FAQ make me CRAZY

May 24, 2013

Just about every device one can acquire nowadays comes with a bunch of yellow warning notices from the Federal Government plus a couple of little booklets describing the product and how it should work. They are usually called the owner’s manual or operating guide.
All of this paperwork is necessary now because everything from toothbrushes to toenail clippers has some kind of computer chip in it to assist in its performance and increase its price.
Typically in the back of the owner’s manual or at least in the “English” section of the booklet, there is a space called FAQ or Frequently Asked Questions. This section contains random, obvious questions and canned answers which are allegedly asked most often by some unknown person or persons.
Many people think that this FAQ chapter is a recent phenomenon resulting from the growth in personal computers and accessories. And perhaps the FAQ moniker is just that, but providing common questions and rote answers dates back at least 1000 years.
I even recall in the 1950s every Catholic school first grader got a catechism from a certain  company in Baltimore. The format was a question and answer arrangement much like today’s FAQ.

The first line in the catechism always was:

Question: Who made the world?

Answer: God made the world.

Thus the gold standard of FAQ was established over 60 years ago in this  book when the prime philosophical question puzzling philosophers for millennia was addressed and answered  in four words. Somehow, even to my 6-year-old mind the answer was largely unsatisfying.
Now today’s FAQ follow the same paradigm. They are usually a page or two of questions with canned answers attached. The purpose, one might assume is to assist you in finding the solution to a problem you might be having with the device.

However, I have NEVER found FAQ to be helpful in this or any regard. In fact given the volume of FAQ out there, the entire process seems to be a monumental waste of paper and ink.
These FAQ are usually written first in Chinese  and then are translated into English probably by some binary chemist from Hunan Province who likes to use some very obscure idioms.

But the real issue is the FAQ never address your specific problem or provide an answer that is helpful.
For example, if the product does not work,  the first answer in the FAQ is…. make sure the appliance is plugged in.
Then, they say, is the power on?
After that the FAQ suggests you follow the power trail all the way back to the electric generating plant before you assume something is wrong with the product.
Finally, if you come to the end of FAQ and nothing has worked, the FAQ tell you to call or write (ha) to the service center in Goa, India. Then  send the defective product (in its original box) to them.

With a stern warning, the last section of FAQ advises you not to bring the item back to the store where you first acquired it or some really bad stuff will happen.

Heck, I am sure the store doesn’t want the junk back either.

I think the bad Ju Ju has already begun!

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