Age Discrimination?

I just finished applying for a job demonstrating food inside CostCo stores.  If you’ve read my previous blog posts (and that’s a mighty big if)  you read where I complained about birthdates going back to 1900.  Now I’ve encountered the opposite and what might be a clear case of ageism.

I had to enter my previous employment and use dropdown boxes to choose the month and year I started.   Unfortunately the years only went back to 1980.  I wound up choosing 1992, the year I transferred to Alpharetta, and explained the discrepency in a comment box.  Still, if you are over 40, I suppose you should have waited to start working.


With all the on-line applications in use today, you’d think there would be better communication between programmers and users.  Case in point, the following request in the Michael’s application:

Please select a position below that you wish to apply for and then click Proceed to Registration. If you are a returning candidate wanting to apply for another position, click Returning Candidates. Click Details for additional information on the positions.

Select Position Department  
All Other Positions Hourly Associates Details
Cashier Hourly Associates Details
Class Instructor Hourly Associates Details
Custom Framer Hourly Associates Details
Department Manager Hourly Associates Details
Floral Designer Hourly Associates Details
Replenishment Associate Hourly Associates Details
Sales Associate Hourly Associates Details

Yes, those are checkboxes, which allow for multiple choices, not radio buttons which allow for only one.  So, when you do what you are allowed and choose more than one job (and why shouldn’t you be able to apply for more than one job at a time), the next step tells you to choose one.

Pay by phone

I recently watched a friend pay a bill over the phone using an automated system.   This was for the Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources.  It had the usual “say or press buttons” interface – with the result that she nearly paid $6,000 (how many years of water would that be?).  The truly annoying part (beyond “Enter the amount you wish to pay, using the star key as the decimal point and ending with the pound key”) was at the very end.  The final message was – “Your confirmation number is nnnnnnnnnnnnn.  To hear this number again say ‘Repeat’ or press one.”

That was IT!  No other options – not to accept, not to pay another bill, not to end the call.  Wouldn’t you like to see that flowchart?

When Were You Born?

This question comes up a lot, although I thought it was illegal in many contexts.  The reason I’m including it here is the incredible range of dates they include.  Sometimes you get to type them in, but more often you have to choose from a drop down list.  Months are easy – there are only the twelve.  Days of the month only go up to 31, so no biggie there.  Years are more of a problem.

Just today I followed a link to a on-line survey, where the birth years started at 1900!  I’m glad they are accepting people from such a wide demographic but are there really a lot of 111 year old people taking on-line surveys?

The Onion AV Club

I love to post comments on movies and TV shows on this site.  They’ve put in a new system and maybe I’ll comment on that later, but now the thing that annoys me every time I go there.  Remember, the Web is everything today.  If you can’t program for the Web, you’re nothing.  So consider this:

When you want to log into the AV club you have to enter your ID and then your password.  After  you enter the ID, it’s the most natural thing in the world to hit the tab key to go to the next field, but when you do, you are transfered to the URL at the top of the page.  You have to type in your ID, then use the mouse to select the password box.

Great programming, AV Club (otherwise keep up the good work)

Brilliance In Programming

I can’t find in my notes which company this was, but I’ll update if I find it.  It’s just too good not to include.

Many sites make you go through a series of questions with yes/no radio buttons.  This one was a classic:

1.  Are you over 18 years of age?

              o   Yes

              o   No

2.  Are you legally able to work in the United States?

               o  Yes

               o  No

3.  How many miles would you be willing to drive for this job?

               o  Yes

               o  No

Think of the lifecycle of programming.  Some user asked for this information, someone designed the website, coded it, tested it, ran it past someone and then put it on line.  And this was the result.


So It’s Come To This

This one hurts.  I have just started using WordPress and already I have stepping in a programming land mine. 

I began experimenting with the layout of my front page by dragging the “calendar” widget to the sidebar.  However, the next time I tried to log in I found that the “Log In” link was GONE!  I could not find a way to log into my dashboard.  I had to go to support forums and ask for help.  As it turns out when you have no widgets, you have the default – which includes “Log In”, but when you start adding widgets you LOSE the default – including “Log In”.

Come on!  Under what circumstances would someone want them to automatically delete the default Log In link?  At least ask.

True Story

What is programming?  Is it the language, the platform?  No, it is producing a tool to get the job done.  To program well you have to know your data.  Let me repeat that – to program well you have to know your data.

Case in point.  For the second time I encountered this situation – I was filling in an application on line and was at the point where I was filling in my name and discovered that the “Middle Name” field was required.  That’s right, I could not proceed without filling in a middle name.  Funny story – I don’t HAVE a middle name.  I have no idea why.  We weren’t rich but certainly it didn’t cost anymore to give me a middle name.  I’m Jewish, but that’s not a problem.  Lots of Jews have a middle name (ask Jon Stewart and Ron Jeremy about that).  In any case I could not proceed without putting something in there.  “X” seemed a bit, uh, Catholic.  “J” works if you are a cartoon character.  But I knew that at the end I would have to sign that everything was correct, and I wasn’t about to lie on the form.

The first time I encountered this many years ago, I put in what seemed right and I had seen on official forms. This led to an interview where the person across the desk from me actually asked “What kind of a name is ‘NMI’?”  I was forced to explain.  NMI – N M I – No Middle Initial.  Who was stupider, the programmer or the interviewer I don’t know.

I recently encounted the same thing – with the nice twist that the middle name field was over 100 characters long.  So, even though it certainly diminished my chance of getting the job from slim to none, I entered “Like many people I do not HAVE a middle name, so why is this a required field?”  I was pretty pissed.

I also encountered a form one time where the Last Name field had a minimum length of 5 characters.  Tough luck Vietnamese applicants named Ng!

I’ll say it again – To program well, you have to know your data!

How The Mighty Have Fallen

I worked for AT&T for 24 years and I’m still proud of the work that I did there.  It was clean, it was efficient and it made people’s lives easier.  I’m no longer there but I learned recently the kind of programmers that have taken my place.

I’ve been looking for jobs on a site called SnagAJob and found a list of jobs
from AT&T.  I followed the link to the AT&T careers website.  Then you can search for jobs.  I chose “Search by location”, which gives you a single list,
in alphabetical order, of all the TOWNS where they have jobs.  Not divided
by state, or searchable by state, not even identified by state name, (just
the town name) in every town where they have jobs.

Since I worked in Bedminster from 1977 to about 1988 I know exactly where it is – New Jersey.  How a person looking at an alphabetized list is supposed to know where “Bedminster jobs” are located is beyond me.  That goes for all the other jobs that were listed.  Since I am living near a town called Grayson in Georgia, I clicked on “Grayson jobs” only to find they are in Grayson, Kentucky.  That was time I’ll never get back.

If I produced work like that during my time at AT&T, I’d be more than embarrassed – I’d be ashamed!