Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Dubious Achievement Awards

by Tom Bozzo

I don't have the bandwidth handy to upload the pictures for Christmas Part 3 in finite time, so instead here's a possible entry for the second Whining Carnival.

1. The "DVD Menus Should Be Seen And Possibly Heard, But Probably Way Less Than The Menu Designer Thinks" Award.

"New Friends For Thomas & Other Adventures" Whatever you might think of Thomas the Frickin' Tank Engine (TtFTE), this DVD truly features the main menu from Hell's tenth circle. In addition to the common annoyances of corporate logos and dire copyright infringement warnings that can't be skipped or sped through, the second-rate Thomas DVD menu narrator (certain parents will know what I mean) explains each menu item, seemingly unskippably, before any of the options can be selected. This takes what seems like an hour in the presence of a jittery three-year-old.

In contrast, "Percy Saves The Day" can be set to playing before Sir Topham Hatt can say "Sir Topham Hatt."

2. The "You Need A Better Reason Than This Not To Adhere To Standards" Award

It's become clear that the distinction between the TtFTE wooden trains and the die-cast "Take-Along Thomas" lines is lost on many casual observers. Heck, I have to look carefully even when wearing my glasses. None of this would matter if the damned things were compatible. Instead, they're just the slightest bit incompatible, so they'll couple together (magnetism not obeying marketing imperatives, one assumes) though not strongly, and the slightly smaller Take-Along vehicles will just stay on the wooden rails, but not well. The only saving grace is that the distinctions are also lost on John, except when one of the aforementioned near-incompatibilites leads to a major train wreck and a bigger toddler tizzy.

This award must be shared with the product planners of the otherwise sainted LEGO Group who decided that the Duplo TtFTE trains should employ a different gauge than the regular LEGO 'hobby' train sets. This decision is all the sillier as there will apparently be low-cost all-plastic LEGO track that's the same gauge as the expensive part-metal stuff used for the 9V electric stuff.

3. The "Is This Behavior Really Profit-Maximizing?" Award

The winners are the chiseling "legacy" airlines and their extra-charge snack boxes. May one or more of you find yourselves before "The Liquidatin' Judge" and bring the low-fare carriers to the northern provinces sooner rather than later.

Seriously, I'm not inherently opposed to extra-charge in-flight meals. I just see it as (if nothing else) good customer relations, for businesses that rely heavily on customer loyalty for profit, that the extra-cost food should be marketable to someone who was not trapped for two-hours-plus in a bouncing aluminum can packed full of Midwesterners. My helpful suggestion: Sell the equivalent of the first-class meal to all passengers at the time of the reservation. Among other advantages, the revenue is collected up front, freeing flight attendants from a lot of cash handling, and real food can probably be sold at a higher markup than awful pre-packaged snacks.
#1 That DVD will be the death of me someday. I always have to resist the urge to kick the TV screen in while that interminable menu plays.

#3 Amen. This is why I made challah rolls for us to munch on tomorrow's flight.
Ergh, with #3, we tried sticking to relatively neutral snack foods, but it didn't save us from the ride on the Vomit Comet.
My nominee for the worst children's video ever: Timmy the Tooth. One more reason why liberal arts grads should stay away from the Dental School.
Timmy sounds terrible -- thankfully, it seems to be a little before my kids' time. I have a couple worst children's book nominees in mind, too, for a later thread.
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