This past month Wired magazine’s cover story was “Why Things Suck.” It was a brilliant collection of 33 annoyances and their causes. Some of my favorites were in there, including the dozen subscription cards stuffed into every magazine, the Ticketmaster monopoly, and the plastic electronics packaging that is the bane of my existence over at the Practical Travel Gear Blog. They didn’t get them all though, so here are 5 other things that are really getting on my nerves.
1. Annoying advertising on the Web. Let’s be real; the Web does not exist without advertising. Few people are going to give you all this content for free without expecting something in return. But there’s a line that is all too easy to cross, like all the bandwidth-hogging ads being a buzzkill on your surfing all day long. Some stick up something that covers up the whole screen, forcing you to click something to close it. Others have something popping up or crawling across the screen, covering up what you were just reading. (The equivalent of people with signs walking across a movie theater during a film.) Then there are sleazy junk banner ad companies like ViziDirect that seem to mainly serve up those ridiculous “click here and win” ads. I got suckered by ViziDirect early last year when they recruited Perceptive Travel to join their network. The first week I got a few travel ads for Puerto Rico and then it degenerated into explicit adult dating ads and lots of banners brightly flashing “You are a winner!” We parted ways but hey, the bastards still owe me 15 bucks!
2. The bookstore business. There’s a good reason that Amazon has bitchsmacked the whole retail bookstore business. There’s also a reason why my e-book of The World’s Cheapest Destination is a huge seller but my other books aren’t even available as an e-book. These two things are related: clinging to an outdated model and praying you can still make it work. I walk into Borders, they usually don’t have what I want, but a helpful clerk says, “I can order it for you.” Sure you can. And it’ll take longer, cost more, and require me to drive back to your store. Or I can just do it myself for less without even shaving or changing out of my bathrobe. Can I just download one from Borders.com? No, they don’t do that. Don’t even get me started on their CD prices.
3. Companies profiting by getting something for nothing. United airlines just announced it was going to start charging $25 for a second checked bag starting in May. (Good luck with getting overhead bin space now.) Dollar Rental Car is charging a $2 “top-off fee” even when you return a car with a full tank. Piedmont Gas charges me an $11.35 monthly “convenience fee” in the summer when I use zero natural gas in my house. My non-Capital One MasterCard and Visa charge an extra 2% fee on foreign transactions, even though they’re already getting a merchant fee and an exchange rate profit. (On top of the 1% from MC/Visa that they pass on.) Hey, I’ll gladly pay more for a better product or service—I’m thrilled with my Amex Platinum Card and feel it was well worth the premium. But don’t keep reaching into my pocket just to provide the same service you did before.
4. Travel articles that act like your mother. Here’s a dirty little secret of mainstream travel articles: the reader is not supposed to be smart enough to make up his or her own mind. Read a few magazines and newspaper travel sections and you’ll notice a pattern. “Go here, do this, eat dinner at Restaurant Y, stay only at Hotel Z.” Choices are frowned upon. Late last year an editor told me to stop using the word “or” and get in the habit of saying “must.” Never mind that I had only been in the town two days and was by no means an expert on the area’s dining choices. “We don’t want to leave any room for doubt,” was the reply. Knuckles have been rapped twice on this point so OK, I get it now. Better to act like a know-it-all and send everyone to the safe choice…
5. Lists – Why do readers gravitate toward lists like broke interns flocking to open bars and finger food? I guess there’s a good reason someone would start a travel blog that is nothing but lists, but where does it end? We’ve got that damn Blue List book, the Journeys of a Lifetime book, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, 100 Places Every Woman Should Go, 501 Must-Visit Destinations, and on and on. Maybe I’ll get together with Leif Pettersen and do a book called 52 Places That Will Keep You Pissed Off for a Year (Before You Die). The worst part? This blog post will probably get more hits than anything else I write this month—because it’s a list!
[flickr photo by ArnoldFink]
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