Beijing, Beijing, Beijing

By Mir
July 12, 2005
Category Job? Huh?

One of the problems with, you know, having a job in a place where there are ultimately some sort of customers, is that–sooner or later–if you’re an intolerant snob (such as myself), you will eventually arrive at the inescapable conclusion that People Are Stupid.

And yes, even Stupid People (heck, sometimes ESPECIALLY Stupid People) contribute to the great “Circle of Life” known as “My Paycheck,” so it’s hard to complain about them without sounding ungrateful and bitchy. This will not deter me, of course, because I’m already well aware that I’m ungrateful and bitchy.

And maybe–just maybe–there’s a force at work here which someone can explain to me. Maybe People Are Confusing or People Are Mysterious or even People Are Working On An Important Secret Mission That Closely Mimics People Being Very Stupid and once I’ve been enlightened, I will be forced to admit the error of my ways. I’m willing to be educated.

So here’s the thing: It turns out that whenever my company mails things out, a whole bunch of pieces end up coming back to us as undeliverable or whatever. And once upon a time I guess the returns were processed as they came in, but at some point the person who used to do it stopped or left or died, I don’t know, and by the time I came along, the stack of returns was taller than me. Fine. Last week, I took it upon myself to clean up our mailing list (small company = random tasks that don’t belong to anyone that sometimes have to be done by whomever has time). I processed every returned piece of mail and reconciled or removed every screwed up address in our database. Huzzah.

This week I decided to go the extra mile and clean the database of any remaining obviously faulty addresses. Because I love my job and want to give 120% at all times. Or maybe just because I’m a wee bit anal and OCD.

Too bad the database contains over ten thousand entries. Has anyone seen my eyeballs? They may have burst around line 9,439.

In case you’re wondering, these addresses are entered by people on a COMPLETELY VOLUNTARY form on our website. Folks are not required to share their addresses; there is an option to provide an address if you’d like to receive mailings. It looks something like the following.

Hi, please fill in your address if you want to get mail from us!
Address Line 1:
Address Line 2:
Zip/Postal Code:

Seems pretty straightforward to me. But here comes the part that I don’t get. It seems to me that if you don’t want mail from us, you shouldn’t fill in the form. Furthermore, if you DO want mail from us? I think you should fill in, I dunno, say… YOUR ADDRESS. I know; it’s crazy talk! I mean, go figure! I’m a revolutionary, what can I say.

About a dozen folks in our database live at “sdfsjgskhg sadfjalkfjs akdfjhaslf.” I suppose they’re all together in some sort of commune. There’s a sister complex down the road at “abcd efgh ijklm,” by the way.

One fellow lives at “PLEASE DON’T SEND ME MAIL THANKS.” Which is all good and well, except that 1) apparently he couldn’t read, 2) apparently he couldn’t THINK, and 3) our mailing process is automated and we’ve been sending stuff to “PLEASE DON’T SEND ME MAIL THANKS” for a couple of years.

Many of our customers in China are too polite to refuse sharing their addresses. Most of them live at “Beijing Beijing Beijing China.” Across the water live their comrades at “Taipei Taiwan Taipei Taiwan.” A few astute gentlemen realized this was not, in fact, enough specificity to get mail to the correct destination. They were kind enough to lend more details; one fellow lives at “Second Floor Beijing Beijing China” and another at “my office, street, Changsha, China.”

I don’t know much about India, but apparently it’s customary to give destinations via landmarks, there. Everyone who lives in Bangalore lives “near” something. “#2 near Main Street,” “Grey Station near Old Village,” etc. Well, almost everyone lives near something. One poor guy lives at “Utility Pole Number 4” in Dubai.

And it’s not just our international friends with the interesting entries. Here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. there’s plenty of confusion, as well. I think our “Country” field is an alphabetized drop-down box. At least… I hope it is. That’s the only explanation I can think of as to why so many people who live in Texas or New York seem to believe they reside in Albania.

Also: Los Angeles is not in Colorado. “Apartment” is a lovely descriptive term, I suppose, but is generally more useful when followed by numbers or letters. Zip codes are 5 digits. “South Street, Boston” is not enough information. A certain gigantic company on the west coast will not deliver mail that doesn’t include a mail stop in the address, because they employ several gazillion people (a hundred of whom are in our database) and also have large sticks up their butts, so probably you were already aware of this rule. Taking the time to fill in your city, state, and zip without your street address is either moronic or narcissistic. And your name is not really Dirk Diggler.

This is how I spent my day. Tonight I will have nightmares.

People Are Stupid.


  1. Jenn

    This happens to us at work all the time, except in our cases, people are not getting things they paid for by providing us with the improper address. Duh…

    Now I’m picturing all of Beijing being one large building. 2nd floor, that narrows it right down.

    My dad’s favorite saying is “No good deed ever goes unpunished.” Or in your case, “No good deed ever makes your eyeballs go unpopped.” Or something.

  2. Leanne

    Yes! People ARE Stupid!

    Now you know. I had people voluntarily ENTER TO WIN a contest. No big deal right? You enter, you might win. At the end, they got an announcement thing that says “Yahoo! So and so won! Congrats! And since YOU didn’t win, I’m taking YOUR name and e-mail address and throwing it away, RIGHT NOW, so no worries, this is all you’ll ever see from me again!”

    And people, not many, but enough to reconfirm my lack of faith in people, replied directly “remove me” and ran to the nearest “unsubscribe me” box. :P

  3. KJ

    NO wait, you HAVE to use this. It’s hysterical. NPR’s All Things Considered. Slate, Salon–I don’t know. Make it an essay. It’s too good not to share! I love the poor guy at the utility pole.

  4. udge

    Yes, people are on the whole, in average, pretty dumb – or rather, very few people take the time and make the effort to think through what they are doing. Unfortunately, as you said, they pay our salaries so we have to suck it up.

  5. Mamacita

    I know. I dealt with their kids for 26 years. You think they’re stupid about their own stuff, boy, you ain’t seen nothing.

    Good thing WE’RE perfect, huh.

  6. Fraulein N

    People Are Stupid? Amen. I love the ones who stuff the return envelope with trash to up the postage, and then write something like Mr. PLEASE DON’T SEND ME MAIL THANKS. We will totally be sending you mail thanks, because we don’t know who the hell you are. Sometimes they’ll fill in something smart-assed, like “My gift is garbage.” That’s my personal favorite.

  7. Cele

    The headless chicken republic lives

    Now I know where, second floor near the water cooler Beijing Beijing Beijing China

  8. laura

    Yes, yes they are. People are stupid.

  9. Georgia

    People *are* stupid. And as I am a judgmental bitch (let’s form a club!), I’ve just come to the realization that people are also greedy ignorant pigs who need to be smacked down a little.

    And I’m just the person to do it.

  10. Melanie Lynne Hauser

    Mailing lists are a bitch! We’re compiling a nice little one for my book, and apparently the “opt out” feature is too confusing for some folks. Sigh.

  11. Dara

    Hahaha! I handle the mailing list at work too, we got tired of paying the mailing company 25 cents per address for data entry. My favorite is when customers sign the mailing list in the store and I have to decipher their handwriting. And doncha love reading their comments, too?

  12. Heather

    I love stupid people posts,… they make great topics!

    Although there seriously could be a Dirk Diggler. After all, I sorta kinda didn’t really date a guy with the last name Hittepole. (his email was slapatree, so at least he had a sense of humor!)

  13. Kestralyn

    I feel your pain! Sometimes you just have to file people in the “I-D-10-T” file. (remove the dashes if you haven’t heard this one before).

  14. La Pix

    Some of those were very funny… BUT Yeah… people who don’t understand web interfaces – or ANY of the “magic” of technology are kind of “stupid”. Cause they don’t get it.

    I’m not surprised that someone in Beijing who lives near a village wouldn’t know how these things work. My mother once called me in a PANIC because her computer was broken – it wouldn’t stop typing in capital letters. People who have no experience of technology sometimes perceive it as a magic black box. They lose all logic. But that’s normal – like how the rest of us act when we go to the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz.

    Unlucky you though, to have to weed through all the garbage to clean up the data. Maybe the database needs some forms validation and then a few stored procedures for clean up.

    My grandpa would have said that the technology wasn’t really so great if it could get that messed up just with the average person using it. We’re talking world averages here, not the Silicon initiated.

  15. Heather


  16. carson

    So, did you have any 1313 Mockingbird Lanes in there? Cause that’s what I always put when an address is required.

    But you are correct, stupid people are everywhere.

  17. Wendy

    I don’t know why, but I couldn’t stop giggling… Maybe because it’s Friday night and I’m trying to finish up a project that I thought I was going to finish on Monday morning… And the left side of my brain has said “Enough!” and is hijacking the right side of my brain.
    But I agree with the comment that this is perfect for NPR’s “All Things Considered.” Seriously, the People Are Stupid post would make a most excellent “Driveway Moment.”
    Ooooo. I must stop laughing.

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