The Daily Badness

A few years back, in my relatively more angsty life phase, I kept a list of things that were frustratingly broken in the world. There usually was a simple solution, or the problem stemmed from human stupidity, or was outright ironic. I no longer maintain the list (instead, opting to focus on the positive experience and good design), but it's worth keeping the list for posterity.


  1. Nobody eats the melons! Assorted fruit trays, containing equal amounts of strawberries, pineapples, melons and cantaloupes. The melons are always, always  left behind.
  2. Nobody needs all these XL t-shirts! At conferences or some such, vendors sometimes bring t-shirts. They order assorted sizes, from S to XL or XXL. Yet somehow, the small and medium t-shirts are always gone fast, and the vendor is left with a ton of these XL ones. Why doesn't nobody seem to learn?
  3. Animated banner ads announcing a TV show while another show is playing .
  4. Kills 99.999% germs. I guess consumers are impressed with all these nines... the unfortunate thing is that this number obscures something more important: the number of germs isn't as important as which germs are being killed.
  5. Made in a factory that processes nuts. The cover-your-ass corporate philosophy has made it very difficult to make real-world decisions. As a consumer, I would much rather know how the chance of this packet of candy containing nuts compares to other chances. With a generic disclaimer like this we're all in the dark.
  6. Clamshell packaging.
  7. Getting in and out of New York City. It sounds crazy that an island as important as Manhattan would have only two bridges and two tunnels connecting it with New Jersey, and, through it, with the south-west part of the U.S. Any why is the experience of driving into the City from the north-east, either via I-95 or the Hutchinson Parkway, so bad?
  8. Auto flush. It never does what it's supposed to do. It either flushes fifteen times, or refuses to altogether. Every automatic flush system has this tiny little button for manual flushing – why is the button so small and so hard to see? Let me decide how I want to use the toilet!
  9. Buffalo Chicken Wings. They make your fingers all messy and smelly (oil-based seasoning is hard to get off). They are complicated to eat. It's not healthy or even that good (in most cases). And buffalo sauce tastes like vomit. 
  10. 4:3 to 16:9 "conversion" . You see it a lot on ESPN if you watch standard aspect ratio video on the high-def channel. The footage is repeated, magnified, blurred and low-contrast, in the background on the left and right edge of the screen. Instead, I would much rather see the letterbox. Or see the footage slightly cropped.
  11.  $19.99. I overheard two people talking about an item priced $19.99:
    “It’s nineteen dollars, we shouldn’t get it”
    “But it’s half the price of the other one ($29.99)”
    “I don’t know…”
    “What else are you going to spend ten bucks on?”
  12. Idiots that clap whenever someone breaks a glass in a restaurant. 
  13.  Cold water flowing for a few seconds in a tap after you've turned the hot water knob.
  14. Green traffic light that is sometimes more turquoise than green. 
  15. Poorly thought out analogies. When used incorrectly (and that happens a lot!), they can convey a powerful but incorrect image to the listener.
  16. International roaming charges.  Thank you Skype / random calling card companies / Google Voice for trying to solve this problem, but I'm eagerly anticipating this scam to finally die for real.
  17. Main-subordinate clause subject mismatch: "As a valued customer, we would appreciate your taking a moment to complete this brief Customer Satisfaction Survey regarding your recent rental at METRO CENTER. "
  18. Printers. They are archaic, and as long as there are people who insist on printing documents "because it's easier for them to read", we will continue to waste resources. At least let's print in duplex by default.
  19. Printing in color. Some people believe that the addition of color magically makes shoddy work better. 
  20. Default margin sizes. Reducing margins from 1.5 inch to 0.75 inch reduces the paper waste by 50% (from 44 printable square inches to 66 printable square inches).
  21. Default chart style in Excel. Gray background wastes so much ink, and is much less readable than white.
  22. Projectors with their confusing power cycling (push the button twice to power off, get little feedback about what's going on, require a 30-second cool down and warm up period...), difficult connections to the computer, and ridiculously low resolutions.
  23. Play/pause button – most UIs settled on the button displaying the "play" symbol when the system is paused, and the "pause" symbol when the system is playing. But it's still confusing, especially when we press play and don't hear anything.
  24. False 3D buttons in some UIs, most notably the Crestron multimedia interfaces and others
  25. Ambiguous indication of the selected option. DVD menus have this problem: they usually highlight the selected option in a different way than the unselected options – all is good until there are only two options to choose from!
  26. High heels
  27. Fortune cookies. They rarely contain fortunes; rather, an adage. 
  28. "Employees must wash hands" 
  29. Noise. I think people should be taxed depending on how much noise they generate. 
  30. Phone UIs that are not optimized for snappiness. It's good when you first get your phone, but by the fourth update it becomes very clear that nobody tested the new OS version on older devices. Unless it's all a ploy to get consumers to buy new phones.
  31. Paper clip holders. These magnetic ones
  32. The DMV.  The place that's open precisely when I need to be at work, where for some reason you can't do most things online, where the employees hate me and their jobs, with the parkings lots full of the worst drivers out there.
  33. Flat side-view mirrors. In the United States it is illegal to have curved side view mirrors on the driver’s side. This makes no sense; a convex mirror could offer a much wider field of view, reducing the size of the blind spot.
  34. Stickers on fruit. Many of them are notoriously difficult to get rid of. 
  35. Ashtrays in airplane lavatories! 
  36. Pepper, bundled with the napkin in cutlery set given out on airplanes. My napkin (and thus my hands and mouth) smell like pepper!
  37. Airline food in general. 
  38. Unpleasant flight attendants. 
  39. Terrible quality of service from call centers. Total lack of common sense.  The irony for many of the requests I've had to dial customer service for is that it's cheaper to pay a human being than to build an self-service automated solution. Oh, and while we're at it, let's add a kind of session ID on the website so I can just call Customer Service and give them all the context they need with a simple number.
  40. Tucked in shirts, how they bulge at the belt...
  41. Slippery When Wet – a kind of cover-your-ass which, combined with the litigiousness of our society, pushes all common sense aside. 
  42. "Like"  used as a punctuation mark
  43. Bananas used in, like, 90% of all smoothies in the world (at least it seems so to me). 
  44. Gadget UIs.  Like in-flight entertainment systems with their terrifying delay and slow UI refresh rate. Or the TV/cable system.
  45. Merchant copy of a credit card receipt. There have been so many times that I accidentally signed the customer copy because it was closer to the pen (or on top).  At least put the phrase "merchant copy" above the tip field
  46. Elevator music. Is that what purgatory is like?
  47.  "The night before the finals" syndrome. As in, the night before the finals all hell breaks loose and one must study for 16 hours, because everything depends on that hugely critical time . I gave up trying to communicate with my friends the night before their exams.
  48. Chips whose shape makes them unsuitable for heavy dipping.  In particular, chips which are (mathematical) saddles – every point is an inflection point but there is no local maximum to keep the dip in!
  49. No standard input for headphones on some airplanes.
  50. Arbitrary (and not linked to reality) speed limits . Today's speed limits were established in response to the high price of oil in the '70s.
  51. Overlap of business hours. Banks, the aforementioned DMV, and other services have business hours which overlap with the hours when most of us are at work.
  52. TV news station anchor pointing at TV screens during broadcast. There is absolutely no utilitarian point for this, and I wouldn't call it an aesthetically pleasing choice.
  53. Street lamps that turn off as I walk by. While there is an explanation, I don't buy it.
  54. Belts, instead of braces (also known as suspenders). Belts usually come in discrete steps, increase the girth of a person, and are much less comfortable than the (in my opinion) superior braces.
  55. Encore and standing ovations  for less-than-spectacular performance, and, in general, the inflation of the public's expression of enthusiasm. 
  56. New Year's Resolutions. They don't work. Resolutions are fine, but attaching them to an arbitrary date is bound to fail, especially when the date is January 1, when you're likely hungover and tired after partying all night; not to mention that January 1 is the middle of winter, which makes it harder to execute on many resolutions. And you likely spent at most 30 minutes on them the night before. 
  57. Low quality footage in television (especially news). It's 2013, we have higher bandwidth than ever, and yet we continue to suffer through pixelated, artifact-laden movies.
  58. Single-level undo. This was particularly common on Windows. 
  59. Brief (0.2s or so) commercials at the end of the segment . Unless it's done deliberately?
  60. The first snow day of the season (in Connecticut). Total chaos. Obviously no driver has snow tires. 
  61. e-Ticket delivery fees.
  62. Misuse of statistics. Particularly harmful when combined with known cognitive biases, such as our inability to make sense out of really small or large numbers, denominator neglect, overestimate of probability of conjunctive events, and – the worst one of all – sampling on the dependent variable. It's gotten so bad that when I read "A recent study..." I just ignore the paragraph.
  63. Fake pets.
  64. Ringtones. The majority of phone owners own Android and the iPhone. And the majority of these users don't change their ringtones, or change it to another really popular option. So there are maybe four unique ringtones shared between an overwhelming majority of people (at least in the U.S.)
  65. Carry-on testing boxes at airports. Nobody uses them – for a good reason: they don't correspond to actual carry-on compartment sizes! 
  66. People getting out of parking garages. Nobody's heard of multitasking. Why do you fumble with the change before you've driven through an open gate?
  67. No power outlets in hotel rooms.
  68. "Complimentary wifi " meaning "There's wifi, but you have to pay for it"
  69. Opt-out USA Today newspaper charge. Brilliant business model but as a consumer, I hate the company for it wholeheartedly. 
  70. Fake shutter sound on smartphones and point-and-shoot cameras.
  71. Job title inflation: Customer Service Agent becoming Customer Relationship Manager, and then Customer Care Advocates. Gardeners become Landscapists. I blame airlines for this (Flight Attendants; maybe this inflation is what's making them so rude?)
  72. Companies putting out donation boxes and taking (tax) credit for their customers' donations.
  73. "Apply for a career at this location" . No, I'm not applying for a career . I'm applying for a job . A career is something you build.
  74. Pop-Up Post It notes. Why fix (and subsequently break!) something that ain't broke?  Notice how the Pop-Up Post It notes stick at an angle because you roll them out of the pop-up dispenser. This makes them less likely to stay glued. They keep falling down
  75. "There's Something to be Said". If there's something to be said, just say it. 
  76. Air travel – why is it so significantly more busted and complex than any other form of transportation known to man (maybe except space travel – though I'm not so sure).  Microcharges everywhere. Overbooked flights meaning you may get kicked off. Complex booking. Booking codes, elite points, miles, brownie points, statuses, colors, and precious metals. Blackout dates. Change/cancellation fees. Luggage restrictions. Arbitrary and unfounded FAA rules. The TSA. Bad and scarce food. Ugh.
  77. "This Flight is Very Full". What does "somewhat full" look like? 
  78. Nobody ever wears seat belts in movies. 
  79. Why do duty-free stores only sell luxury items?
  80. The word "football".  Why steal a term that doesn't even apply?
  81. Stupid rhetorical questions in commercials: "If you could improve a life, would you?" 
  82. Poor UI design behind double-flushing systems (up or down, for "less" or "more" water). It's never clear which one is which.
  83. Drinking Age. 
  84. "I'm OK!" . Notice how when someone gets hurt in commercials, they always say "I'm OK!" before the commercial ends? I suspect there's a regulation for this.
  85. "But it was about to change" and other bad journalistic phrases. 
  86. The reason to breastfeed in a public advertising campaign: "Breastfeeding can burn up to 500 calories in a day" 
  87. Unsubscribe functionality. Why do I have to retype my email address? Check the boxes? Press several submit buttons? Why does it take 10-14 days to take effect??
  88. Visas and passports. 
  89. Fax machines. 
  90. Checks and Money Orders. 
  91. Finding apartments. 
  92. Traffic lights. Why aren't they smart, detecting the amount of traffic around the intersection? 
  93. Phonebooks. Stop Printing Those! 
  94. Commercials featuring talking animals. It never looks good.
  95. Ordering and receiving food: the server writes down your group's food order.  Then the food is brought to the wrong people. This is so easy to do well, you don't have to be a Michelin-rated restaurant to get this right.
  96. Software Updates. 
  97. Usernames and Passwords.
  98. Any boot time more than 5 seconds.
  99. Buggy software. 
  100. Automatically triggered taps. Or taps on airplanes – you have to press the lever down to keep the water flowing, which makes it impossible to wash two hands at the same time.
  101. Using a lossy image format where a lossless is necessary, for example when the image is a diagram.
  102. When a waiter interrupts you drinking water to pour you more water.
  103. Dan Brown's writing
  104. Fraud protection: customer service representatives telling me that for my convenience, they don't accept certain credit cards. Let's face it, it's for their convenience, as credit card holders are protected from fraud by the credit card company.
  105. People who don't use blinkers to signal their intention to turn or switch lanes.  Especially as I sit at a stop sign, ready to go straight, and you're turning left and not telling me that you are. Or when I'm in your blind spot and you're switching lanes on a highway.
  106. The flight attendant insisting that I  "turn off" my Kindle. A Kindle is off when it displays a page.
  107. Airlines charging for checked luggage, which caused every person on the flight to carry oversized, stuffed carry-ons. 
  108. Bumper guards. They look ugly, and I doubt they make any difference whatsoever. 
  109. Recurring payments. There are very few online services which I trust to have a user-friendly and functioning recurring payment option. Usually the first month gets all messed up. Most recently, my rent autopay got cancelled (and I wasn't told about it) when I renewed the lease.
  110. A profile photo which doesn't show your face. The purpose of a profile photo is to identify your profile. If you're willing to make your information public on a social media site, please make your face be one of those. I rejected countless friend requests because I couldn't tell who the person was.
  111. A sense of entitlement. Shows up all over the place, be it people walking on the sidewalk (but no, why would they ever get out of the way...) or recent college grads who think that a degree in Computer Science makes them the smartest people on the planet.
  112. Bloggers telling me what I should do *right now*. And bloggers exaggerating. TechCrunch, Engadget are very guilty of that. 
  113. The noise of trucks backing up. Why isn't the noise intelligent – increasing in volume as obstacles are near? Why isn't is directional?  People should be taxed for generating noise.
  114. Smart quotes. 
  115. Default jpeg quality level. There's no reason why it shouldn't be much, much higher these days.  Or at least intelligently set based on file size (fine if a photo is choppy, but a diagram should never be).
  116. Crocs.  Is it a sample from the catalog of a plastics fab company you're wearing on your feet?
  117. Mobile site redirects. They don't work, redirecting a specific page to the front page of a mobile site. Fortunately Google is doing something about it.
  118. Lights in hotel rooms. It's always a puzzle to figure out which switches turn which lights. Many lights are not controlled with central switches, so there you have to figure out where each lamp's switch is. The worst switches are those just by the lightbulb, underneath the lamp cover. I always get blinded trying to turn these lamps off.
  119. Apple Headphones (note: this was 2009). For the following 10 reasons: (1) They are white and obnoxiously stand out; (2) They get tangled up very easily, and when they do, it’s nontrivial to untangle them; (3) The button used for many basic operations such as controlling the music is difficult to press; (4) The double-click period is far too short; (5) The cord is made out of some weird non-smooth material which makes it very awkward to handle; (6) The cords leading to the left and right earpiece twist all the time; (7) They are white (so they get dirty quickly…); (8) They are white (they don't go with anything); (9) The earpieces have a shape which makes them uncomfortable – and they keep falling out; (10) Most importantly, the sound sucks. Poor dynamic range, and the bass is nonexistent.
  120. The elevator "Door Close" button. It does nothing. 
  121. The elevator door taking a while before re-opening when you put an arm in its way.
  122. Pedestrians not paying attention to bikers in New York City's Central Park
  123. Having to quit applications for updates
  124. Most libraries, bookstores, and the Guinness World Records consider the Bible non-fiction
  125. The icon depicting a floppy disk still being universally used to denote a "save" operation
  126. Lack of a standard weight for doors – some take a lot of effort to push open, others take very little
  127. "My last remark is the following... three points"
  128. Airlines dropping your seat assignments, without telling you, when it suits them
  129. Co-operated flights as a way to diffuse responsibility (for example, I flew American flight operated by Alaska Airlines. It took me three times as long to make a change because each company kept referring me to the other)
  130. Customer service (SPG, I'm looking at you!) asking for the password  to your online account