Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Zazzle: An exercise in stupidity

Posted in best practices, botch, business by commorancy on September 29, 2013

I love the idea that Zazzle represents.  Quick custom printed promotional items.  The theory is that you open a store, upload an image, place it onto an item and order. You can even let other people order it. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where the idea ends.. at least with this company.  Let’s explore.

What is Zazzle?

As I said, it’s basically one big short run promotional item tool.  You upload your images, plop them into a garment, mug, stein, iPad case or whatever and order. The theory is that they’ll ship you the item(s) you ordered.  What is reality is far different.  The reason it’s far different is because this company is completely mismanaged. In fact, it appears there’s no real management driving this listing ship at all.  Certainly on the surface, there appears to be the Beaver family who started up the thing that formerly was Zazzle. Now, it’s just a topsy-turvy disaster of a company that can barely even accomplish their core business offerings.

Content Management

Let’s start with the absolute most mismanaged piece of this company. The content management team.  This team sits around reviewing what’s been uploaded for ‘violations’ and ‘copyright infringement’. Unfortunately, the management team doesn’t ‘get’ copyright infringement at all.  In fact, the law is fairly clear on the point of copyright infringement. It’s not actually infringement until a court of law deems it so. Remember, innocent until proven guilty? To the Zazzle team, however, that a company makes a claim that something is infringing is enough to prove guilt. To prove actual infringement requires a court of law, not Zazzle. Worse, this company is policing alleged infringement on behalf of companies like Electronic Arts. It’s not Zazzle’s responsibility to police any other party’s content. Each party who owns copyrighted material can very well police and ask for removal. Zazzle doesn’t need to intervene here.

However, because companies (especially Silicon Valley companies) are running so scared that they’ll even get the slightest hint of a lawsuit, they have begun acting on behalf of companies like Electronic Arts and taking down imagery that even has the tiniest tinge of violating copyrights. Unfortunately, this company’s team must be bunch of hired monkeys. They simply see the word ‘Crysis’ and they automatically assume infringement and take the work offline. They don’t read, ask questions or bother to even review the actual image itself (which is what is actually in question). No, it’s all run by a bunch of monkeys trained to click delete. See word, click delete.

Forget about disputing any monkey deletes. There’s no reasoning or rational thought behind this team. If you create a ticket to try and dispute, you’ll get a canned response that won’t even tell you why it was deleted. They’ll just point you to the terms and conditions and let you be on your merry way. In short, they don’t want to talk to you, a store owner. Consider for a moment just how stupid that is because store owners are what’s keeping Zazzle in business.

Just The Tip

The Content Management team is merely the tip of this iceberg. I’ve seen so many complaints regarding this company that they are even listed on Ripoff Report 20 times (so far). Worse, no one from the company even reviews Ripoff Report to post rebuttals or head off any of these disputes. As I said, this company is squarely mismanaged.

If you are in business, you would want to take that business seriously.  By ‘seriously’, that means treating all consumer complaints as valid and doing something about. You don’t let complaints stew and fester unless you actually want your company to appear to be a ripoff.


Part of the way this company works is by allowing registered users to put up their own Zazzle store where they can market and sell custom items from within Zazzle’s inventory. This is, in fact, where Zazzle makes its money. Store owners put up content, Zazzle takes a cut on each item sold. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where this story ends. Even if you do manage to get your imagery through the Content Management team’s monkey review, that doesn’t mean your item will really ship if you place an order. According to some complainants, the items never arrive. Basically, when you pay, you are taking your chances that the item will actually arrive.

Even worse, though, is that you spend your time, effort and good faith into placing your items in the Zazzle store. Yet there’s no promotional system or anything you can leverage to try and get people into your store to buy. You’re squarely left to fend for yourself to get people into your store. You would think Zazzle would offer at least some kind of promotional vehicle to feature stores with certain types of items.  But, no. There is no advertising system available. Again, you are left to fend for yourself.  It’s up to you to post on Facebook, Twitter and buy advertising space to get people into your Zazzle store.

Worse, even if you do manage to get people into your store to buy, those people could then have problems just getting their paid items.

No ‘About The Company’ page?

For me, this is a huge problem with any company trying to be respectable in its industry. If you aren’t willing to put up information regarding your management team, where that team is located, investor information, address information, etc.. it certainly looks like you’re not really serious about being in business. If you visit Zazzle’s corporate information page, you will find nothing there about the management team, investor information or anything pertinent to this company.

If anything, this lack of information says they are a ripoff fly-by-night. I know, they’ve been in business for several years now, but who knows how that’s happened as mismanaged as this thing is. However, even former employees have choice things to say on Glassdoor. The primary complaints seem to be high turnover, low pay and lack of upward movement. That doesn’t surprise me. Seems to me this is the McDonald’s of Silicon Valley startups.


If you’re a company thinking of opening a Zazzle store, you should reconsider.  Attaching your company’s name to Zazzle could taint your business reputation in the long term.  This is especially true if you’re trying to grow an existing business. The last thing you need is dealing with complaints from people who’ve tried to purchase from your Zazzle store only to be ripped off.

Instead, if you really do want to buy custom printed items, you will want to get them from somewhere else. There are thousands of reputable promotional item companies who create and sell printed promotional items.  In fact, you can do much better in pricing on those items when you buy them in bulk. Zazzle is really to be used for extremely short runs (1-10 pieces). With short runs, you will pay a high premium price, which is quite evident in the pricing model Zazzle offers.

Instead, I highly recommend you shop around for companies whose sole business it is to sell custom printed promotional items. Promotional item companies don’t offer store fronts to people, don’t deal with content management, don’t do short runs, don’t deal with individual consumer returns, etc.  No, they are solely focused on getting you your promotional items exactly as you want and shipping them directly to you. Yes, you’ll end up paying more up front for the bulk quantity, but if you’re giving the items away at a conference or event, the cost per item is much much lower.  Better, you can pick the exact quality of the item you want. With Zazzle, the quality is what it is. There’s little choice.  If you don’t like the t-shirt brands they are using, tough luck. If you want to buy a specific brand of polo-style shirts to give away, you’ll need to choose another company to produce your item.

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iOS7: Lightning Cables vs Consumer — Who Wins?

Posted in Apple, botch, corruption by commorancy on September 25, 2013

There’s this really annoying error message that you might see if you’ve bought a third party Lightning cable and you try to use it on your iPhone under iOS7.  The error message reads “This cable or accessory is not certified and may not work reliably with this iPod” (or iPhone or iPad or whatever).  Let’s explore what this means.

Consumer Penalized

Lightning ErrorLet’s start simple.  You bought a Lightning cable and expected it to work. Within each Lightning cable there’s a unique identifier that an Apple device can read.  It then compares the identifier to some kind of database within the iDevice to see if Apple ‘blessed’ the cable. Basically, any company producing Lightning connector cables must license the technology from Apple.

I’m fine with licensing. But, that’s a legal distinction between the cable manufacturer and Apple. The consumer should not be involved in this fight.  Yet, here we are.  This battle is being waged on you, the Apple consumer.  You’re penalized for having bought an ‘unlicensed’ cable. Unfortunately, unlicensed cables don’t specifically come with a warning stating that they are not licensed.  So, the consumer is buying blind when buying cables. There is no way to know if a cable is licensed or not.  At least, not without an Apple device that tells us so.

Apple’s missteps

With the old big dock connectors, the devices were able to recognize unsupported accessories or cables and warn. And, they did. Those cables also had a method to do validation checks similar to this Lightning validation error message.  Again, I’m fine with that as long is tells me immediately after I purchase a cable and plug it in. If it doesn’t work immediately after purchase, I can return cable immediately. No money lost.

Unfortunately, Apple waited all through iOS6 and the iPhone 5 allowing use of the Lightning connector without ANY warning. Instead, they waited until iOS7’s release to warn the consumer and even prevent some cables from working AT ALL. Yes, that’s what this error message actually means.  It means that Apple has detected an unlicensed cable and in some cases will warn that it either cannot use it or warns you that it may not work.  Apparently, that warning message may warn for a number of times before permanently disabling the cable’s use.

While these cables worked perfectly fine with iOS6, some of them don’t work at all to either charge the device or for data transfer under iOS7.  Some of the cables do work, but possibly for only a short time.  But, this isn’t the point.  If the cables worked perfectly fine under iOS6, they will also work perfectly fine under iOS7.  This means that Apple is deliberately and intentionally preventing these cables from working.

Waited Too Long

Error 2

The huge misstep is that Apple waited over a year to warn consumers.  And when something is finally given to us, it’s not a friendly notice.  The device simply prevents some cables from outright working. Keep in mind that that’s a year of time that many people spent money buying many of these cables. Cables that can no longer be returned and can no longer be used.  Apple has waged war on you, the consumer. They are not waging war on the manufacturer who produced ‘unlicensed’ cables.  This action is actually causing monetary damages to the consumer for the lost money spent to purchase the cables. Some cables that previously worked no longer work and the consumer cannot return them nor can these cables be used.

Apple has effectively just slapped its very user base in the face and said, ‘F-you’.  I can’t imagine any other company doing this in this way.  At least give your users  some advance warning this is coming.  Don’t just do it, tell no one and expect us all to sit here all nice and happy.  It’s not my problem that manufacturers are making ‘uncertified’ cables. That’s your problem, Apple.  You need to take those manufacturers to court. Don’t penalize your paying consumers because you don’t think the cables should work.

And note, the cable I purchased is a retractable cable.  I only bought it because there was no other retractable Lightning cable on the market when I purchased. If Apple had produced one, I’d have bought it from Apple.

Class Action Lawsuit

I can easily see this turn into a class action lawsuit against Apple.  As a consumer, we had no way to know the cable wasn’t licensed until the warning message, a warning message that showed up over a year late. And, in fact, iOS7 doesn’t even state the cable is unlicensed, it states that it’s not certified. As a consumer, that’s not my problem.  I bought the cable, it worked.  iOS6 didn’t warn me of this problem and it continued to work.  Now, Apple is telling me that that cable can no longer work with my device even though it worked perfectly fine with the same exact device for many months prior to iOS7.

Plain and simple, consumers have now lost money paid for these cables. Apple is to blame. If they had enforced this policy from the beginning, this wouldn’t be an issue. Because they didn’t, consumers are now literally paying the price as Apple intentionally stops these cables from working even though they are perfectly usable cables.

I’d really like to see an attorney sue the crap out of Apple for this behavior and force Apple to redress all of us consumers’ for our money that we’ve lost because Apple sat on its fat butt not saying anything. Apple just sat there letting consumers buy more and more unlicensed cables. Then, after letting consumers buy these cables for a year, they lay the whammy down and stop the cables from working right now.

Now many of us have dead cables that we can’t use, can’t sell and that we spent good money on.  And many of these cables were not cheap and were not marked as not licensed.  At minimum, Apple should be required to cable swap all consumer purchased now non-working unlicensed Lightning cables for an Apple licensed cable so we’re not out any money.  It’s not the consumer’s fault Apple didn’t warn the consumer properly. It’s also not the consumer’s fault the manufacturer sold us an unlicensed cable. That fight is clearly between Apple and the cable manufacturer. Apple, take your fight to where it belongs.. between you and the manufacturer. Don’t take it out on the very customer that you depend upon to keep you in business. Not a smart move.

As a consumer, I simply want a fully working retractable cable without stupid warning messages or I want my money back. Apple, you clearly owe me a replacement cable for waiting a year to warn me thus losing my ability to return the cable.

IOS7: The New Android?

Posted in Android, Apple, botch by commorancy on September 19, 2013

Note, apparently some readers think I do a lot of ranting. Sometimes I do. In this case, you better get prepared for a rant of epic proportions because here it comes.

White screens and borders, really?


Ok, so when I flipped open my iPad the first time on IOS7, I’m greeted by white screens (or nearly white screens). At first I wasn’t sure to make of it. Now, I’m quite sure. The white screens must go. If you’re trying to use the iPad in the dark, it’s like having a flashlight shining in your face.  No, thanks.

Not only are the white screens extremely distracting, they’re hard on the eyes and there’s nothing quite like staring at the end of a flashlight when you’re sitting in the dark. No, bad idea. Worse, whatever happened to the light sensor? Come on Apple. You put the sensor on the unit, use the damned thing will you? If I’m in a low light environment, choose a background that complements the low light environment. If I’m in a high light environment, again, choose a brighter background to make the contrast stand out.  I don’t need to be blinded in the dark and I don’t want to see a washed out screen when it’s bright outside.

Gag! the Calendar app has that white background with red letters by default. Red? Really?!? I may have to rethink my Calendaring again.Whatever happened to all of that great engineering that used to work at Apple?  I think they’ve all gone to Android. Let’s put some thinking caps on shall we?

What’s worse than white screens?


I’ll answer that question.. It’s when the OS flips back and forth between black and white screens.  So, now not only do you have blinding white screens with garish colored fonts staring you in the face, now iOS has to flip between the solid white screens to solid black screens. Sure, there’s this fade transition thing, but it’s still overbearing and unnecessary.  This is, in my estimation, one of the absolute worst design practices I’ve ever seen from any company. Who would ever design any application where one screen is almost solid white and the next is almost solid black.  This is the absolute antithesis of good design. No graphical designer of any merit would even hint at let alone pitch such a stark transition between two elements.

An OS should be about experiences that let you get your work done. Not experiences that distract you from that purpose. If anything, the OS should blend into the background and facilitate getting the work done.  Instead, the OS practically waving a red flag in your face and saying, “Here, look at me”.

Photos App is absolutely broken


When you’re just viewing photos, there’s this annoying white bar at the top of the screen that covers over the top 10% of the image. What’s that all about? I mean, can’t Apple software engineers figure out how to properly scale an image so it can be fully visible on the screen without being covered over by menu bars?

If you try to set wallpaper with the Photos app by scaling or sizing an image, be prepared for the whole app to lock up and possibly even cause your whole iPad to spontaneously reboot. This app is seriously unstable. Was this software even remotely beta tested? Once again, come on Apple.  I can understand if something like Bob’s app was borked up, but the Photos app is pretty much a necessity. This has to be fixed and pronto.

And, to top it off, when you can manage to get the app not to lock the whole blasted iPad up when moving and scaling, it pushes 30% of the image off the top of the screen with no way to correct it.  What crap!

Background Image movement effect

That new live motion background thing is the most worthless use of extra CPU cycles I’ve seen yet.  The short and sweet of it is, let me turn it off.  Don’t care about, don’t want it, don’t need it. And, the affect is so small it’s just pointless.  I move my iPad 10 inches back and forth and the background moves maybe 1 pixel. Stupid waste of resources.

Lock and Unlock sounds no longer work.

Nuff said. [UPDATE] I kind of figured this one out. After the update to iOS7, these sounds are inexplicably disabled. However, if you go into the Sounds area in settings, you can turn it off and back on. This at least enables the lock sound. It does appear, though, that Apple has stripped the unlock sound from the system.

Carnival Colors

Where are we, Google?  Seriously. I don’t want garish colors shining in my face at practically every turn. Some of the colors are almost like fluorescent green colors. It’s like, bad and ugly all at the same time.  I don’t mind the flat look, but these colors seriously need to be muted down a whole lot.

Android Clone

Apple just ripped a page out of the Android book with IOS7, especially when it comes to the so-called streamlined fonts. This OS looks and feels more like Android than any other OS I’ve seen.  We already have an Android. We don’t need another one. Do something original Apple. After all, that’s what you used to be known for. If I wanted to buy an Android tablet, I’d go buy one.  I don’t want my Apple product to look and feel like an Android tablet.  Of course, now we just need to wait for Google to file a lawsuit against Apple.

I’m hoping that Apple can get this quickly derailing train back on track soon with 7.0.1 as this thing called IOS7 is a hot mess. … and I thought IOS6 was bad.

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