Archive for the ‘why oh why’ Category


Amazon Recursion

In why oh why on August 2, 2007

From my Amazon recommendations:

Screenshot of Amazon Recommendations

Can you spot the problem here?

Amazon is recommending that I read Mother’s Milk because it knows I enjoyed Carry Me Down. It is also recommending that I read Carry Me Down because it knows I enjoyed Mother’s Milk.

What has happened is that I read hardback copies of each of these books when they were out last year. Both books were nominated for the Booker Prize I think. Now the paperbacks are out Amazon’s algorithm has worked out “someone who liked the hardback of X might like Y” but not “someone who read X in hardback probably doesn’t want to read the same book again”!

What I’ve done is gone in and rated both books again in the paperback versions, now Amazon will probably think I really, really like these books. (I did like them, but not enough to read either twice.)

[Incidentally the rerating of these paperbacks removed these two books from my recommendations and added in two new recommendations to replace them: one is a hardback that I've already read (and rated) in paperback, and one is a trilogy that I've already read (and rated) as three separate volumes. Not impressed!]


Good Service, Bad Service

In why oh why on October 10, 2006

Two totally different customer service experiences from shops at Meadowhall.

Bad Service:

I went to Optical Express and asked to buy a new pair of glasses. You can get a second pair free, they said, we can make them up as sunglasses if you like. I picked a second pair and said I would like them as sunglasses. They only had the lenses to make one pair of glasses up that afternoon and asked if I could come back in a few days for the second pair. Two weeks later I went back.

Yes, here’s your second pair of glasses. They clearly weren’t sunglasses. Oh, we didn’t know you wanted sunglasses, we’ll tint them, come back later. I came back later, my sunglasses were ready. That’ll be another £35 please.

At no earlier point did they mention that the sunglasses would cost more. At one point they told me the extra charge was for the tinting (why didn’t they tell me when I first went back?), at another point they told me the extra charge was for the anti-reflection coating I wanted on my first pair of glasses (why didn’t they tell me and charge me when I first went in?). They rambled on about the free sunglasses offer having finished a month before – I wasn’t in an Optical Express shop a month before, I was told I could have free sunglasses two weeks ago.

In the end I decided to pay the £35 and complain to the head office. Letter in the post.

Darren was looking for some new glasses too – guess which optician won’t be getting a couple of hundred quid of his money.

Good service:

I looked on the Schuh website last week and found two pairs of shoes I liked, both were listed as being in stock in the right colours and sizes at the Meadowhall shop. However it was a few days before I got to go there. I found both pairs of shoes; one was out of stock in the black I wanted so they bought me some brown ones to try on. They fit fine and they offered to order them for me in black. They ordered them for me on Saturday afternoon in the shop and offered to send them to me free of charge. I got an email on Monday afternoon to say they had left the depot and were with Parcelforce; they turned up at my house at 8am Tuesday morning. At 10am I got an email to say they’d been delivered and a link to a copy of my own signature when I’d signed for them. Fabulous service.

Also, Darren was browsing for new glasses in Boots and out of the blue the sales assistant offered to tighten the screws on the glasses he was wearing. Not because he was giving them money (he didn’t) but just because good customer service means that he’ll be more likely to give them money in the future.


dear mothercare

In why oh why on September 7, 2006

dear mothercare,

what’s the point in putting an advice line phone number on your products if the only advice you can give me on the phone is “take it into a store and see if they can help.”. thanks for leaving me on hold listening to your advertising for 15 minutes anyway.

yours disgruntledly



i eventually worked out how to fix your product. whoever drew the illustration in the instructions didn’t have the product to draw from life. and the out-laws were following the instructions to the letter. i could tell you what’s wrong and then you could tell other people. but since you didn’t even ask me what product i was looking at when i phoned you i don’t have much hope that the information will get spread about if i tell you about it.


i already have a personal boycott of mamas and papas since their pushchair guarantee is worth precisely the square root of a minus zero. so i guess i’m going to end up with nowhere to buy childcare products soon.


double trouble

In why oh why on August 8, 2006

i’m happy to type my password twice when i fill in a web registration form. it’s starred out and i can’t proof that it’s right. in fact i often don’t recognise my passwords when they’re presented in plain text, they don’t mean anything to me that way.

but why oh why do i increasingly need to type my email address twice? look, i can see it’s right the first time!

my experience with being “postmaster@” and getting tons of bounced mail from attempted registrees is that you can ask users to type their email address as many times as you like, some of them just plain don’t know what an email address is. they put all dots and no ats. they put spaces in them. they type urls. they just type their names or handles. syntax checking might help. i’m not convinced that typing twice helps anyone, it just takes 17 keypresses off my life (plus a tab.)

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