Friday, April 5, 2013

Everything's Too Complicated. Does That Mean They're Out To Get You?

For the life of me, I, like millions of people, can't understand all manners of modern life and commerce. Hospital bills. Insurance. Cable television and smart phone contracts. How to assemble furniture or whatever else I might order on line.

Why can't anyone write instructions or documents in English?  Why do they make it all so complicated?
You think she's confused? I  lose it every time
I try to read a banking or cell phone contract. Why? 

Along these lines, there was an interesting article by Alan Siegel and Irene Etzkorn last week in the Wall Street Journal talking about how simplicity would be a nice switch, but also why they're not expecting any turn toward easy anytime soon.

I found myself saying "Amen" to their article.

Part or the problem, according to Siegel and Etzkorn, is there are many choices out there. Perhaps too many. Have you seen the cereal or toothpaste aisle of a grocery store lately? And on line, it's worse. Everything is available. How do you choose?

More insidious is the verbiage we have to wade through which of course I don't trust. You know what I mean. Those smart phone contracts, again. Anything you do online.

Siegel and Etzkorn write:

"In 1980, the typical credit card contract was about 400 words long. Today, many are 20,000 words. 'Fine print' complexity costs us money in the form of hidden fees (about $900 per year for the average consumer, according to research conducted by the Ponemon Institute), denied claims and unanticipated charges ($2 billion in one year for landline phone customers, according to the Federal Communications Commission.)

To me,  anything that's excessively complex, worded in dense, incomprehensible legalese and goes on and on to me is a sign that they're trying to snow me over.

Or, as the article continues:

"Complexity is the coward's way out. But there is nothing simple about simplicity, and achieving it requires following three major principles: empathizing (by perceiving others' needs and expectations), distilling (by reducing to its essence the substance of one's offer) and clarifying (by making the offering easier to understand or use)

Good luck with any of these principles. Empathizing? Yeah, right. How many times have you struggled with a so-called customer service representative who can't or won't solve your simple problem but keeps giving you that insincere crap, "We're sorry you are experiencing problems...."

It's not the CSR's fault: They have to follow a script. Or else. And the script often does everything possible to help the company in question avoid helping any customers. Helping customers costs more. Can't have that!

And I despair at any chance of companies distilling and clarifying the verbiage they put out there. Have you checked your cell phone contract lately?

Siegel and Etzkorn are a bit optimistic about a resurgence of simplicity, citing outfits like Trader Joe's and to an extent, Google, for making things a bit more clear and a bit less overwhelming.  Outfits like the Pew Charitable Trust are working on simplified model documents that explain things like banking fees, that several large banks are interested in, the pair report.

I still wonder if the banks are THAT interested in simplified documents, but we'll see.

Now I have to go, and spend the rest of the day trying to figure out some tax documents that I know would take an advanced CPA days to figure out. Sigh.

No comments:

Post a Comment