Middle-Finger-Flaws: Perfect for When You Hate Your Customer

What is a Middle-Finger-Flaw? A Middle-Finger-Flaw (MFF for short) is either a longtime bug or a missing feature, so egregiously possible to implement that every time your customers use your product, they are smacked in the face with the shovel of your dismissiveness.

To use your product is to be just slightly insulted. Every time.

iPhone Cut and Paste
I’ll start with an historical one, because it remains so unbelievable to me: Cut and Paste on the iPhone. Wikipedia lists the iPhone OS as having debuted on June 29, 2007; Cut/Copy/Paste arrived with 3.0, on June 17, 2009.



Two years, less a week or so, of annoying your customers. Amazing.

Comcast VOD: Bringing the Pain, for a Price No Less
I am that rarest of birds, a reasonably happy Comcast customer.

Except when I use the horrifyingly awful Video-on-Demand feature of my HD cable box.

My HD box is not new, but it is younger than my beloved Series 2 TiVo.

So the fact that the TiVo remains a delight to use and the VOD on this cable box is putrid.

It takes minutes to get the menu to even come up — and once it does, it berates you with a too-loud movie-review-style advertisement. On a loop. Usually about R-Rated movies.

I feel downright hunted as I try to get to the ‘Kids’ section before someone gets decapitated in front of Number Two Daughter, who wants to watch Caillou and gets an ad for Shutter Island.

Since the VOD is so slow, we never miss a second of the the ad loop as I furiously navigate the menus. Such a family bonding event.

And don’t tell me there are newer/faster/better cable boxes available from Comcast et al. They get my money every month. They know which box I have. Would it hurt them to be a little proactive? Do they believe that any of their customers finds this acceptable? Really?

Apparently they do because they are content to let this stupid solved problem poke me in the eye regularly. Their loss, ultimately: we’ve switched to using Amazon, Hulu, ABC, CBS, and Netflix streaming as much as possible.

My wife’s First Rule of Retail: Don’t Make it Hard to Take My Money.

Comcast’s VOD interface informs me that they don’t want my money. Odd choice, that.

Magazine Inserts: Good Recycling Training
If you have a grade-school kid, you know they are getting well-and-truly trained in the cult of recycling:

“Daddy, you HAVE to recycle that! We have to save the planet!!!!!!!!”

“Honey, its a banana peel. It goes in the garbage.”

“Daddy! You ARE KILLING THE PLANET!!!!!!!”

Education in action, right before your eyes. However, do magazines really need to stuff themselves full of pointless insert cards that fall out upon reading? Are magazine owners secretly in it for the recycling fodder?

I know, no one reads magazines anymore, death of print media, pigs flying, iced lemonade sales in hell, dogs and cats living together, etc. But I do read one magazine weekly, the splendidly efficient The Week, which never fails to give me a smörgåsbord of information in fifty pages or less. I love the magazine; it’s like USA Today for grownups.

But, upon opening each new issue, a pile subscription cards cascades to floor. My dog thinks it’s cool — something to chase! My kids think it is neat — something to recycle!

I, however, am now trained to dread opening a magazine I like. Read the magazine, clean the floor. Somewhere in the bowels of my brain I have formed a Pavlovian connection that connects reading a magazine and cluttering my house. Scary. Who wins in that?

Well, my well-trained earth-loving kids win. I guess that is something.

Gmail Search: Yes Virginia, Google Can’t Search
This was the subject of my first really popular blog post: Why Can’t Gmail Search. Gmail has been around, again according to Wikipedia, since 2004 in one form or another.

Still can’t do a substring search.

Still ridiculous.

Still means that if you don’t label well, you are effectively deleting emails, because you might not ever find them again.


Worry About the Middle-Finger-Flaws, They Divert Your Attention
There are many Middle-Finger-Flaws in the world. I like finding the really small, really annoying ones. DVI and HDMI, that’s a good one. USB, Mini-USB, Micro-USB; those are fun. (When do we get Nano-USB?) Hell, all charging devices and plugs are annoying. Wall warts just plain stink. The whole plot of the TV show Lost, nary a glimmer of sense to be found. DVD’s with tyrannical preview systems.

I find focusing on these small, agonizing flaws relieves me of dwelling on the big flaws in life. Like asymmetrical broadband. Health care in the U.S. War, Strife, Pestilence.

No multi-tasking on the iPhone.

Dan Brown having a writing career on the back of one awful book.

You know, the things that hold the human race back as a whole.

Middle-Finger-Flaws. How do you hate your customers today?

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5 Comments on “Middle-Finger-Flaws: Perfect for When You Hate Your Customer”

  1. sedwards Says:

    VOD: Can’t empathize. DirecTV’s process is not crapped up like that.

    iPhone cut/paste: It’s in the past. Let’s focus on the future, shall we? Like lack of cut-and-paste on the iPad! (Just kidding)

    Mag inserts: I shake my magazines over the recycle bin before I even bring them in the house. The one card that is always jammed into the fold by its corner can be yanked out later and used as a handy bookmark.

    GMail search: I thought of another solution this morning, but can’t talk about it here as I might want to charge for it. I know I’m guaranteed at least one customer.

    • designbygravity Says:

      Hah. The VOD is so bad as to be funny; it has to be seen to be believed.

      The iPhone cut/paste is in the past, but it still strikes me as such a ridiculous omission.

      Mag inserts are just funny because they have been going on for decades. Just cracks me up.

      And Gmail search is really a fail. I understand why they don’t fix it (no money reason to), except … the inelegance of it is nuts.

      So give me an example from your life? No, “Windows” is not an example. 😉

      • sedwards Says:

        OK, not Windows. How about just Word? I’ve been using WYSIWYG editors since 1984 MacWrite. Rather than making me feel empowered, Word just makes me feel like an idiot. Have you ever tried to use the paragraph numbering? I have spent hours, and I can’t make it work.

        But speaking of making it difficult to “take my money,” how about making it difficult to SEE my money? When I started internet banking years ago, all I needed was a password. Worked great. But ever since banks started getting hacked, they have pushed the security burden onto ME. The logon mechanisms are maddening, and they are different for every institution. One bank even forces me to call them if I want to change which computer in my house I use to access their site–crazy! The worst thing is that this garbage is always breaking third-party services like Mint or Mvelopes. And I bet they still get hacked.

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