Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Oops. I made a mistake. So what?

My wife says I’m neurotic.  Not extreme like Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory, but definitely treading into the realm of abnormality.  She says I tend to gripe and dwell on things that most people would just overlook.  She does have a psychology degree, and she is my better half, so I can’t disagree with her.  Even if I had reasonable, verifiable evidence to contradict her, I wouldn’t.  I know I’m neurotic.  Stupid things get to me.  And by stupid, I mean STUPID.  I’m bothered by stupid mistakes.

The other day I received an email from a local TV station that is notorious for their on-air mistakes.  Yep, anchors looking at the wrong cameras, fumbling over words, technical difficulties.  “You stay classy, San Diego.  I’m Ron Burgundy?”  You name it, it happens.  I actually wrote a letter to their producer several years back asking why they had so many mistakes, and I received a very vague and unapologetic response about “live TV” and blah blah blah.  That didn’t surprise me.  I don’t know why I torture myself by continuing to watch their news.  I get most of my daily updates through my mobile devices anyway.  All it takes is Twitter, the Scanner Radio app, and some selective Google News searches, and I know just about everything going on in the area.  Mr. Information I am.

But this email I received the other day was for a contest for Mother’s Day, and it piqued my interest.  The winner would receive a gift card for like $500 from a local jewelry store, and all I had to do was finish the line “My Momma Says…” with some witty or profound advice I received from my mom.  Well, I had a great little story to enter about my mom, and so I clicked on the link and began filling out the form.  Here’s the story:

When I was little, maybe eight or nine or so, my momma said that when I had emptied an ice cream container, I should put it in the sink.  Her reasoning was that any residual ice cream left in the container would then melt, and then we could easily wash it down the drain.  So, as any good eight-year-old would do, I proceeded to throw all the empty ice cream containers into the sink.  A few months passed, and then my mom began to complain about people putting ice cream containers in the sink.  With an exasperated tone, she would say, “Why can’t people throw these into the garbage?”  Seeing her frustrations, I began throwing the empty cartons into the garbage, as any good eight-year-old would do.  After several weeks of that though (as I’m typing this, I’m realizing how much ice cream I ate as a kid!!), my mom began to complain that the garbage bags were always leaking because people threw ice cream containers in them.  So yeah, I was one confused kid!  We laugh about it today, and of course now I realize that my mom wanted me to RINSE the containers BEFORE tossing them, but I never picked that up when I was little.  Anyway, it was a good story of advice gone wrong, and I wanted to post it in this contest.

So I get my info and the story all entered into this website, and then I come to this part:

My mom does not like having her picture taken.  If I posted it along with my story, she’d kill me.  Seriously, she’d make sure I ended up in a garbage bag like those leaky ice cream containers.  So, before I’d even started into this thing, I had noticed the line that reads “Photo not required to qualify for contest.”  Cool.  Good thinking, TV station.

But alas, my reminiscing of heartfelt tender moments was short-lived.  I had entered under the assumption that I did not have to post a picture of my mom.  However, notice the little asterisks by the fields?  Yes, you guessed it.  You HAVE TO POST A PHOTO to submit.  Ummm…OK?

Now I realize this is a minor mistake, but I just closed the website and didn’t even bother.  I guess I could have put my face on there, or perhaps some beautiful scenery, or maybe even a picture of melting ice cream like this:

But instead I just got so frustrated with the site that I quit.  I mean, if they can’t even get the submission portion right, how do we know they’ll get the selection portion right as well?  As a side note, I’d entered a contest of theirs before, one that required users to vote on a picture submission, and it had quickly become apparent that people were cheating by using fake names and email addresses.  The site was also very quirky to begin with, as if the TV producer’s eighty-year-old father-in-law was the webmaster.  I’d inquired about the validity of the results through their contact page, and my notions were again dismissed with a vague message.  To that end, I hadn’t had much confidence in this particular contest to begin with.

Mistakes happen.  Maybe this wasn’t even a mistake.  Maybe they did want random photos, or maybe there was a link somewhere to send a paper submission.  Who knows?  Who cares?

Well, I guess I do.  I mean, this is something so minor, so frivolous, so not worth getting worked up over.  Right?  Well, let me ask this.  If you are the owner of a vehicle, say a beautiful 2012 Dodge Charger, and you’re cruising along on a straight portion of rode and decide to really give it some gas, well, maybe you should care.

Here we have a mistake on such a level that a major vehicle manufacturer had to issue a recall.  Yes, recalls are issued all the time, but this one seems rather important.  Like urgently important.  Like get your freakin’ car to the dealership ASAP.  Because if you own a Dodge Charger, let’s face it, you’re going to drive it fast.  Otherwise, what’s the point?  But if this little fuse overheats, and you are driving fast and lose control, you are going to look like this:

My point is that mistakes cost us.  Some major.  Some minor.  But they do, and especially in the corporate world.  Yet it astounds me how often they happen.  Even as I’m typing this, I received an email about SEO Training with this posted in size 50+ font on the left side:

OK, crappy computer company that sends me newsletters every couple of weeks.  You do know it’s May, right?  I’d love to go to your training, but I’m not quite sure I trust the technology in the time machine you’re going to have to use to conduct this seminar.  And, uh, what’s up with this link?  You just sent this out to probably hundreds of current and prospective clients, and you couldn’t even edit the link properly?  This link was the most apparent thing on the page.  And you missed it?

I don’t know.  I mean, at the firm I work for, I produce a huge annual report for clients filled with statistics and charts and tons of information.  Yes, it has occasionally had mistakes in it.  But we’re talking about hundreds of pages of text.  And I’m the only one involved with it.  I don’t have an editor or a proofreader.  And mistakes happen.  We learn from them and move on.  In my case, I’ll fix them, recreate the PDF files, and upload them again to the clients who have purchased the reports.  Case closed.

Some people don’t even admit to them though.  A few years ago, when online banking was bleeding edge technology, my bank had a web form for users to add in new payees.  On the form it said, “Please setup your new payee below.”  I read this line over and over, for weeks and weeks and weeks as I added all of my payees, and then I finally emailed them, saying, “Please edit your verbiage on your website for setting up new payees.  It’s ‘set up’ and not ‘setup’.  The word ‘setup’ is a noun meaning a plan or an arrangement.  ‘Set up’ is the phrasing you need in this instance.”  That, by the way, is a common error among IT people who throw the two terms around like Frisbees.  Nobody must have caught it, however, and it was like that for months—even after I sent the email and received a reply thanking me for pointing out the error.  I would have thought that our local TV station producer worked there if the bank weren’t a multi-billion-dollar asset institution with corporate offices in Buffalo.  I mean, the fix was literally a two-second edit of HTML, and it remained like that forever.  They probably didn’t even read my email.  Either that, or they thought of me as some neurotic English teacher or something.

Maybe I’m obsessive compulsive.  I just like to think of myself as a professional perfectionist.  When I’m sending out emails and correspondences, I proof-read them two, three, and even four times.  Even if they are just going to a few people.  And I type really freakin’ fast.  Like 120+ words per minute fast.  So fast that when my wife hears me typing, she jokes that I’m “fake-typing.”  Seriously, I typed this whole post in less than five minutes.  OK, not seriously, but I do type so fast that it’s not all that uncommon for me to have misspellings or grammar mistakes, which are mostly typos.  But I proof everything.  I make sure that if I’m publishing my work, it’s not shoddy.  Especially if it’s a one-page newsletter or a site that thousands of people are going to visit.

Do people just not care anymore?  Is it laziness?  Are others typing way too fast?  Are there deadlines that need to be met?  I don’t know.  You tell me.  Just make sure that if you write your response, you proofread it first.  Otherwise I’ll just erase it.  Or complain about it to my poor wife.  =P


  1. Did you purposefully misspell (did I just misspell "misspell") rode in the paragraph about Dodge Chargers?

  2. Yes, and leave it to you to find it!