Why can’t they get it right?

My dishwasher — a modern Bosch model — is a wonderful piece of machinery. Almost. The one thing that has been driving me nuts since we got it is the beeping when a cycle is finished. Because the display is inside the door, you can’t see when it completes a cycle, so the manufacturer included a ‘feature’: the washer beeps. OK. But it doesn’t seem to stop beeping until you attend it, like a crying baby. Finally, a friend told me there is a way to shut it up. It’s in the manual. Except that the manual says “Press and hold the right Cancel/Drain button”. Sounds simple, but there is NO ‘Cancel/Drain’ button; there is ‘Cancel/Reset’ button. You’d say “so what’s the big deal?” My answer is, the big deal is whenever the instructions on the page and the facts ‘in the field’ don’t match, a typical user — and in particular one who is not too comfortable with technology — gets flustered: “is the ‘mapping’ from, say, Cancel/Drain to Cancel/Reset the right choice?”; “will I cause any damage by doing this (which appears to be different from what the instructions say)?”. There is no end to the possible confusion and frustration from such an apparently insignificant mismatch. Yet I keep running into these ‘slight’ (or not so slight) mismatches all the time. Why?

A friend once told me of a situation in which the company he was working for had to present some preliminary information about a project to some Japanese clients. At some point during the presentation, the Japanese got up and left the room without saying a thing. It was difficult to get them back in, and when finally they yielded they explained what made them so upset. They discovered a typo in one of the slides. “If you guys can’t make sure that such simple stuff is done right, how can we trust you to get the complex stuff — the project — right?” Touche.

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