Ironically, a typical website’s array of ‘Frequently Asked Questions’, or as I prefer to call them, Far Qs, are usually the most illogical, inane line of questioning any normal person could imagine.
This leads me to pose the question: Frequently Asked Questions – I ask you, frequently asked, by whom? This week’s theory therefore relates to retailed products, the problems people inevitably face with those products but moreover, exactly why those producers don’t allow us mere consumers to be able to remedy our products’ faults…
The reality is that on the odd occasion I have delved into a website with the intention of putting to rest a nagging query I have only ever come away still wanting; the only questions thus answers provided by FAQs (remember, pronounced Far Qs) allude either to the type of inquiry a two-year-old might ask – despite the aforementioned’s rather lacking ability in the field of interpreting literature at all – or relates to something so technical that as a layman, you would have no business even troubleshooting that variety of task to begin with.
…Producers don’t want consumers to be able to fix their own products’ faults, oh no, they would much rather you sent your malfunctioning product to a qualified repair shop for assistance; that way everybody’s getting a slice of the action (by ‘action’ of course, I refer to money).
I understand that to many, all that I have so far written may just be coming across as a disgruntled consumer, pissed off by his own inability to handle even the smallest issue, now writing a misdirected rant at those literary geniuses who compose the FAQ sections of products.
As that ignorant consumer I ask, before you judge, hear my example.
I recently came into ownership of an electric chainsaw. I don’t currently have a great deal of use for it, other than running through the kind of oversized firewood shied away from by my faithful axe. The other day, whizzing through some metre lengths of four by two I’d pulled from under my property’s perimeter fence, earmuffs on because this thing is about as loud as I imagine the volume of standing beside a 747 at take-off, also safety glasses lest the earmuffs should look out of place, and suddenly it undergoes a significant change in tone. It sounds as if it’s jammed but given that it’s cutting twenty-year-old lengths of pinus four by twos, I understand this to be an impossibility. I withdraw the saw and one by one squeeze the assortment of safety triggers to make it go again. It throws back the same sound. I unplug it and dismantle the chain guard to see if there’s an obstruction; there is not. I check the chain tension; it feels fine. I manually rotate the chain on the bar; it spins with surprising ease. I plug it in and squeeze the medley of triggers to make it work once more; it responds with that same awful slipping sound.
I then dig up the instruction manual and take some time in tearing off the plastic wrapper. I quickly skim through it. I quickly skim through it again, this time somewhat more thoroughly. ‘Setting up Your Saw’; no. ‘Lubricating Your Saw’; perhaps but no. ‘Saw Operation’; maybe but again, no. Here we go: ‘Troubleshooting’. I quickly skim read the passage. I quickly skim read the passage again; this time somewhat more thoroughly. Even when on the third run through I take my time to read it slowly and properly I am left dismayed. The calibre of ‘Troubleshooting’ problems and the related solutions aren’t extensive.
For instance, Problem: ‘My saw is not going.’
Solution: ‘Make sure saw it is plugged in at the wall.’
Problem: ‘My chain won’t turn’ – “Oh,” I thought/mumbled, “this could be good.”
Solution: ‘Check that chain brake is off’ – “Of course.”
Problem: ‘Chain still won’t turn’ – “Here we go,” I thought/mumbled.
Solution: ‘Remove chain guard and clear impediment’ – “Well what if I’ve removed the cunting chain guard,” I thought/mumbled, “but what if there was no cunting impediment? What then?”
What then indeed. Most Troubleshooting or, as it were, FAQ pages, simply, don’t have contingencies for what must be the rarest of occurrences when those people asking the questions haven’t asked frequently enough the very question that is plighting you, thus the corresponding query is not forthcoming.
Article by Tim Walker
Edited by Freya Quaint-Lee
Photography by Mia R Seoul