3 Recent Examples of “I Can’t Believe You Do It This Way”

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I'm sure that most of my readers here and certainly most of the tech world is always looking for ways to be more efficient. I'm always looking at ways of cutting out extra steps in my work and of course saving money on the things that I buy and do.  However, some times I run across a company's process that leaves me scratching my head. Here are three recent ones that come to mind…


A free drink from Starbucks

It's funny because many would argue that Starbucks is certainly a step in the wrong direction of saving money πŸ™‚ However, this post is not so much about over priced coffee as it is about glaring inefficiencies in the use of technology. I recently reached Starbucks' Gold Status in their rewards program. There are a few perks such as free coffeee refills and drink add-ins. However, their biggest perk is that now after every 15 purchases/stars I get a Free Drink. Cool! I just hit my first Free Drink level and what I expected was that they would merely add the Free drink to my card electronically. That would make the most sense to me and certainly cut down on their costs. No no no. They are mailing me the "Free" drink coupon! They sent me an email to let me know that it's on the way! πŸ™‚


Coinstar ran an iTunes eCertificate special

Coinstar allows you to turn your loose change (coins) into electronic certificates at several merchants such as Amazon.com, Borders, iTunes, The Gap, etc. Right before the Christmas Holiday they ran a special that if you cashed in at least $40 in coins for an iTunes credit they would give you the full amount (no fees/commissions) plus $10 more! Sweet. I rounded up my coins, took them to my closest Coinstar machine and walked out with a printed eCertificate for the full amount in iTunes credit. Great! What about my extra $10? Surely that code was printed on the receipt too. Nope, they mailed me a $10 iTunes Gift Card about 2 weeks later. sigh. By the way, once you scratch off the card, get the code and key it in, the card is pretty much useless at that point. While I'm sure that Coinstar had to buy these cards to use for their program, I'm wondering if it would have made more sense to have the same person that put the card into an envelope to just scratch it off and email me the code. This would have at least saved the paper and postage. 


My favorite one of them all – The Water Company

My local water company allows you to pay your bill via an automatic deduction from your bank account. Great! I pay most of my bills this way anyway. The first step in the process was of course to sign up for it. I went to the City's website in search of the form and to my surprise you actually have to (get this) call them and request it be mailed to you. Um, OK. Not really understanding why this couldn't just be a PDF on the website as there was nothing special about the form, I went ahead and made the call. I got the form, filled it out, mailed it back and thought all would be good from that point forward. The next month the amount of the bill was deducted from my checking account as planned. However, I noticed an envelope from them in the mail. I opened it and…..wait for it…..it was a bill with a zero balance. Each month they send me a bill to show me a zero balance.


It's 2011!

10 Replies to “3 Recent Examples of “I Can’t Believe You Do It This Way””

  1. I live in the UK, and every month I pay my water bill online too and every month they mail me a letter confirming the amount that I have paid online.

  2. I get where you’re coming from and I agree with you, but often there are things behind the scenes that we don’t know about. For example, the Starbucks deal might be that they have found that a fraction of mailed coupons get redeemed, but adding it to a card automatically means that ALL of them would be redeemed. I have thrown away countless coupons for free $2 and $3 items because they expired after 3 or 4 months of not using them. I get them and forget them.

    The water company though… Don’t get me started on wasted expenses in utilities and government.

  3. This is funny. We should create a site called, What were they thinking? Or Inefficiencies in business. Needless to say, we could go on and on with these.

    Glenn N

  4. The Starbucks and Coinstar benefits are sent by mail quite on purpose. That way, more people lose or forget to use the credits, which means the “benefit” program is less expensive for Starbucks and Coinstar. In designing the program, I am sure Starbucks and Coinstar even account for a discount factor based on the percentage of people who are expected to lose or forget to use the credits.

    1. While I don’t doubt that with Starbucks, in the case of Coinstar it “appears” that they already “bought” the card. Whether it gets used or not becomes a benefit to Apple not Coinstar.

  5. Starbucks: Done this way a good percentage will never be used. Starbucks are franchise operations. Maybe they get actual credit from corporate for the freebie.
    Water Company: You have to get a statement saying they took the specific amount of money from your account, when, and that you have zero balance. (If they took it, but you didn’t have enough, they expect you to pay the rest. Or you have a credit which they need to report) As for the envelope, it cost more to have someone look for the zero balance or credit and NOT put in an envelope, assuming you didn’t want to prepay. ps. Why would you authorize anyone or corp to take money out of your account without your specific approval each time? Do you expect them to be 100% correct each time, or the meter “read” to be error free?

  6. Enjoyed the theme and examples. Looking forward to more!

    You don’t perchance live in the Los Angeles area, do you? Your water company story reminds me of trying to deal with Pasadena Water & Power. My elderly aunt lives there and I now handle most of her affairs, including bills. I expected that California public utilities would be leaders in efficient business operations and useful websites. Nay not so — they seem to be functioning in the early ’80s at best, while their Ohio counterparts are cutting-edge by comparison.

  7. Reminds me of the Harper Woods Water Department last year. We used to get a printed, computer filled-out post card bill each quarter at reduced postage. Now I get a printed envelope, computer addressed, containing a printed sheet of paper with lots of empty space, along with computer printing to the effect that I needn’t pay because I had signed up for Auto-Pay. Also included was a printed return envelope. All this of-course required first-class postage. At the same time every other municipality in the whole United States was doing their damndest to cut costs to the bone. Nobody got fired.


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