Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"Clipettes pinch ass"

I'll admit it - that was a click-bait headline - but it comes directly from this sign on a store display blog reader Renee noticed when she went looking for hair clips for her toddler.

Key word: assorted
Sometimes, companies use software to automatically generate text - and in this case, to automatically abbreviate it, as necessary. Auto-abbreviations can be confusing, but customers are usually able to figure them out. Here, we can figure it out, but it's unintentionally funny.

Not always so funny

Last year, Coca-Cola Ltd. had to apologize after an auto-text mix-up led to an offensive expression being printed on the cap of a vitaminwater bottle. The company was printing one English word and one French word on every bottle cap, and had proofread all the English words and all the French words... but hadn't considered how the two might be read in either language when put together. The auto-text did the rest.

Automation makes things easier, but it's not foolproof

This supermarket and Coca-Cola are far from the only organizations that have been embarrassed because their automatic communication tools have done what they're meant to do: complete tasks without a human having to be involved. Whether it's examples like these, or automatically-generated Tweets, there are many ways automatic communications can backfire.

Whenever you plan to use these, you're well-advised to build in some checks and balances where human beings have to either troubleshoot potential problems before they happen (for example, in the vitaminwater example, having someone read the words in each language from the perspective of someone who speaks the other language, to spot any issues), or to approve automatic messages before they are sent.

Thanks for the submission, Renee!

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