#3. Waiting for the Cable Guy
I'll pick on cable companies here, but this really applies to any utility or service that requires a technician to visit your home to install something. A process that usually involves them making an "appointment" to be at your house sometime between 9 a.m. And 4 p.m. An appointment rather inconvenient for you, seeing as you have things like a job or crops to tend and maybe can't afford spending an entire day waiting around for them.
Unless you work from home that is.
So why can't they set a real appointment? How can a company that controls the very flow of information not have mastered calendar technology?
The Reason: Maximizing Work, Minimizing Employees
The central problem here is that these service calls take highly variable lengths of time to complete. Depending on how simple your install is, or how much time you spend trying to seduce him, your cable guy can spend anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours in your home. More importantly, it's really hard to predict which it will be in advance. They can calculate average install times, of course, and those will be accurate enough to at least predict roughly how many calls per day a cable guy could handle.
Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
"No time for foreplay today, ma'am. I'm on break in eight minutes."
But this system only works if the installers go to each house in turn, one after the other. If they have to book and set specific appointments, they'll either be missing a large fraction of appointments, or setting each appointment block to the longest plausible amount. That means less calls handled per day and ultimately more cable guys to hire. And seeing as this practice inconveniences customer one time, which they soon forget about, cable companies haven't had much incentive to change their ways.
Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
Even if it did leave more time for cable laying.
#2. Ketchup Packets
Among terrible stand-up comedians, ketchup packets take a lot of abuse, probably more than they deserve. Yes, they're kind of wasteful, and they have a habit of spraying ketchup everywhere but where food actually is.
CryptoDerk via Wikimedia Commons
No, that's a napkin, you idiot.
But honestly? They're not that hard to open. Let's put on our big boy pants, here. Yes, they could be better. But in the grand scheme of things, this isn't that hard ... wait, what? They could be better?
Yes, in fact, they've already made better ketchup packets. Here's one:
Squeezable and Dippable? This. This right here is what science was meant for.
These things exist? Where are they? Why aren't they everywhere? And why are we still dealing with the stupid shitty ones? WHY ARE WE STILL TALKING ABOUT THIS?
The Reason: The People Who Pay for Them Aren't the Ones Using Them
Ketchup packets aren't bought by consumers. They're bought by fast food companies. And because the better ketchup packets cost more to produce and about hree times the cost to restaurants to buy, that's a big problem. While an extra few cents might be the kind of price you would be willing to pay to keep ketchup off your good driving pants, that's not the kind of price a Wendy's accountant is going to pay.
"If I was a fun, sauce-enjoying person, do you think I'd have gotten into accounting?"
#1. Always Online Video Games
SimCity is the latest entry in the classic series of city-building games where players are given the tools to build up cities from nothing, and then throw Godzillas at them.
Because some men want to watch the wee little world burn.
These games have always been single player, because it turns out that sitting alone in a room clicking roads for several hours is an obscenely unsocial thing to do. And, being single player, there was no reason to play them online at all. A situation that changed with the release of the latest SimCity, which requires players be connected to the Internet and the publisher's servers at all times. This is a seemingly odd requirement for what is an essentially single-player game and was made a mind-bendingly frustrating one when these servers were completely unusable during the first few weeks after the game launched.
So why would a company cripple its product with an unnecessary feature that everyone hates?
The Reason: They Make More Money (Probably)
This is admittedly a relatively new business model these publishers are exploring, so whether it ultimately does make more money is still a little open to debate. But here, at least, are the reasons they're going this way.
The first and most obvious is that an always-online game drastically limits the ability of people to pirate the game. The publishers essentially switch from selling easily copied software, to selling licenses, which are much more difficult, if not impossible to duplicate. Although it's debatable how much piracy has affected video game sales, it's reasonable to say that it's had at least some impact, and it's entirely predictable that publishing executives would do something to limit it, even if it meant people saying mean things about them on the Internet.
"A buttchugger? Is that a good thing or is ... nope. Not a good thing."
The second reason is that by requiring players to always be online, publishers can begin to generate revenue other ways, either by selling subscriptions to play the game, or by selling bonus content to players. This aspect feels a little less offensive to players, in that at least it appears to be improving the product, even if that does cost them more money. Not that that doesn't also stop them from shrieking about it.
"I've just realized that I actively hate every single one of our customers."
If you find it frustrating that the industry is now making obviously worse products, remember that the point of these businesses wasn't to make the best possible products. It was to make money. It was always to make money. As it happens, making excellent products is usually the best way to make money, a happy coincidence for consumers. But thanks to changes in technology and business models, it looks like the business of making offline, single-player video games is becoming less and less profitable. We can weep for it, and we can call people buttchuggers on the Internet, but there likely isn't much we can actually do about it.
Aside from stop buying their video games, of course. Oh? We weren't putting that on the table? Then yeah. Nothing we can do about it.