, but I'm prepared to put up with it if I choose to visit a site hosted by a company such as Tripod. I am not prepared to put up with it on other sites.

    I'm no prude. I have, on occasion, visited "adult" sites. I've never given them any credit-card information, so I've never gotten very far. But, trying to leave one of these sites is next to impossible. Remember when "adult" products were promised to be shipped in a "plain, brown wrapper"? (I don't know if they actually were of course.) Remember those old games like "Strip Poker" that had a "hot key" that would make the screen blank instantly? Well don't think you can do the same thing just by "X'ing" a browser window. Close one window and there are still half a dozen pop-ups you'll have to work through. It's terrible. And "adult" sites aren't the only culprits. Many other sites are trying to improve their revenues by using pop-up ads. Maybe it's just me, but I consider these pop-up ads as one of the more flagrant and unacceptable examples of spam. I have no problem with advertising. I use banner ads on most of my sites, and most of my visitors seem to have no problem ignoring them. (That was a sort of joke. I know, ignoring banner ads is the reason pop-ups have become so fashionable.) When I visit a site, I usually make a quick note of the banner ads. If I find one that is really compelling, I check it out. Of course, being Canadian, and knowing that many of these sites are aimed at Americans, I ignore more sites than I would if we truly had "free trade". (Having a bit more "free" cash wouldn't hurt either.) Seriously, I have discovered some interesting, even important, products or services through banner ads. But I will likely never find something useful on a pop-up ad because I usually close it before it can load in the advertisement. Advertisers beware: You may be turning off more potential customers than you are reaching with pop-up ads.

    While we are on the subject of advertising, there is one type of banner ad that is really annoying: it's the ad that looks like it is a normal Windows message box. It's probably a very effective ad in terms of getting "clicks", but I doubt it actually has a good "clicks" to "purchases" ratio. I teach adults about computers. I wish I had a dollar for every time one of my students was confused by one of these ads. Getting someone's attention is important. But you won't make a sale if you don't also treat them with respect and get them to trust you. These types of ads - and certainly pop-up ads in general - don't build respect or trust.
  5. Finally, number one. The big one. The most irritating experience of my life! Telemarketing. I've seen people on TV actually trying to have a conversation with a telemarketer. Imagine, actually listening to the pitch before you turn it down. I know, there is an actual human being somewhere out there trying to make a living and live with all the rejection he/she is subjected to every day. Personally, I think I'd rather be homeless and out on the street than work as a telemarketer. Of course, so far, at least, I haven't had to experience either. Some people can't stand to let a phone ring. I'm not one of those people. We recently (as in a little over a year ago) got "Call display". (Now, there's another rip-off! Five dollars a month! It should be $5 a year.) Essentially, if we don't recognize the phone number or name, we don't answer it. That's what telemarketing has done to us. We do have an answering machine, so anyone who has anything important to say can leave a message. Before "Call display", I used to answer virtually all our calls. As soon as I could determine it was just another telemarketer, I would say "Sorry, I'm not interested" and hang up. I didn't wait to hear the whole blurb. I didn't give the caller an opportunity to try and talk me into listening. I just hung up! On rare occasions, when I may have been in an unusual mood or may have been fooled into thinking it was not a telemarketer, I would refuse the offer, no matter how good it might have been or how much I might have a use for it out of principle. You invade my privacy with your call, and I won't do business with you. One serious offender has been Sears. I don't do a lot of business at Sears, but we often buy large appliances from them. So far, I haven't stopped doing business because of the prank calls, but I've been tempted to.

    I know there is a "secret code" you can use to get the telemarketer to take your number off their list. I'm not sure if it always works in Canada. Trouble is, I get so flustered and angry when I get a telemarketer call that I can't think fast enough to say it. A few times I've asked them to take my number off their list. A few times I've told them to stop calling or they will lose any chance of doing business with me. Usually I just hang up. I will never understand why the government hasn't banned telemarketing for the scourge on humanity that it is.

So, there you have it! My top-ten peeves - at least for this week. Maybe someday I'll do a top-ten list of the things I really love. Do you think I can come up with ten?

Copyright © 2002 by Fred Oldfield. All rights reserved.


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