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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Truth in Advertising?

One rule in marketing is to always inflate the value of free offers. I was surprised to see this offer for a free DVD download with a value of only $5.99. Either this is unusual marketing honesty or the download is really crappy.

Wouldn't you think they would make the value $6 instead of $5.99 when they are giving it to you for free? The only time you want to use the $x.99 trick is when you want the cost to appear to be less.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Special Message

I was pleasantly surprised to receive a "special message" e-mail from my IP phone provider (8x8). It was a lovely red envelope with a "Click here to open" note on the flap. Here is what I saw when I moused over the "Click Here"link:

Check out that URL! I don't know what sort of deranged masochist would want to risk clicking on that thing. It even has the word "track" right at the end of that top line. If they really wanted to send me something special, why couldn't they just include it in the spam e-mail without tracking me all the way back to their website?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanks, No Problem

Some people on my e-mail list have determined that every piece of communication requires a response. You probably know these people. You send them an e-mail such as: "Just wanted to let everyone know, Jane said she is going to be coming in a half hour late this morning", to which you immediately receive the reply email: "Thanks"

I think about 10% of my e-mail some days is from these "auto-responders". I propose a rule for all e-mail servers that any e-mail that consists entirely of "Thanks" or "No Problem" is just automatically deleted.

Note: I know you're thinking about it, so be warned that any one-word comments to this post are subject to deletion.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Allow Me to Postpone!

While in the middle of an online poker tournament an important work project, windows displays this wonderful warning. Notice that the postpone option is disabled. Call me crazy, but it's my computer, how about I decide when to restart my computer? Why even have a postpone button if I can't click it? Is it just a tease?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Evil Marketing Trick #672: Package Labelling

Can you guess what the first ingredient is in Log Cabin Original Syrup? Click here to find out.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Our Privacy Policy

Collection and Use of Personally Identifiable Information
In order to use certain portions of the R&R of Thickness, you may be asked for, or you may choose to provide, personally identifiable information such as name, email address, postal address, favorite ice cream flavor, etc. We will collect this information with or without your consent, but if comes under dispute, we will swear on the farmer's almanac that you provided it of your own free will.

By using this website, you authorize R&R of Thickness to use this information to operate and manage the blog, exercise our legal rights or defense against legal claims, to comply with applicable laws or regulations, to comply with a subpoena or court order or to investigate suspected fraud or a violation of the terms of the R&R of Thickness Users Agreement. Since the Users Agreement currently only exists as a single draft written on a toilet paper roll and hidden under the bed, this leaves us wide open to use your information any way we please.

We will try our damnedest to sell your Personal Information to ANY third party willing to take it, with or without your consent. Third parties typically do not reveal their sources, so you won't know that it was R&R of Thickness that sold you out.

You should be aware that information you "share" on our blog may be viewed and used by anyone with access to the blog, including your boss.

The security of your information is very important to us and we take commercially reasonable steps to attempt to secure your information. We have put in place reasonable physical, electronic, and managerial procedures to safeguard the information we collect. We have a guard dog (labradoodle) watching the server. Only those employees and contractors who need access to your information in order to perform their duties, or want a good laugh, are authorized to have access. However, we cannot guarantee that communications between you and R&R of Thickness or information stored or transmitted through the Service or on our servers, will be completely free from unauthorized access by third parties such as hackers or teenagers.

No Children under 13
We have no intention of collecting personal information from children under the age of 18. Besides, we use words like fuck and shit occasionally and are highly cynical, who wants their kids exposed to that?

Changes in Privacy Policy
This Privacy Policy may change from time to time. In fact, it has already changed while you were reading this. Hit refresh to see the new policy.

Terminate Account
We haven't wasted any time creating a "terminate" feature, because, let's face it, even if we had one, we'd still keep your personal information. Storage memory is cheap and you never know when that information might be useful.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Recycling Electronics

A few times a year, many local towns have an electronics recycling day. This is to encourage people to stop throwing their electronic monitors and TV sets in the dumpster and dispose of them properly.

If you read the item in the above picture, you probably already figured out the problem. They are charging people to dispose of these items. This just goes against human nature, since there is still no charge for people to continue (illegally) tossing them in the dumpster. It seems doubtful that most people will dispose of these items properly if it will cost them time and money to do so. If the environment is truly at risk with these items, you would think the town would cover the cost of these disposal programs (raising taxes if necessary).

Imagine a trash can in the park that charged 25 cents to put an item in the trash. Think about what this park would probably look like after a few weeks.

Rather than charging people, how about every time you properly dispose of a TV you get entered into a monthly raffle for an iPad?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Penny for Your Thoughts...on the Penny

You may have noticed that there is a new penny design out for 2010. The real question to ask is, why are they still redesigning pennies instead of eliminating them?

Pennies are ridiculous and worthless. There is nothing more annoying than getting charged $4.01 at a store and getting $0.99 in change because you don't have a penny. Some places leave out a tray where you can discard your pennies for others to use. Some places simply ignore the penny and give back a whole dollar. We're only talking small business, of course. Big corporations don't care about such things. Try rounding off your bill at Walmart or Best Buy and see what happens.

What is even more insane is that it costs more than a penny to make a penny! That is right, the government is subsidizing the cost of every penny produced. The half penny was eliminated in 1858, and it was worth much more than the current penny is today.

See this excellent video rant on the subject from the Freakonomics Blog.

Even Abe Lincoln would agree...the penny has got to go.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Friendly at First, Good Luck Later

A subtle but annoying strategy a lot of companies seem do is putting the best people on sales. A related problem is sales people that are not accountable further down the purchase chain. There are a variety of businesses where you see this.

One example is whenever my company switches to a new health insurance plan. They send 1 or 2 people who are very knowledgeable to introduce the plan. They meet with us in the conference room with donuts and tell us that everything will be covered. We ask about different scenarios, and they clearly explain to us how we would be covered under those scenarios. Then we never see those people again. When we go to the doctor 3 months later and get our bill in the mail, lots of charges are not covered. The friendly people from the conference room are long gone - we need to talk on the phone for hours with people who are far less competent and friendly.

Another example is buying a car. The sales person is very friendly and tells you a lot about different features of the car. Then once you decide to buy the car, you never see that guy again. You get a hard sell on buying the extended warranty, then spend the rest of your days dealing with the service department.

It would be nice if there were a way to get continued access to the smart, friendly people after you purchase something.

Monday, August 09, 2010

I Voted

Everyone loves their little "I Voted" sticker. They display it proudly on their shirt and walk around with their best posture on Election Day. They are sure to ask everyone else if they have voted. The problem is that the sticker is sending a different message than they think.

What sticker-wearer thinks people see:

"Now there is an American patriot that we can all look up to. He carefully studied the issues and then cast his vote. He makes our system work."

What people actually see:

"That douchebag rolled into work 45 minutes late and now he's rubbing it in my face with that idiotic sticker. Later he'll waste another hour of my time gabbing about a bunch of candidates that he never heard of before yesterday. I guess he didn't read the company manual about voting outside of regular work hours. He'll be having a few beers and watching Chris Matthews while I'm sitting in traffic and waiting in line to vote this evening, after the exit polls have already declared the winner."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Apple Fan Boi's

I am impressed with the enthusiasm some people exhibit for Apple products. It defies rationality and has clearly become deeply rooted in emotion. It's especially funny how enthusiasts will rave about the products and completely gloss over the shortcomings. I've had many Apple friends tell me their computer was in the shop and then casually go on telling me how much better their PC is than my Windows-based PC. It will be interesting to see if the latest iPhone antenna disaster will bring some of these enthusiasts back to Earth.
This cartoon (NSFW) says it all...

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

One Cause for Annoyance

So someone signed up my e-mail address for a site called OneCause. Seems like a nice enough idea - instead of getting money for making purchases, you can donate the money to a charitable cause.

Anyhow, they were sending me all sorts of spam in the form of shopping e-mails and newsletters. So I clicked the "unsubscribe" link in the e-mail to unsubscribe to the shopping e-mails and newsletters. I was greeted with the following page to manage my settings:

Notice that the top checkbox is grayed out. Let's take a closer look:

That's right. I'm a "champion", so I have earned the permanent privilege of receiving the Shopping Emails and Newsletters.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Target Pharmacy Hates Me

Every time I go to Target Pharmacy to pick up a prescription, the same routine happens...

Me: "Pick-up for Brian M."

[Pharmacist spends 2-3 minutes looking at prescription bags filed under "M" and then comes back to the counter empty handed.]

Pharmacist: "Did you drop off the prescription today?"

Me: "No."

Pharmacist: "When did you drop it off?"

[Why didn't the pharmacist ask this question first, since it nullifies the need for the first question?]

Me: "It was an automatic refill. I received a robo-call telling me it was ready for pick-up."

Pharmacist: "Date of Birth?"

[I state my DOB as several identity thieves standing in line jot furiously.]

[Pharmacist walks away and starts typing on a computer keyboard.]

Pharmacist: "What is the prescription for?"

[Didn't the pharmacist just look up my data? Doesn't she know already what my prescription is for?]

Me: "Anal cream"

[Not really, but it might as well have been, as awkward as I felt talking about my prescription in front of the gathering crowd of strangers.]

[Pharamacist goes back to the row of prescriptions filed under "M" and after another minute of fumbling around grabs a bag. She brings it to the counter beaming with pride at a job well done.]

Next time, I'm going to need an additional prescription for anxiety.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Read THIS Microsoft

Dear Microsoft,

Your Office applications are the ONLY APPLICATIONS IN THE UNIVERSE that don't let a user overwrite a file that was opened read-only. Sure, I appreciate the warning prompt indicating that the file was marked read only when I opened it. But when I click on the file in the dialog prompt and change it to read/write access, your apps should let me save the file over itself. All your stupid limitation does is make me waste time. Now, I have to save the file with a new file name, delete the old file, and then rename the new file with the old file name.

The only time this does not annoy me are days that I don't use Microsoft Office. If I ever met the developer responsible for that bit of code, I would beat him or her vehemently with a pineapple.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Spokeo and Pandora Privacy Concerns

I hate websites like Spokeo that farm the internet and collect peoples' personal information. Spokeo is a particularly annoying site because you can search by a wide variety of fields (name, email address, etc) and it will display a summary of any pictures, blogs, and social network data it can relate to that person.

I was surprised to find that if I searched my own email address, Spokeo was able to display a list of my Pandora music lists. I tried a few friends email addresses and it also linked to their Pandora music lists. This is extremely disturbing because I've never provided that information to anyone but Pandora (email required to register). They claim they don't give it out, and it's not displayed on my "public" Pandora page. As a side note, I didn't even realize I had a "public" page on Pandora. It was enabled by default when I created the account. But that is another topic to rant about on another day.

Bottom Line, Spokeo has access to information that isn't public information and I didn't provide to them. I don't know if they hacked Pandora, or if Pandora is lying about saying they don't give the info out. Either way, you can't trust anybody to protect your online information, no matter what their privacy policy says.

Also, I think we need to create a new classification of privacy - the right to "privacy of public data by context". Just because you provide personal information in one context, say family pictures for sharing with your friends on Facebook, doesn't mean that you mean for that information to be aggregated with data from another context, say your LinkedIn profile.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dr. Pepper Iron Man 2 Promotion - Worst EVER!

Can anybody spot a flaw in this Dr. Pepper promotion...

Edit 05/12: I just purchased another bottle of Dr. Pepper and thought I'd play again for fun..I got the same results. WTF Dr. Pepper? Did you get your doctorate in bullshit?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Witholding Options

It's tax time and I am frustrated again. The most frustrating part of doing taxes every year is Intuit's Turbo Tax. This company is nefarious and devious in their ways. Each year they manage to raise the Bar of Evilness. In this year's product, they attempt to trick you into letting them use your personal tax information for their own devices. Why do I say they try to trick you? Because instead of saying "click here if you want to allow us to use your tax return information to spam provide you with other fantastic offers" it says "click here to allow us to show you more options to get your refund". I'm not making this stuff up. Of course you are tempted to check the box. Who doesn't want more options? Who wants to "miss anything"? I bet most people will click on the box, and then it disappears before they even have time to realize what they have done.

Here is another blogger who more rants eloquently about the situation.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Like and Old Friend...Windows 7

I recently purchased my first computer with the Windows 7 operating system. Something about it felt very familiar. Perhaps it was the BSOD on the FIRST TIME I EVER TURNED ON THE COMPUTER. Sadly, Windows 7 notified me that it could not complete installation on the second boot because something went wrong previously. It is no surprise that this message also came up on the next 5 boots. Time to return the new computer.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

This Letter Makes No Census

I received this letter in the mail informing me that I will be receiving census forms next week. What a waste of money. The Census Bureau sent out over 120 million of these letters costing taxpayers millions of dollars. The rationale given is that it boosts return rates, saving costs in sending Census workers to follow-up with those that don't respond.

Here's an idea. Send follow-up letters to ONLY the people who don't respond before sending the Census workers.

This just doesn't add up.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Chick-Fil-A Promotion

I went to the Washington Wizards game on Friday 2/26/10. They were running one of their regular "In Game Promotional Offers" in the 4th quarter. If a player on the visiting team (in this case, the Knicks) is fouled and then misses both free throws, every fan wins a free chicken sandwich from Chick-Fil-A.

Every time a Knick player went to the line in the 4th quarter, the fans would scream like heck for their free chicken sandwich. And finally, a Knick player missed two free throws. High fives all around. Yay, everyone loves Chick-Fil-A. The announcer said "bring your ticket stub within one week to any area Chick-Fil-A for a free chicken sandwich."

So I stroll into Chick-Fil-A on Monday and triumphantly present my ticket stub. "One free chicken sandwich, please". Well, I guess the only people they forgot to tell about the promotion were the STAFF WORKING AT CHICK-FIL-A. My cashier finally called the manager over, and "Maria" anti-climactically announced: "we don't take these anymore".

So screw you, Chick-Fil-A, and your fraudulent promotion. I guess you figured no idiot would actually drag their ticket stub all the way in to the mall for one stinking free chicken sandwich. Well, this is one idiot who is finished with your overpriced chicken sandwiches and stupid cow commercials.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Family Party Great Games

It is no accident that you can purchase the Wii Family Party game for "only" $20. The reviews tell you everything you need to know. Now, you probably think I am going to rant about the lousy game play and difficulty of completing the games. But others have already extensively done that.

I am here to complain about the deceptive packaging. Glance quickly at the image above that is on the package. How many games do you think there are? We all thought it was 50 when we first saw the box. It was only after a second look that we realized it was the number "30" carefully rendered so that it looks like "50".

But that's not all. It turns out that there are only 15 games when you start playing. There are another 15 games that can be "unlocked". Given the skill level required to play these games, and enjoyment factor, I'll be surprised if we ever see more than 16 or 17 of these games.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Case Sensitive Usernames

Every so often I come across a login that requires a case sensitive username. Most often I only discover what is going on after typing in my username and password 5 times and swearing that I know the password is correct. This practice should stop for the following reasons:

  • It is extremely annoying and confusing.

  • Most often you can't change your username, so you are stuck with the case you entered when you created the account

  • Usernames should be unique INDEPENDENT of case. What, are you going to allow two users, one named johnsmith and one named JohnSmith? Why on Earth would you do that?

  • I don't care what Unix/C++ does, fanboi.

  • The confusion created by case sensitive usernames outweighs the "added security". Let all the security be in the case sensitive password.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Dear Redbox,

Since you charge me per day to rent videos, it is ridiculous that the box was "Full" when I went to return the video. What is even more outrageous was the fact that I went to a Redbox at another store, and it was "Full" as well. You need to provide sufficient "room" in your boxes to accept all returns. The next time this happens, I'm stuffing peanut butter in the return slot. Seriously.

That really makes me see red!

Beware: After looking further into the company, it is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau:
On November 21, 2008 the BBB of Chicago contacted Redbox regarding a pattern of allegations contained in consumer complaints filed against the company. The pattern of allegations includes billing errors, unauthorized and/or illegitimate charges to consumers' credit cards or bank accounts, and the company's failure to produce receipts for transactions.

Most complainants allege returning movies to Redbox in a timely manner, but still received late fees. Because the company did not produce receipts to consumers with the date and time they returned their movies, consumers were unable to verify that they in fact returned the movie on time. Consumers also allege having difficulties contacting Redbox to resolve these issues.

Redbox failed to respond to the BBB when it brought these concerns to the company's attention; therefore, the company was revoked from BBB Accreditation due to failure to address and/or eliminate the pattern of consumer complaints.

Friday, February 12, 2010

TV Guide

Shame on TV Guide for lying and setting false expectations. I'm sure a lot of other magazines do this too, but I'm singling out TV Guide since it's the last magazine I get anymore.

My TV Guide subscription is for "57 issues". Would you assume this means that I will get 57 TV Guides in my mailbox? Of course not. Over the course of the year, their schedule includes 10 "double issues". WooHoo! Double Issue! Extra interviews with that douchebag from Big Brother!

Settle down. Each of those double issues counts as two issues. So my 57 issue subscription actually only nets me 47 paperweights for my recycle bin.

Shame on you, TV Guide. I will have to figure out some other magical place that I can get lots of information such as TV listings and information about TV shows.