February 7, 2007
It's been three years since I last identified bad design in products so it time to throw out some more designs that suck. This time, all the items will be computer related though one area will be more of a general complaint that applies across the board.

1. Microsoft Clip Organizer

In the past, if one wanted to see what clip art items they had on their system, you could navigate down the directories on your computer and see all the clip art items on your system in one directory. You could even open each one in turn to verify it was what you thought it was.

No longer can one do that. Someone, somewhere, for whatever reason, decided that having all your clip art in one easily accessible area wasn't good enough. No, they decided that it would be fun to screw with people and make it so one couldn't directly access their clip art files any longer. Thus was born, Microsoft Clip Organizer.

Now when one wants to view any clip art files on their system, one has to launch a program to do so because the clip art files are not stored as individuals file. Instead, all your clip are files are stored in one giant file which can only be opened by Microsoft Clip Organizer. Oh, and if your Clip Organizer has a problem and can't be opened, you can't access your clip art files. Isn't that wonderful?

I know this to be true since I've been struggling with trying to get a copy of Clip Organizer repaired without success. The person on whose system Clip Organizer is barfed, now can't complete their work because of not only an error within Clip Organizer, but also because of a second, related, issue. Namely, you can no longer get clip art from Microsoft's site unless you install an ActiveX control which is tied into Clip Organizer.

Yes, you read that right. If Clip Organizer doesn't work, you can't get any more items of clip art because you need to have a working copy of Clip Organizer. Brilliant! Let's tie another piece of software into the operating system so if something goes wrong, you can't do your work.

On a related matter, and as I just mentioned, you must install an ActiveX control from Microsoft's site to be allowed to download clip art. Yes, allowed is the correct word since if you decline to install the ActiveX control, you can't get any clip art files.

In the past, it was a matter of simply going to Microsoft's clip art site, finding the clip art piece you wanted, right-clicking and saving the file to wherever you wanted. Not any more. Now, you must first be granted the privilege of downloading the file and then Clip Organizer will tell you where to put it. What's that? Your Clip Organizer doesn't work? Oh well, too bad, so sad. No clip art for you!

2. Not listing prices for products

I was nosing about, trying to find out how much it would cost to replace a part on a printer. I went to the manufacturer's site and, after taking a few guesses at the correct model number, found what I was looking for. Then the problem became, of the four items offered, which one would be the right one for me?

Doing some more detective work, I came across a third-party who deals in the parts I was looking for. Supposedly, they offer good prices and a decent warranty on their parts. Off I go to their web site and after making my selections, I am presented with a short list of items. Only one problem, no prices. Only item numbers, a short description of the product and a link to click on to purchase the item.

So I do what any other reasonable person would do. I click on the link to purchase the item so I can see how much it will cost. Do I get a screen showing how much it will cost? No. Instead, I get a screen telling me that I have to register to purchase the product or even see any information on the product. WTF?

What is the logic behind this idea? Why not show how much it will cost someone to buy a product? I've seen this same inanity in real estate ads. The agent lists everything, including the kitchen sink, but doesn't bother to list how much the asking price for the house is. I don't care if I can't afford the place, I still want to know how much it costs.

Fortunately, I have only come across this syndrome on a handful of sites so obviously those who don't list prices must be short a brain cell or two. Yeah, I'm looking at you Laser Pros International. If you can't be bothered to list how much a product is going to cost someone on your site, I can't be bothered to place an order from you.

3. Not returning calls

In my line of work, I am in daily contact with people of all stripes. Usually, they're contacting me in the hope that I can fix whatever they have done to screw up their computer. So what does this have to do with "You suck!"? It's amazing how many people, after calling and telling you how bad things are, don't return your call to set a time to come and fix their system.

It's like this folks: if your problem was so important that you had to call me on my lunchbreak and whine about how 'X' was happening to your system and that it needed to be fixed, immediately, don't walk away from your desk when I tell you that I'm on my way to visit you.

Better yet, don't have your assistant call in your problem with some vague notion of what is happening. Then, when I tell your assistant to have you call me so I can get more information, don't not call me back and later complain that your problem still isn't fixed.

Contrary to popular opinion, you are not so busy that you can't spare five minutes to meet with me to discuss your problem or find a mutual time when I can look at your system to diagnose and fix what is going on. If your problem was so important that it requires immediate attention, then call me back as soon as you can. If you can't do that much, don't whine to me when you can't do your work.

This same situation applies to business as a whole. If you call a company, for whatever reason, and are told you will receive a call back, or even an email or letter, then that company had better do what it says. Companies who don't follow through on these types of situations are dropped from my patronage. If you can't be bothered to do what you said you would do, I can't be bothered to give you my business.

4. Not having items which are on sale

It's one thing to run out of an item which is on sale and the ad clearly says is in limited supply. It is quite another thing to not have a product which is on sale because you think you're being cute and forcing people to buy your own, branded, product rather than the one on sale.

There is a grocery chain in my area, one of only three to choose from, which pulls this stunt on a regular basis. It can be anything from cat food, various food products or, in the most recent case, hair gel.

The sunday paper had a flyer for this store, as it does every sunday, listing what items would be on sale for the coming week. As I had a coupon for a specific product and that product was on sale, I thought it would be a good time to try something new.

On monday, after work, I stopped in the store and found that the shelf which was to contain this product which was on sale, was completely empty. Well, not truly empty. There was shampoo and conditioner but not one bottle of hair gel, of any type, was sitting on the shelf. Not one.

I checked back at the same store on wednesday. Same thing.

Answer me this: if the ad came out on sunday, how is it possible to not have the product on your shelves on monday? Did you not purchase the product in question and so were committing false advertising, or were you playing games and forcing people to buy other products which weren't on sale? If either case is true, should I be contacting my state's attorney general to investigate your bait-and-switch practices?

Yes, I'm talking about you Giant Foods (also known as Super G). The two closest stores to me are notorious for pulling this kind of crap. While I currently shop your store for most of my items, I am moving away from more and more purchases due to this nonsense.

If you can't get managers who can do their job of keeping product on the shelf, you suck for not hiring qualified people and your managers suck because they're idiots. But in the end, you suck more because you continue to allow these idiots to cost you money and people's patronage.