WTF: PDF Plugin Required

Upon clicking the “Print Form” button I receive the error message below.

I have three problems with this error message:

  • From a user interface perspective, it assumes everyone’s PDF browser plug-in displays a toolbar with it including a Print button.
  • From a design perspective, it troubles me that someone took the time to add a “Print Form” button and then disabled it… poorly.
  • From an “Are you kidding?” perspective, it bothers me someone would display such an error message on a webpage that was not actually a PDF.

normalization done poorly at the bank

I went to a bank yesterday to inquire why I was receiving mail at my old address despite having moved a number of months ago.  The first thing the representative did was pull up my record to show me that my address was correct in their system.  While that’s very nice, the mail has their name on it.  What’s more, I have received mail from this bank at my correct address already.

Then the representative tells me he’ll try to change it again in case the other person didn’t do it right.  While doing this he finds the problem and shows it to me.  This bank, in all their wisdom, has the customer’s mailing address on two screens.  A representative must make the change in two places.

Lessons from this:

  1. Scott blogged about normalization last year.  Having information in two places invites one to be wrong.  And we aren’t talking about the name of the state here.  Customer address is a piece of information you would expect to change over time.
  2. If you do have the same data in two places, you should write code that updates both rather than require people to do it.

Time Warner shame on you (the case of the missing vcr timer)

What happened

Time Warner Cable (in New York City) pushed a software upgrade to the cable box that got rid of the VCR timer feature.  This feature has existed since I got cable and allowed you to set the cable box to turn on/change channels automatically so you could record them on your VCR or standalone DVR.  I relied on this feature heavily.  I’m quite annoyed both by the fact the feature is gone and the way it was taken away.

Why tell your customers when you get rid of features?

I found out the VCR timer feature was gone when I got home last night.  I had set it on Wednesday night to record two shows from 8-10.  When I got home after 10 on Thursday to relax and watch one of them, I learned that my VCR had recorded two hours of blank screen.  While the shows are on and, they weren’t up last night when I was planning to watch them.  I also now have to watch them on a small computer screen rather than the TV.  It’s like I didn’t have cable yesterday.  Only it wasn’t due to a power outage; it was due to an intentional change by Time Warner.

I went back online to check last month’s bill.  Nary a mention of such a pending change.  Surely they didn’t think nobody used this feature.  A month’s notice would have been nice so I could have prepared in advance and not missed TV content.  Plus, why let people program a timer if you are planning to delete it.

What not to tell irritated customers

  1. You can use the power on to a specific channel timer. – Umm.  I can do that if I only want to record one channel each time I go out and never go on vacation.
  2. It’s better than before.  You can do <marketing blurb here>. – I’m mad, not stupid.  I used to be able to record shows for free*.   Now it’s $10 a month to do that plus some features I don’t need.  That’s not better. (As an aside, I used to be able to watch one show on network TV and record another for free before I got cable.  It’s sad when cable takes away a feature you get on regular TV.  I’ve been using an A/B switch and over the air antenna for that problem.) * Ok fine, it isn’t free.  I bought the VCR.  But that was a one time cost.  And I bought it when movie rentals came on videocassettes so I needed it anyway.
  3. I’ll give you one month of DRV free as an inconvenience credit because you sound annoyed. – While I’ll take the $10, I’m not any less annoyed.  An inconvenience credit works for an actual inconvenience (like the fact that my tv didn’t work yesterday from my point of view.)  It doesn’t make up for a new fee.  Hey Time Warner – I’d like to suggest a deal to you: I give you $10 once and then you give me $10 a month every month.

Why worry about customer usability when you have a monopoly?

My area has three choices for TV: Time Warner Cable, Verizon Direct TV or Verizon FIOS.  My building isn’t yet wired for FIOS and Direct TV requires a satellite (many apartment buildings don’t allow you to put up a satellite.)  Which means Time Warner is my only choice.

What this boils down to

Cable just went up $10 a month plus taxes.  I’d actually rather they have just raised the price of cable.  For that you’d get notice and it would be at the end of your contract.  This is just plain sneaky.

And guess what, you get to go the Time Warner store tomorrow

Ok.  So now I need a DVR.  There are two ways you can get one.  Go the the Timer Warner store or (wait and) pay for installation.  I don’t remember how much customer service said the installation visit is because I need to get this on a timely basis.  I’m rarely home when I want to watch TV and I resent paying the cable bill for TV I can’t watch.  So regardless of the other things I need to do tomorrow, I have to get myself to the Time Warner store to exchange my cable box for one that includes a DVR.  Assuming there wasn’t a run on them today from other people in the same situation.

And what went well

  1. The customer service rep was calm and polite.
  2. You can cancel dvr at any time.  I don’t think Time Warner will reverse their decision to force people to pay for a DVR.  However in the unlikely event they do, I’m not stuck with the DVR.  (even if I like the DVR, I don’t like that they are forcing me to get one.)
  3. Edited to add -the actual exchange and setup of the new box went well.  DVRs are certainly nice and I had been thinking of getting one when my VCR broke.  It was just that I wanted to do it on my own schedule.

And a big thanks to both CBS and ABC via Hulu for making it possible to watch the shows I missed.