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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Going Postal...

I don't send a lot of mail, but when I do, I usually find the experience unpleasant and annoying. The post office has become a place of frustration and hassles. Here are some of my biggest beefs:

1) Stamps

What is the denomination of this stamp (on right)? I HAVE NO CLUE. I am sure that I remembered for at least a week after I purchased a roll. But I have better things to do than remember the face value of stamps. Put the denomination on every fracking stamp! I don't care if the rates just went up. Plan ahead. (Note: They are doing it again with the latest 41 cent stamps which have no denomination on them. Sigh.)

Also, why do we need a million different stamps? I don't need Star Wars stamps, or Breast Cancer stamps, or Florida Panther stamps. Just give me stamps with big fat numbers representing the denomination. What possesses people to feel the need to personalize their stamps? IT'S JUST A STAMP.

2) Postal Nazis

Like the infamous Seinfeld soup Nazi, the post office has become increasingly restrictive in what it will accept as a first class letter. It used to be that all you had to do was make sure it weighed under 1 oz, slap on your stamp, and your letter was sent happily on its way. Now, they tack on additional surcharges (currently $0.17) for any of the following...
  • Contains items that cause it to be unflat (pens, trinkets, etc)
  • Is too rigid (does not bend easily)
  • Has clasps, strings, buttons
  • Is square (!!!)
  • The length divided by height is less than 1.3 or more than 2.5.
I don't know about you, but now I always measure my envelope dimensions before sending a Hallmark card. I know the reason for this is that they machine process the mail, but who wants to have to go through a checklist before determining postal rates? Just get rid of the surcharge and lump the extra cost of handling non-machine-sortable items into the first class rate. Oh yeah, don't try to staple your envelope (or folded survey card) shut. They will actually send somebody to your home to kick your dog if you do.

3) Marketing Genius

The USPS must have hired a marketing guru to come up with the mail service options. I say this, because your mailing choices are more complicated than a David Lynch movie plot. Take a look for yourself.

This is my typical experience at the post office:

Me: (to myself) (I want to send this package as cheaply as possible.)
Me: "I'd like to ship this package."
Clerk: "How would you like to ship it?"
Me: (I don't know, I just want it shipped as cheaply as possible.)
Me: "What are my choices?"
Clerk: "You can send it Express Mail® for fast delivery or Priority Mail® for 2-3 day delivery"
Me: "Oh, Express Mail® will get it there overnight?"
Clerk: "Or the next day. We don't guarantee 1-day delivery."
Me: (That sounds expensive, and if it takes 2 days, it's not any better than Priority Mail®. Those are my only choices, Express or Priority? I want "Standard" shipping!)
Me: "I guess I'll go with Priority Mail®. That will be delivered in 2-3 days, right?" (I still feel like the clerk is holding out on me and there is actually a cheaper rate. I just need to say the secret pass phrase...)
Clerk: "It could take longer. It's 2-3 days on average. Do you want insurance on that?"
Me: (Insurance? WTF? Are you planning to lose my package? Does the insurance actually reduce the chance you will lose it? Sigh.) "No"
Clerk: "Do you need delivery confirmation? Would you like a roll of stamps today? Would you like the Hello Kitty or the Andy Kaufman special edition stamps..."
Me: "No, No, No, No....ARGH!!!!"

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

More Convenient ATM Deposits?

Bank of America has introduced a new and "improved" process for depositing cash and checks at ATM machines. They call this new approach more convenient, but it is decidedly not so. Let me give you a comparison based on my recent experience...

Old Way
1) I drive up to ATM machine.
2) I grab an envelope (50/50 chance of box being empty - a smarter person would keep spares in the car).
3) I put ALL my checks and cash in envelope.
4) I shove the envelope into the ATM machine.
5) I drive away happy.

New Way
1) I drive up to the ATM machine.
2) I try to insert my first check into the machine. It gets rejected. After 5 tries I give up.
3) I try to insert my second check into the machine. It is hard to align it with the slot because the ends curled up from sitting in my wallet, and it's also kinda windy out.
4) After I straighten out my check and carefully align is using both hands (carefully stretching out my car window), I manage to convince the ATM machine to accept my check. And I also get it to accept another one!
5) I start on my fourth check, which gets rejected 10 times. The car behind me honks impatiently.
6) I give up on the two checks that failed and pull over and park.
7) I head to the ATM machine in the lobby of the bank to give that a try.
8) I insert my ATM card and see "This machine is not able to provide a receipt, do you want to continue anyway?". I hit cancel.
9) I head to the counter. I first look for deposit slips in the lobby but can't find any.
10) I tell the cashier that I'd like to deposit the two checks.
11) He asks "Do you have a deposit slip?" No.
12) He asks "What is your account #?" I don't memorize my account#, that is why I usually use the ATM machine.
13) He agrees to deposit my checks with just my ATM card and no deposit slip (the silver lining to the bad experience).
14) I make a promise to myself to switch banks.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Kingston Random Rebate

Ok, everyone hates rebates. They are pure evil. Companies do everything in their power to prevent you from getting your rebate.

But my friends at Kingston have come up with a new twist on the rebate war. I purchased a 512MB flash drive for $27, with a $27 rebate. I promptly sent in all of the paperwork. The claim was denied, after 5 weeks, because they lost one of the items I sent in. I sent the item in again. 4 weeks later, I called to check in. They said it was approved, and they are sending me a check for $9. I said "Excuse me, the rebate is for $27". Apparently their thorough analysis concluded that my paperwork qualified for $9. As annoyed as I was when rebates were just evil - now I need to further cope with the fact that they are evil AND arbitrary.

All I can envision is a room full of monkeys wearing little Kingston hats, throwing darts at a board to determine an amount to send for my rebate. Or some intern sitting at a desk, crossing out numbers and writing smaller ones until a supervisor nods yes.
Another day, another reason to hate rebates.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Shopping for Clothes

Like probably most men, I HATE shopping for clothes. My objective is to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible, and I often give up in frustration if I can't find anything fast. And if you do find something, it is disappointing to determine that they don't have it in your size or it doesn't fit. Stores make no effort to simplify the process.

Here are some suggestions for clothing retailers to make more sales by making it less frustrating to shop:

1) Put up a sign that indicates what sizes are available. I can't tell you how many time I have searched piles and piles of pants only to find that the store doesn't even CARRY my size in that brand. Some stores have charts, most do not. And make it easy to identify the size. If I have to spend 20 seconds per item searching for the size, I might go on a rampage before I finish searching the entire rack.

2) Make sizes STANDARD. Two pieces of clothing with the same size should fit the same. It's not rocket science. If the electronics industry kept such poor standards we'd all still be listening to 8-tracks and playing Atari.

3) Have a bin in the fitting room area for us to discard clothes that we try on but don't want to purchase. You don't want me trying to refold a shirt. I promise that I won't remember where I got it and will just shove it any random shelf when nobody is watching. Even libraries are smart enough to realize that patrons should not be trusted to restock the shelves.

4) Make sure that the shelves are restocked properly every day. Clothes should be arranged by size and brand. Fix the mess that the patrons made the previous day. Of course, if you have a discard bin as mentioned above, keeping the stock in order will be easier.

5) Stop the practice of Mystery Pricing.

I don't like the way that sizes up!