The other day I was faced with the prospect of removing a price sticker from an item that was to be gifted to a third party as it’s not the done thing to let them know you got their present at a massive discount or, in effect free, as part of a two for three offer having kept the two paid for items yourself. Employing one of my strong, finely honed fingernails I endeavoured to lift an edge of the adhered paper disc only to discover that the glue that had been used was one possibly employed by NASA to keep space stuff stuck together. Despite all my best efforts the incriminating evidence of my thriftiness would not come free until frustration and infuriation saw me attack it with such vigour that not only did the sticker come away but also a portion of the item itself. I was livid but that state quickly converted to fucking apoplectic as I noted that the supremely stubborn sticker had the phrase ‘easi-peel’ emblazoned on it, thus twisting the metaphorical piss-taking knife buried in my guts one final time.
Not only is using bad spelling a poor vehicle for an attempt at wit or quirkiness but the fact that the sticker was anything but ‘easi’ to remove is a blatant breech of trade description laws. And I am saddened to say this is far from the only example of such nefarious misguidance I have come across in my long, tedious years on this planet. Many products and/or procedures are falsely labelled as ‘simple’ or ‘quick’ or ‘moron friendly’ when in reality they require long drawn out procedures of such complexity it would have a boffin from MENSA strangling kittens to relieve the stress. Or if not that, the act to be performed correctly requires a dexterity that can only be achieved by the surgical implantation of several more knuckles per finger. Let’s review some examples from my own life that I am sure you can match like for like from your own experience. (Comments on such times are welcomed below.)
Once I had to do battle with a child’s toy in the very early hours of Christmas Day morning that, as the thirty page instruction manual stated without irony, ‘…requires some simple assembly…’ With a stressful, ever decreasing time limit and six thousand parts laid out before me I was suddenly confronted with the fact I needed something called a ‘torx screwdriver’. The word ‘screwdriver’ I was familiar with but the ‘torx’ prefix was a mystery to me at the time but on an animalistic level I sensed it meant I was bollixed…which I was. What the instructions should have said is ‘…requires some simple assembly but in effect is only simple if you possess the kind of specialist tools exclusively kept at hand by civil engineers or gynaecologists…’ The result was a Christmas present given the day after Boxing Day, once the torx screwdriver suppliers re-opened, in addition to the invention of several new combinations of swear words most involving the death of Santa-fucking-Claus. (I realise that is an Americanism, feel free to substitute with ‘Father-fucking-Christmas’ if your Anglophile disposition demands it.)
Another arena of misguidance is the use of the word ‘quick’ in a product’s directions of use which is often paired up with its fellow lying bastard from the dictionary, ‘easy’. I like to brew beer…actually that’s not completely true, I like to drink beer and so to get it at the cheapest price per pint ratio I brew it myself. Okay, I know you now have a vision of me as a constantly pissed, red nosed, fat bloke with a beard that has twigs sticking out of it and that I’m constantly shouting boring, random facts about hops and yeast at people who do not want to know about such things. That’s not the case though because I don’t have a beard and with homebrew coming in at about 50p a pint I have lost the ability to form words anymore and so can’t bore people in regards to any subject whatsoever*. That aside I once purchased a beer kit (I don’t do whole grain brewing, those people are proper boring beer nerds…and alcoholics usually, as they consider the drinking of brewed malts as 4 of their 5-a-day) that proudly displayed the words ‘…quick and easy to make…’ on its packaging box. Granted to mix a couple of cans of malt extract with boiling water and throw in a sachet of yeast only takes about half-an-hour maximum but when you add in all the sterilising of the equipment, labelling bottles, regular hydrometer readings etc., that are required during the brewing process I have calculated that to brew 40 pints of beer takes about 8 hours. And 8 hours is not quick, it’s a working day and we all know how they drag their arses. All of which means each individual pint takes 12 minutes direct effort to make (not including the two weeks fermenting time, the week’s secondary fermentation and at least a further 10 days maturing/settling) which is 2 minutes longer than it takes to drink, making me time poor to the tune of 80 minutes for every beer kit I make. Minus 2 minutes each beverage is not quick, it’s literally negative quick and thus it’s another example of written declarations which are grievously deceitful once again.
One final example I shall use is from the ‘Ten Easy Steps To Make…’ school of thought, be it written instruction as it was in my day (with diagrams if you were lucky) or the modern world’s all singing and dancing YouTube videos. I have long been fascinated by origami, it amazes me the outcomes that can be achieved by the folding of one sheet of paper in a specific manner; so the other day, being the flighty, ill-disciplined bastard I am, I decided to have a go at this ancient Japanese art using the internet as my Sensei of the Folding Way. ‘Start simple,’ was my mantra so I found a video detailing how to make a butterfly in 8 easy folds. The video lasted under 10 minutes but it took me four times that long to complete what could loosely be called a butterfly…had it been caught by a cat, chewed a bit then hawked up again. It appears I lack the deftness of a double-jointed ninja or am falling short on the number of hands I possess because as hard as I tried to mimic the skill of the fingers in the video I could not hold the paper in position and fold it along the required axis or angle at the same time. My 8 folds turned into some 60-odd (with endless studying of numerous rewinds as I reattempted the techniques being displayed) and even then I had to put the poor resulting creature out of its misery because my loosely engineered butterfly looked like it was in pain and a mercy killing was my only option. Not once was I informed I would need to complete a course of finger conditioning, possibly for years I suspect, to have a bash at origami. I suppose the working V8 paper engine I desire to create, with moving pistons and everything, will have to be shelved…indefinitely.
All this proves things are never ‘simple’, ‘quick’ or ‘easy’ (easi) when you actually come to do them despite what lies are placed before us in bold, encouraging fonts. What I suggest is we adopt a more truthful assessment of the task to be undertaken and so something along these lines would be required: ‘May require some skill, natural ability, patience, dedication, specialist equipment and/or training and could also induce stress related injuries such as a stroke in addition to other physical injuries like detached fingernails in the case of easi-peel sale price stickers.’ Obviously that is a little long-winded and would be hard to fit legibly under the ‘29p’ price point on a 1.5cm square sticker, so I foresee a simple abbreviation system that is to be universally taken on-board by manufacturers and instruction manual writers the world over.
RQD – Rather Quite Difficult: which lets you know to allow some time for the process.
ABA – Absolute Ball Ache: like RQD but will take more time and the possible application of tools or previously acquired skills.
MYFIO – My Advice, Fuck It Off: swerve this product and buy something RQD or ABA rated.
YWDBYAT – You Will Die Before You Achieve This: only approach this if you are one of those people who can carve the Statue of Liberty from a matchstick and there is no history of mental illness or heart condition in your family and you consider products rated MYFIO are for sissies.
We are all fully aware by experience that no task you are not trained or prepared for is ever as ‘easy’ or ‘quick’ as advertised so even if my brilliant new labelling system is not taken up we should at least ban the falsely worded promises that are laid out before us on a daily basis with little concern for our mental and physical well-being. Let us throw out the misguiding words and face the world in a new light of honesty because let’s face it, that would be really quick and easy to do.
*Verbally, that is; obviously I can still bore the tits off people in the written form as I have unquestionably done with this and many other of my rants.