Search this site:


September 2005

September 30, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: Unicef plea

Orig_envelopeReturnAmber Steele writes:

A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine got this letter from Unicef in the mail. The nickel is real, and the envelope states that "this nickel could save a child's life!" The letter tells story after story of dying children, and how they can be saved for just pennies.

What's broken is that they actually ask, even if you can't afford to contribute, to have the nickel sent BACK to them. In an envelope that's not postage paid! So, they're asking people to pay for a stamp to send a nickel (that can "save a child's life") BACK to them, when they could have kept it in the first place!

(and because I'm sure SOMEBODY will mention it, yes, the envelope is printed on the "back," and yes, that is broken (from traditional standards, anyway) too.)

September 29, 2005 02:33 PM

Broken: (not broken) Nelson Rocks disclaimer

Finally, a disclaimer that makes sense and is even fun to read, in a sick sort of way:

The Preserve does not provide rangers or security personnel. The other people in the preserve, including other visitors, our employees, agents, and guests, and anyone else who might sneak in, may be stupid, reckless, or otherwise dangerous. They may be mentally ill, criminally insane, drunk, using illegal drugs and/or armed with deadly weapons and ready to use them. We aren't necessarily going to do anything about it. We refuse to take responsibility.

...By entering the Preserve, you are agreeing that we owe you no duty of care or any other duty. We promise you nothing. We do not and will not even try to keep the premises safe for any purpose. The premises are not safe for any purpose. This is no joke. We won't even try to warn you about any dangerous or hazardous condition, whether we know about it or not. If we do decide to warn you about something, that doesn't mean we will try to warn you about anything else. If we do make an effort to fix an unsafe condition, we may not try to correct any others, and we may make matters worse! We and our employees or agents may do things that are unwise and dangerous. Sorry, we're not responsible. We may give you bad advice. Don't listen to us. In short, ENTER AND USE THE PRESERVE AT YOUR OWN RISK. And have fun!

From the disclaimer of the Nelson Rocks Preserve, West Virginia, US.

(Thanks to Todd Jennings for the pointer.)

Broken: Cylinda stove

CylindastovePedro Adler writes:

Countless times I wanted to turn on the top right plate but instead, because of the bad design, I turned on the middle (lower) plate. Also, the icons above the buttons are misleading - look at the rightmost icon!

September 28, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: trip planner

GreyhoundJessamyn West writes:

To figure out how to get from point A to point B in New England, you often have to check the web sites of several bus companies. Greyhound's site has a trip planner, which is handy, except when it's not. I was trying to plan a trip from Boston to Fall River which, Greyhound tells me, is 53 miles. However, on the same page, they tell me that my bus trip there will take *13 hours* and involve three transfers. Their software needs a reality check mechanism.

What they should say, of course, is "you can't get there from here" I'd even settle for a "WARNING: we have noticed that the miles per hour of this trip is below ten and have thus concluded that there may be better options for you somewhere other than Greyhound."

I feel for people who somehow think that Greyhound is their only option and buy tickets like these. I went over to Bonanza's web site [printable PDFs and GIFs of schedules only, no trip planner] and got to Fall River with them in under an hour.

September 27, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: Apple sauce label

Broken_apple_sauceJonathan Langer writes:

I cut this off of a label of seperately wrapped apple sauce cups. Apparently the product is 'unsweetened', yet it is 'sweetened' with Splenda, an artificial sweetener.

September 26, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: Continental lost luggage service

Broken_baggageBroken_baggage2An anonymous reader writes:

These pictures of show some Continental customer reps at their lost luggage claim office chatting among themselves, while the line of weary travelers, wondering where their luggage was, stretched out the door. Five reps present, five empty stations.

When I started taking pictures, one rep called for someone to go get security and told me it was illegal to take photos. Needless to say, security never showed up; my claim was finally proccessed half an hour later, since I was second in line.

September 24, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: Red Bull signage in local Target

RedbullAn anonymous reader writes:

I was at a Target recently and couldn't help noticing this one lone can of Red Bull, I bent down for further inspection and what did I find but an illegal can of everyone's favorite energy drink.

I snapped this photo and left the store quickly and quietly when I started receiving strange looks from the security officers...

September 23, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: Outlook 6 message

OutlookThe Ferret writes:

Outlook Express 6 asks me this every time I shut it down on my laptop.

Of course, if I don't want it to compact my messages, I hit "Cancel."  Which, since I am cancelling instead of clicking "No," does not save the information in the "Don't show me this again," meaning that the only way to avoid seeing this pop-up dialogue is to cave and allow it compress my message.   Which, since I don't want this to happen, means that I have been seeing this message ever since I got my laptop. 

(read the full post)

September 22, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: Perkins menu

1whole_menu2expandedOJ Ganesh writes:

I caught this at my local Perkins. They have a new menu called the Great Day Breakfast menu. While the front of the menu is OK, the fine print on the back of the menu isn't so good.

It makes me think that, for a limited time and at participating restaurants, I could increase my risk of foodborne illness! Yum. A small rewrite might be in order.

September 21, 2005 12:07 AM

Broken: Bank phone message

Rick Segal writes:

On recordings for credit card companies automatic services, they say: "Please enter your 16-digit account number followed by the pound key."

They are a bank! What, they can't count? What's with the pound key? I press 16 digits, I'm done and if they are counting, they know I'm done, so move on. That's broken.

September 20, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: Safeco Field garage sign

Safeco_3Emily Birch writes:

This is from the Safeco Field parking garage in Seattle, WA. There are three main streets you might want to exit on to. Two of the exits are labeled "2" and one is labeled "3" (there is no "1"). With the writing so small and the arrows so confusing, it can be very difficult to find your way out of the garage. This is not a garage where the same people park everyday, a lot of tourists and baseball fans park here just once or twice a year and have to stop their cars to stare at the signs to figure out which way to go.

September 19, 2005 12:29 AM

Broken: USPS Zip Code finder

ZipcodeMatt Frampton writes:

The good folks at the US Post Office have what must be one of the most useful services on the Web: the ZIP Code Lookup page, which allows you to quickly look up Zip Codes (tm) by putting in an address and city name.


1. This page, whose entire purpose is to look up a Zip Code, itself has a Zip Code entry field on it.

2. The small print under the Zip Code field: "Required when City/State are not provided." Huh? The site also allows you to enter a Zip and find a city, but nothing on this page makes that clear. If you do try to enter a Zip and not an address you get an error message.

2a. Looking more closely, I saw the "Lookup a Zip Code" text - the verb "look up" is two words, by the way - which is next to a drop box that includes the option, "Find City By Zip Code." This is circular logic at its absolute finest. Choosing that option takes you to a second page where the only field available is for a Zip code, meaning that field serves no apparent purpose on the first page.

Seeing as this is probably one of the most trafficked pages on the Web, you'd think maybe they could spend a couple hundred dollars to hire a copy editor and spend an hour doing a little usability testing. It's not asking much.

September 17, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: Time Warner Cable registration

Twc_brokenMary Jane Broadbent writes:

I recently had Time Warner Cable installed in my apartment. Upon receiving my bill in the mail, I went to their website to pay it online. Step 1 in the registration process requires that a person enter their account number. Then in Step 2 (see attached image), they echo the account number and ask me to type it again. Broken!

September 16, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: Jet-wash instructions

DollarcoinsonlyJeremy Burton writes:

The attached picture shows the vacuum cleaner at a car jet-wash in Pacifica, California, USA.

The sign says, "For Your Convenience This Machine Accepts Dollar Coins Only".

Given that dollar coins are not in wide circulation, this is absolutely not convenient for any customer. It's only convenient for the owner of the jet-wash, who forces customers to change bills into (too many) dollar coins which you can use virtually nowhere else but which you can of course use on a subsequent visit.

I wonder if the owner really thinks that people will read the sign and think, "wow, that's great, so convenient!" or whether he/she is just really saying "who cares, just pay me".

September 15, 2005 12:05 AM

Broken: Halloween candy aisle in mid-August

HalloweenEric Lechner points out that this is "culturally broken":

An aisle full of Halloween candy at my local Long's Drugs store in mid-August. Just in case you needed pumpkin or ghost-themed candy in time for Labor Day.

September 14, 2005 09:19 AM

Broken: NYT pointer to website

Nyt91405From the New York Times print edition today, page B9.

Broken: Wall switches

SwitchesDave Collins writes:

Light switch panel in a guesthouse bathroom. Multiple examples of brokenness.

1: Main users: people who have never been here before, have no idea what feature are avaialbe let alone how to operate them, and won't be around long enough to make learning them useful.

2: No feedback. Some of these switches do subtle things - like turn on the under-floor heater. (At least I think they do.) It might be five minutes before you know the switch has done anything at all.

3: Fitts' Law violated. The main light switch is the middle panel. It has an on/off as well as a dimmer. The large dimmer has a target surface area of 242mm^2. Even though the on/off will be by far the most used, the surface area to hit with your finger is only 64mm^2 - that's nearly 4x smaller! Additionally, it only sticks out only about 1mm from the panel, which is very difficult to feel. This switch takes more than a second of scrutiny and dexterity to operate.

Flaw 1 is the fault of the owner, flaw 2 is debatable, but flaw 3 is definitely intrinsic in the manufacture of the device itself.

September 13, 2005 12:04 AM

Broken: Heathrow terminal listing

Heathrow_2Jesus Encinar writes:

This happened at Heathrow terminal 1.

Someone probably hit the wrong button on of those horizontal versus vertical options and everyone had to turn their heads to read their flights.

It was no problem reading the panels, you just had to tilt your head. The big problem was that all flights leaving between 9:30 and 10:40 were out of sight ("below the fold").

September 12, 2005 03:40 PM

Broken: FEMA website restriction

LB points us to FEMA Foible (CIO News Alerts):

The FEMA site invites people to create an account and fill in an application for aid. Unfortunately, it requires users to have Internet Explorer 6.0. That excludes anyone running a non-Windows operating system such as Linux or Macintosh OS X or who decided to forego IE for other popular browsers such as Firefox or Opera.

Broken: Digital thermometer shape

DigitalthermometerAnthony Argyriou writes:

This digital thermometer has an interesting defect: it's too smooth. Why is this a problem? Because when I stick it in my mouth, under my tongue, and bite down to hold it in place, it slips out. The pressure from my teeth isn't enough to get a grip on the very smooth, tapered shaft of this instrument; instead, my teeth slowly close down on each other as the thermometer slides out of my mouth.

September 10, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: Canon printer error

CanonPaul Schreiber sends us this not-so-helpful Canon printer error.

September 9, 2005 10:47 AM

Broken: Advertising cliches

The definitive list of advertising cliches.

13. Both men and women find driving deeply pleasurable, never boring or stressful.

14. Men are inherently lazy/slobbish; women are the reverse.

15. Chocolate, however, will cause women to immediately fall into the languor of the opium eater.

Broken: AOL headline

AolHoward Meyer, viewing the AOL headlines, writes:

Amelia Earhart is going to "chuck" Yeager? What does she have against him? Startling headlines!

September 8, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: frozen Thai seafood curry

Image003Craig Fisher writes:

We bought this Grace frozen "Thai Seafood Curry" recently. Notice that little lump on top? That was the one and only bit of seafood (I think it was part of a scallop) in the whole meal.

Now let's look at the picture of this meal on their web site: I'm sure you agree that the two bear no resemblance. "Oily bean curry" would be a better description of their meal.

- - -

Update Sept 8: Christina from Grace's Kitchen writes back in the comments section that she personally addressed this awhile back...

I work at Grace's Kitchen and received Craig's email 4 months ago, and handled his problem to his apparent satisfaction, or so I thought...

- - -

From: Christina
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2005 6:36 PM
To: Craig Fisher
Subject: RE: Product feedback


Thank you for taking the time to write us. I am terribly sorry for your first experiences with our meals. Based on that photo & your description, I wouldn't call the curry meal anything else, and I can't imagine you are remotely impressed by our concept.

Our food company, in it's first year of business, has run into its fair share of mishaps. This is no exception. I have personally handled each complaint, comment, and suggestion, and I can tell you, we are eager to learn and make changes based on our customer feedback. We also pride ourselves on being a hand-made, hand-packed product, only there are downsides to this, as you know... ie. making such mistakes as measuring poorly and missing items in the meal. Let me assure you, we will discuss the packing of our meals this week - emphasizing consistency, quality control, and the expectations for each and every serving.

If you are willing, I would be very happy to send you free-meal coupons in effort to try and make this right. I can mail them as soon as you send me a mailing address. It is the least that we can do.

Thank you again for letting us know your experience. We rely on feedback to learn and to grow our business.


September 7, 2005 10:48 AM

Broken: Same alarm used in two conditions

A sad review of the Cypriot plane crash a few weeks back:

At 10,000 feet, an alarm went off to warn the crew that the plane would not pressurize. Crew members mistakenly thought that the alarm horn was a warning to tell them that their controls were not set properly for takeoff, the officials said.

The same horn is used for both conditions, although it will sound for takeoff configuration only while the plane is still on the ground.

Maybe there's a good reason for this, but I can't think of one... why would the same alarm be used for two very different conditions?

Link: Cockpit Confusion Found in Crash of Cypriot Plane - New York Times.

Broken: SF parking sign

SfparkingCogito Sum writes:

Figure this one out... That is a calendar at the bottom... and this is only the bottom half of the sign!

September 6, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: Gas station vestibule

This_is_not_a_door_1Danielle Gobert writes:

This picture was taken at a gas station in Sardis, Mississippi. Of course, any time you see a sign like "this is not a door", you know something is broken.

There is a little vestibule in front, but only one of the three sides (the front) of the vestibule actually has a door. I cracked up picturing customer after customer walking smack into the glass having expected an automatic door to open.

September 5, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: Liverpool FC sign

Istanbul39Paul P writes that "after this Champions League Final (Liverpool FC won AC Milan), they sure need a better banner to display their hard-earned glory."

September 3, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: Camera product copy

John Weber points out the "incompatible convenience" promised in this camera:

Omisys DC6330 is completed with a 3X digital zoom (10 steps), TV out playback, 1.5?color LCD, and USB interface compatibility; all these just to deliver the incompatible convenience.

September 2, 2005 11:28 AM

Broken: A Monthly Mystery - New York Times

Speaking of cell phone problems: A Monthly Mystery: Fee-Plagued Phone Users May Be Mad, but Rebellion Seems Futile, courtesy the New York Times.

The carriers might promote flat-rate phone plans for, say, $49.99 a month, but once the many indecipherable fees are larded into a bill, a customer may actually pay $10, $20 or more a month.
"The proliferation of these charges is happening because the carriers are playing a shell game, plain and simple," said Thomas Allibone, an independent auditor and a former member of the consumer advisory committee at the Federal Communications Commission. "They'd rather weather a customer's complaint because they are making $20 or more in surcharges."

For her part, a Verizon spokersperson said that "all customers and potential customers to talk to our reps to understand our plans and charges."

Here's an idea - why not be more upfront with customers, so they don't have to call?

Broken: SprintPCS calls to Cingular phone

Jason Fried writes A SprintPCS to Cingular horror story.

After switching from Sprint PCS to Cingular, he writes, "I can get phone calls from everyone on Earth except for people using SprintPCS."

Broken: Unfortunate search result summary

Jake Olson points out that if you Google "kodakgallery" the first result reads: The easiest way to share your photos and get high ...

September 1, 2005 12:22 AM

Broken: Wrong fake Shakespeare portrait

ShakespeareJose Rivadeneyra writes:

I was reading Yahoo News when I saw the headline, "Experts confirm Shakespeare portrait fake." Imagine my surprise when I opened the link and found the portrait...

Previous Posts: