This morning, Apple Maps let me down badly on my way to a meeting. All I needed to do was look up a London postcode and find the nearest tube station. Simple. It’s something I’ve done many times using the Google-powered Maps app on my iPhone. But for Apple Maps (which replaced Google Maps in Apple’s recent iOS 6 update), this simple request was too much to ask.
Thankfully Google Maps came to the rescue (via web browser). Have a look at the screenshots below and witness the Apple Maps shambles.
How it should be – Google Maps clearly showed three named tube stations, with Tottenham Court Road closest to the pin (showing the result of my postcode search). Result.
Spotted this juice label. Surely M&S mean “with fruity bits” rather than “with juicy bits”? After all, the product is JUICE, isn’t it!
ASDA has raised the bar on the classic checkout clanger. Not content with using “less” rather than “fewer”, it has imposed a strict item limit of “about 20”. Who’s counting?
Here’s another example of a misplaced “only” messing up the meaning of an important-looking sign.
The photo was taken in a public area of Luton Airport. As a departing passenger, I was evidently in the wrong place, because the sign required “Passengers Only Beyond This Point” and I was not beyond that point.
What they really meant was “Only Passengers Beyond This Point”. For greater ease and accuracy, they could have simply written two words: “Passengers Only”.
Seems to have been a week for bad adverts (or “badverts”, as I have decided to call them).
First I saw the Nature Valley advert, proclaiming “We wanted to increase deliciousness by 200%… So we put two bars in each pack”. How embarrassing that they messed up their percentages! It would have been safer to use words like “doubly delicious”, but they threw in a spurious statistic instead. Still, it got them lots of unexpected publicity.
Then I saw a puzzling proposition from Orange: “Free iPhone for just £25 a month”. Has inflation spiralled out of control? £25 a month seems steep for something which was free four words earlier. That can’t be right. Maybe they mean “free” as in freedom, so the handset is not locked to their network and is “jailbroken” so that it is freed from Apple’s functionality shackles? No, and No. And yet freedom seems a reasonable expectation from a company whose parent is called “Everything Everywhere”…
For some time I’ve held Domino’s in high regard for the ease of their online pizza ordering. Fun and functional, I thought. Today I experienced an acute counter example from my attempt to order a pizza on the way home from work.
Step 1 – Start the iPhone app – denied!
Step 2 – Upgrade the app – denied!
Step 3 – Realise they’ve created a new app rather than updating the previous one
Step 4 – Download the new app – denied!
Step 5 – Give up on app and decide to use web browser, only to be told…
Aaaaargh! I persevered and ordered successfully eventually. Would have been far quicker to place my order by phone – but smartphones aren’t really for phoning, are they?! In the end the pizza was ok, but the ordering process for once left a bitter taste in my mouth!
I stayed in Bournemouth recently for my Stag Weekend. We had a great time, and as an extra bonus I spied a handful of delightful little idiosyncrasies in our hotel.
“Anemergency” – the missing space inverts the meaning (like aerobic vs anaerobic), so when there is no emergency (i.e. under normal circumstances) people should sound the alarm in the lift?
"anemergency" - situation normal?
“Break Glass For Key” – but where is the key?
The key; the secret?
Fire Exit Upstairs? Does it really make sense to install a fire exit sign on a 2nd floor hallway door that opens, swapping the meaning from “down” to “up”?
Up and away - from the 2nd floor?
Infinity: unlimited, untouchable (and shampoo-free)
The shampoo bottle was the last straw. “Touchably soft hair” it promises. Marketing claims and brand names become ever more contrary and vacuous. Or perhaps I’m becoming more attuned to them (not to say grumpy!).
Let’s look at a trio of my current favourites:
- That shampoo bottle: “Touchably soft hair”. Touchable means “able to be touched”. If my hair were not touchable already, how would I apply the shampoo? Does the bottle come with an applicator for people with fearsome, untouchable hair? No. So the shampoo is for people who already have touchably soft hair?
- Unlimited mobile data: A few months ago, I took out a phone contract promising “unlimited” data. Hidden in the small print is an “acceptable use policy”. Unlimited means “limitless or without bounds”, so the use of the word is entirely incompatible with any small-print restriction. Fast forward to the present; now the telcos are rushing to hide the word “unlimited” as their definitely-not-unlimited network capacity comes under pressure from exponential mobile data growth by expectant consumers. Why didn’t they just make the limits clear to start with? Is “500MB per month” too abstract/complicated for consumers? I don’t think so. We all cope with speedometers and fuel gauges in cars, and, if we don’t already know, we soon learn that the harder/further we drive the sooner the fuel runs out. We could easily comprehend the equivalent gauges for data – showing us how much data allowance we have left, and how quickly we’re using it up. If people didn’t realise that video chews data faster than music, they’d soon learn. The networks could have raised “data awareness” by ensuring users have easy access to comprehensible data gauges. Instead, they chose to accelerate themselves into a capacity problem by burying the truth under the “unlimited” headline claims.
- “Infinity” broadband: Infinity is the name of the next generation, optical-fibre-based broadband offering from the UK’s former state-owned telco. I wonder whether the marketeers behind “unlimited” also came up with “Infinity”? Are we to believe that this new offering will be the end of the road for UK broadband advancement? I don’t think so. But what comes after Infinity? Nothing, by definition. So what would I choose as the name? How about “Lightning”? It has the requisite super-speed connotations and embraces the word “light” as a nod to the shiny new optical fibre underpinnings. The products could be named Lightning 40, Lightning 100 etc., where the number denotes the speed of connection – which (barring a dictionary re-write) will never reach Infinity. Ever.
Update 1/7/2010: Just found an interesting round-up of Broadband Britain which picks up on spurious marketing claims.
* Subject to limits
As my train pulled into King’s Cross, I spotted a serious-looking sign bearing the edict:
Electric Trains Only To Access Platform 0
A couple of questions struck me:
- Is King’s Cross the only station with a Platform 0?
- Why was my electric train (like many others) NOT pulling into Platform 0, disobeying the serious-looking sign?
It turns out there are other UK stations with a Platform 0: Edinburgh Haymarket and Cardiff Central at least. But I’m fairly sure King’s Cross is the only station with a Platform 0 AND a sign for Platform 9 3/4.
As for disobeying the serious-looking sign, I reckon the train driver was right to ignore the Ministry of Signs’ half-baked wording. Since Platform 0 is more enclosed than the other platforms, station management probably want to avoid pollution/fumes (e.g. from diesel trains) building up in the confined space. So, they want to restrict Platform 0 for use by electric trains only, but not prevent electric trains from using the other platforms. Sadly, the Ministry’s carelessly placed “only” fluffs both intentions.
A simple “Platform 0: Electric Trains Only” would have sufficed. But the Ministry ambiguated, consigning the poor placard to an enigmatic existence.
Today’s wordsmithing lesson inspired by the Ministry of Signs:
Say what you mean, then check you mean what you say!
Update 29/06/2010: Stockport also has a Platform 0 (thanks Oli!)
Why do some people online write “I could care less” when seemingly meaning “I really don’t care” or, in fact, “I couldn’t care less” – the opposite of their written meaning? Is this some kind of “bad means good” or “sick means great” meaning inversion, or are the users oblivious to the fact that they’re saying the opposite of what they mean? I guess by writing this I’ve proved that literally I could care less. D’oh!