Let’s get a few things straight first: cars are devices for getting me to somewhere I want to be, reliably, safely and cheaply. The number of brake horsepower and the other Top Gear trivia is something I’ll leave to sad hydrocarbon-craniums 1. We’ll today I bought a car for the Missus. 2 And this entry describes the horrors of the experience, and not just that Jazz has been banned from the new jalopy due to personal hygiene issues! Forsooth! I’m going to split this rant into two:
- User Manuals
With huge amounts of disposable income 3 I had a lump of cash 4 sitting in my bank account just ready to give to the car-sales chappy. Thinking ahead, I thought that a large transaction might trigger some poorly-implemented, drug-dealing pattern-matching algorithm they use so I phoned the bank to notify them of the transaction (at my own expense and inconvenience, note) to avoid inconvenience on the day. My “Personal Banking Advisor” tells me he’s updated my file and all will be well – I dismiss my doubts about his grasp of English grammar.
So imagine my “delight” on about to conclude the deal when the transaction requires validation involving some call centre staffed by two people (one on their mid-term break) who need 20 minutes to stop texting their mates and answer the call. Then it’s through to my bank (who I own, incidentally) to speak to a neurally challenged individual who wants me to discuss my standing orders as a security option. But of course. Nothing I’d like more, given I’d sensibly brought along my entire set of banking statements as something to read while the car chappy was filling in the DVLA stuff. The surreal nature of having to explain to this cretin that the “RSPB” isn’t a utility company was a joy that will live with me for some time. Let’s just hope they listen to the recorded call “to improve customer satisfaction”.
Finally we get the car and while the Missus is off playing with her new toy I have a look through the manual that comes with the car. 5 The thing was a weighty 600+ page tome. No problem, I thought, it is bound to be in 40 European languages to cut down production costs. Sadly no, this was an all-English job. It was then that I realised that the bulk was on the audio system! Bits devoted to things like starting, driving, maintenance etc were mere after-thoughts put there to distract the customer from the important stuff of getting the thing to pump out 120dB of “music”.
Now, I have very simple requirements from my in-car audio experience:
- At 5pm it’s over to Radio 4 for PM.
- If Jethro Tull or Mark Knopfler comes on, then boost the volume.
- No rap.
- No Jeremy Vine.
- When all else fails, go to Classic FM (but mute the adverts).
All very simple and shared by all sensible people, I’m sure you’ll agree. However, it was 300 pages of Bluetooth this, and DAB that, before I came across mode 644F which covers my requirements (although it doesn’t mute the adverts). This should be brought to the start of the section, Mr Technical Writer.
As a final rant 6, may I suggest to car manufacturers they customise their manuals? My particular tome covers everything this car vendor has ever made and you need to filter it all out. They built the thing and so know what side the steering wheel is on, and what sort of key it uses, etc and so can easily customise the manual to suit. I’m sure the car has a mode somewhere to download this customised PDF from a web site somewhere and can chat to me about it as we drive along. Actually, that’s a great idea:
“Hi Car, get my patent lawyer on the phone…”
- It’s “petrol head” – Jazz ↩
- Is there no end to this man’s largesse? – Nope (Ed.) ↩
- Bill Gates often gives me a ring when he is short ↩
- Stop me if you are member of the Bank of England Monetary Committee and this is getting too technical for you. ↩
- Yes, I know that engineers never read the technical documentation… ↩
- Think of this as an extra “thank you” for having made it through the first two rants, Dear Reader ↩