This month, I’d like to delve into the realm of “New and Improved” products and services. By “New and Improved” I don’t mean things that come right out and label themselves as “New and Improved”; instead I’m referring to products and services that just change for no apparent reason and end up either so utterly useless or so annoying that no one in their right mind would want to buy or use them.
At the top of my list of things that have changed for no apparent reason and are now completely unusable is the new phone book. Let me start off by saying that the word “book” just doesn’t seem appropriate when describing this monstrosity. It’s more of a phone “tome”. I can’t help but wonder about the idiotic decision-making process that went into deciding to combine not only ALL of the Yellow Pages but also the White Pages into a single book the size of an aircraft carrier. I’m picturing in my mind something like this:
Idiot #1: “Hey, Biff, which 3 of these 42 pictures do you want to use on the covers of the new phone books?”
Idiot #2: “Gee, Bambi, I only like one of them. The rest are ugly”
Idiot #1: “But, Biff, there are three books and they each need a different picture.”
Idiot #2: “It’s too bad that there’s not just ONE book.”
Idiot #1: “Hey! What a great idea! Let’s go drink martinis for lunch.”
Idiot #2: “I’m on my third martini already.”
Idiot #1: “Oh, Biff!”
Honestly, I would love nothing more than to beat the person that came up with this stupid idea over the head with one of these things. Of course I can’t do that because that would be illegal. That, and about 15 seconds after I opened the bag they delivered it in it was in the dumpster. I didn’t even bother to put it in the recycle-bin because I didn’t want to give the guy that picks them up a hernia. All I can say is that it’s a good thing they don’t publish encyclopedias.
Next on my list of things that have been improved to the point of being a complete waste is Customer Service. Yes, it’s true: Customer Service has been improved to the point that it’s now a disservice. Here’s why:
It seems that everywhere you go nowadays they want you to fill out some kind of a “Customer Satisfaction” survey. While this might seem like a good idea, let me point out that they now EXPECT you to do it. It’s as if it’s a part of your purchase contract. “Well, Chuck, we COULD sell you this car here for about $50,000 but we’ll expect you to give us a favorable rating on this CUSTOMER SATISFACTION SURVEY!”
“Gee, that sounds reasonable. How long can it take to fill out a stupid survey?” you say to yourself as your write out the check.
Then you start getting surveys in the mail from – oh, we’ll just make up a fictitious car company name…how about “Exlus”? The survey reads something like “In our never-ending pursuit of customer satisfaction here at “Exlus” we’d like to ask you a few questions…”
I’ll spare you the rest of the survey’s contents but let me just point out that their interpretation of “a few” is vastly different from mine. In fact, I’ve filled out loan applications that asked fewer questions. And that’s not the end of it - every time you take the car in for a regularly-scheduled maintenance procedure – like putting air in the tires - they want you to fill out another survey to make sure that everything was done to your satisfaction.
“Gee, Chuck, why don’t you just throw the surveys in the dumpster along with the phone book?” you might ask. Well, because if you do that then they’ll call you on the phone to make sure that you had a satisfying ‘experience’. It goes something like this: “Hi, Chuck, this is Jennifer from “Exlus” and we didn’t receive your customer satisfaction survey after your recent visit to our service center and I just wanted to make sure that everything was resolved OK.” Oh, joy.
Here’s a quick clue to the people that create these surveys: Believe me, if there had been a problem you would have been the FIRST to hear about it. I’ve got a telephone and your phone number and I know how to use both of them. So stop with the surveys! (Now I wish I’d kept my phone book so I could beat them on the head with it.)
Finally, the last thing on my list of things that have been “improved” while still managing to depreciate in value is: The Miami Herald. While it seems as if the overall quality of the paper has declined in recent years the part that really irks me is the Comics section. Just what is so difficult about printing comic strips? They used to be fine – printed on one page, top to bottom. Then they added a few new strips. Normally this would be an improvement but, remember, this is The Miami Herald.
For some reason they moved the comics to the “new and improved” Living Today section (now called Tropical Life or something equally inane) where it spans two pages in a “magazine” format. Of course, they didn’t all quite fit so for a while they smashed Dennis the Menace and a few other randomly selected comics down to half size so you could just sort of make out the picture but not read any of the text. Finally, after enough people complained, they moved Dilbert to the Business section.
A few weeks ago, they omitted the comics entirely with an explanation that went something like: “OK, there aren’t any comics today - we’re going to print them tomorrow. Then the day after that we’ll print tomorrow’s comics and that day’s comics. Got it?” Yeah, I got it: You people are nitwits.
Anybody got a phone book I can borrow?