Reading for INcomprehension.

palimpsestSeptember 13, 2012

I often communicate with people through email with pictures inserted in the email. But I think if there are pictures, people must not read the text. And sometimes I do not point out what I think is obvious (But I Probably Should):

ME: here is the concept I have for the bedroom particularly with that set of furniture.

CLIENT: I like the paint color and general idea in the first two pictures, but I don't like the last concept at all.

ME: That is just a picture of your furniture in the parking lot of the antique store.


ME: Here is the upholstery fabric that I was thinking you could use to reupholster your sofa, and some accent fabrics.

CLIENT: I like the fabric, but why do I have to get a new sofa? I don't think I like that sofa as much as Mine.

ME: That is a picture of Your Sofa.


To a potential client:

ME: Here is a before photo of another client's kitchen, and a perspective drawing of the new kitchen, and a photo of the new kitchen.

CLIENT: I think I like the drawing and the before kitchen better than the after.

ME: The drawing IS the after. They are labeled.


CLIENT is sent a perspective drawing of the redecorated space.

CLIENT: What is that at the top of the picture? Why is it that tan color?

ME: That's the ceiling. It's wood. That's already there.


CLIENT: Why did you draw the upper cabinets narrower than the lower cabinets?

ME: Because upper cabinets are shallower than lower cabinets by a little less than half.

CLIENT: Mine aren't, they are all the same depth.

ME: Go measure it.

CLIENT: I know what my kitchen looks like.

ME: Go look.

CLIENT: You know, I never noticed that.

Some of these may be repeat complaints but I am cranky.

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Oh boy! Are these scenarios all separate clients? As outsiders, we can laugh, as these ARE laughable, but I can understand why they'd make YOU cranky!

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 6:29PM
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People are idiots. Present company excluded, of course! ;)

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 6:33PM
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All separate people yes. And I don't even do this full time, by a long shot.

In defense of the guy who didn't recognize the wooden ceiling, at least this was not his apartment, but it Was the Lobby he walked through every day (he was on the HOA).

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 6:36PM
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Most people are not that good at listening (or reading carefully) because they are too busy thinking of what they will SAY in response. Also, remodeling and redecorating, whether you are doing it yourself or paying someone else to do it, is stressful, which adds to the lack of attention and poor concentration. And of course, some people are just not that sharp. Takes all kinds.
I can see how it would make you nuts, though. I hope you can see the humor in these exchanges when you're not feeling so cranky, LOL. If you collect them long enough, you can put them in a book and retire on the book sales and royalties.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 6:38PM
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Well, here's an example from the opposite side of the coin.

Let's say my last name is "Smith," and I hired an architect for a new addition to the house.

Atchitect emails me a drawing. It's labeled: "Smith's Addiction." I laughed at first but didn't say anything.

Many emails came after that one, still labeled "Smith's Addiction."

We fired him. :)

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 7:18PM
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I would get frustrated, too, Palimpsest. Oakleyok, I think you took the right action. If the architect couldn't catch typographical errors, I would have been concerned that he wasn't catching mistakes on the drawings either.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 7:45PM
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Pal, I know it's often difficult dealing with the public. I used to own a store and it sure showed me a lot about human nature. I've come to the conclusion that many people live in a bubble and have no idea what goes on around them.

Oakley, I think I'd be concerned about that architect's own 'addiction'.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 7:55PM
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Funny, Pal.

Oakley, I might have mentioned the typo if I liked his ideas Afterall, we all make them and often don't notice-we see what we expect to see-as in your post! Teehee.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 7:56PM
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Most people are just not that good at reading comprehension.

That's why here and in any other forum you go to, if the OP posts something like "I need help with my kitchen. it's 15x15 and it's got the range on the right side of the L and the sink on the other side of the L. There are 8 foot ceilings. The floor is maple. I hate the color purple." someone will post to ask how high the ceilings are and someone will post where does the sink go and someone will post how about some eggplant accessories. It's one thing when getting a bunch of details verbally, but when it's in writing there's no excuse.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 8:20PM
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    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 9:47PM
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Actually the furniture in the parking lot was my own sister :(

I think she thought the blacktop was carpet. I dunno, I didn't ask.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 11:22PM
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But no one here is paying me thousands for my opinion. Teehee.

Fun, that's exactly what happened. My antenna went up because "Addiction" was in large print. Incompetency followed. He was so incompetent he couldn't even bill us for his time, because he knew he was messing up so badly. Found out later his company went belly up, it was even on the news!

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 11:29PM
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We routinely have posts in which the OP states the case and someone downline misses essential bits. A recent example was the mom who wanted to re-do the boys room which was space themed currently, but the boys were moving on from that. (Did I get that quite right? We've had a couple of boy things recently.) In any case, someone then made suggestions on how to achieve a space theme in the room. I put these down to speed reading. Not to be confused with honest confusion about what the OP was trying to say.

I sympathize with the client who didn't recognize that the thing at the top of the photo was the ceiling. You know that Batman symbol?

Every time, I see the negative space (which looks like tonsils) instead of the bat. On maps I often see the oceans instead of the land and am momentarily confused about what I'm looking at. I have never once been able to see the "magic picture," so that wasn't a very fun fad for me. *Sigh.* There are many things I'm good at, but these are not among them.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 11:43PM
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I think a lot of it comes down to skimming the text (or speed reading as suzanne calls it) because they are too impatient to read through things properly and then understand them. You do see the same thing here as others have given examples of, or where someone will say "I haven't read the whole thread" and then give a suggestion that has already been given and discounted as unworkable by the op, but it's the same thing, they don't have the patience to read what everyone said before jumping in with a response. I honestly think technology has played a big part in this and given some people a short attention span where they rush through reading things or are just easily distracted from the point of what you're trying to get across by other non important details. I get the same thing when I email people from work, and sometimes the response you get makes you wonder if they even read what you wrote in the first place, it's really frustrating.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 12:12AM
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Actually the furniture in the parking lot was my own sister :(

I was going to ask if it was her. Too funny.

Speed reading. Also not finding the OP in the string of comments to see what other thing(s) he/she might have said.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 7:13AM
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The Batman logo--I was always confused by that. I think it took me over 10 years to realize that there was the image of a bat in there.

Back to the main topic:

They've done studies about people reading email. Among the findings--most people don't scroll down. So you need to get the important parts right at the top. (Especially since you don't know how big their reading window is on their computer.)

A lot of people don't click on attachments. And more and more people are reading their email on mobile devices, which means that they are reading on a smaller screen. And that they are usually in a situation where they can be easily distracted, not sitting at a desk in a nice, quiet office.

Bullet points are your friend.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 7:55AM
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Recently I've been paying more attention to decor in rooms. I've found it kinda of startling when you go into a room you are in regularly and actually look at the details. The room looks different. Like if you move a piece of furniture into a different room, it looks like a different piece of furniture. Maybe some of you do notice the details automatically. I don't.

I think your clients don't notice the details of their own furniture, cabinets, etc. So when they see things in a different perspective its hard to comprehend. The one who didn't notice the wood ceiling, I can see that happening to me! Not in my own house but in places I am frequently.

If you sent an email with no photos do they understand what you are saying? I think they look at the photo and then words become secondary. I do that here. Scroll through and look at the photos, then go back and read.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 8:33AM
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I love the one from your sister.

Clearly your design DNA was a recessive gene and she did not get it. You are nice to help her!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 8:53AM
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Just wanted to say thanks for the comic relief this morning! :)

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 9:25AM
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Should have put 'spew alert' before you wrote this one, Pal. I'm choking on my morning coffee, it's so funny, funny! But actually all too true. Batman logo reminds me of the FedEx arrow, too. I always loved Bev Doolittles paintings for the way she could incorporate the horses in them.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 9:27AM
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Anyone else see mittens in the batman logo?

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 12:26PM
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Unfortunately, I see mittens grabbing at b**bs. Not sure what that says about me ...

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 12:32PM
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I've studied virtual teams extensively. I agree with Camlan. With mobile devices, things have changed.

Email rules I try to live by (for business or matter-of-fact purposes):
� Only one idea per email
� Meaningful and short subject line
� Short sentences
� Bullet points for any complex/numerous info:
- The walls are purple.
- The ceiling height is...
- The wood floors are...

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 12:55PM
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I see two things, batman or an an ancient viking battle axe head.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 1:05PM
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SunnyCottage - ha!

Palimpset -- Not always convenient, but what I try to do is put captioned photos and my comments into a single document that I send as a pdf. Takes extra time, but hopefully it helps the client to understand. Usually then there is only one attachment to open, and the e-mail text doesn't say much beyond "see attachment".

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 1:28PM
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OMG sunnycottage. I am laughing so hard.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 3:05PM
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I was laughing so hard I didn't finish and to make matters worse for me., DH has the batman thing as a tattoo. Now how am I going to handle looking at it!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 3:06PM
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cottonpenny: Spot on! +1 Ditto
This is a sad state of affairs but all too real.
When this happens to me, I usually just say, "please reread my message".
And while we're at it, have the grammar rules changed lately?
I hear NO ONE using the correct rules concerning "I", "me", and who is listed first. For instance, "Bobby and I went to the lake". I'll hear, "Me and Bobby", or Bobby and me" And this is on tv. News correspondences are guilty of it as well. Is it part of our "dumb down" society? Or, perhaps the rule has changed (as in there's no more rules!) in the last several years and I didn't get the memo??
I finally figured out that the influx of mistyped words that make NO sense whatsoever is due to texting. I just started texting in the last couple of months. I proof read and correct mistakes. Is that not considered necessary in the texting world? I also have a feature that lets me set how long of a pause I'd like after I hit SEND. I have it set for 5 seconds in case I HAVE SECOND THOUGHTS ABOUT SENDING IT!
I have fond memories of rotary dial telephones and someone ringing my doorbell:)

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 3:14PM
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I suppose this is along the same lines ... Yesterday I saw a business email that was sent to a friend by someone with whom she works. My friend's name is Trudy. The salutation read, "Hi Turdy ..."

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 3:46PM
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Sunny, you are on a Roll lol!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 4:09PM
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My father always proofed his letters when he signed them (and dictated including punctuation) and one day his secretary ran in and said Dr._____! I nearly mailed this, you missed a bad one!.

Instead of Dear Ms Bartolo, the letter said Dear Ms. Fartolo.

My Dad said "I didn't miss it, that woman's (from some regulatory agency) a PITA, send it."

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 4:40PM
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monica, what about the people who over-correct and say John and myself are going to...?

I never heard of the pause feature for texting. That sounds like a good idea.

Or how about the gmail feature that keeps you from sending drunk emails?

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 5:35PM
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One time the top sales person in our company was in a hurry to send off a very large quote. She asked me to look over the quote to make sure she didn't leave anything out. I decided to check over the wording as well.

She had written to Smith (made up name) and As*s. I knew we could say assoc. but since it was a quote over a million dollars, I figured spelling out associate was better. She almost fell over when I showed her the typo. (what I called it). We had a good laugh! She got the contract a week later after they reviewed the no errors quote! LOL

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 5:49PM
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I have never talked about the first kitchen remodel that I did. It was many many years ago , ancient history but...we had Lowes come out and measure for the cabinets and the sink placement and countertop. We were getting everything from them. The guy came and measured and we gave a deposit.

So weeks go by and no word...none. I called and the guy was never there and no one else seemed to be able to help us. We finally went out to the store. The guy was there. He acted like he had never seen us DH is an albino with a full white beard so he is pretty hard to forget..but we gave him our full name...he looked in a file folder stuffed with invoices...leafed through and then again...looked at us and asked us to spell the last name again...continues to leaf through the folder...then he looks up at us and asks ," Are you SURE that is your last name ?" . I had to sit on the floor...almost peed my pants I was laughing so hard. I finally gasped to DH...honey are you sure that is our last name ? " We got our deposit back and started over. c

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 6:04PM
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Funny, funny stuff (but pathetic too).

terriks, that too! It's (me vs I) so prevalent that I began to questioned myself!
The text app I use that has the "timer" for sending is called Handcent (Droid market)

Several years ago I was on the witness stand being crossed examined. Several parents were sued by a teacher because we insisted she not read particular books to our elementary aged children.
During questioning, the lawyer asked me, "So did you eventually leave the building?" LONG pause. My mind is spinning. I decided to answer the absurd question with an absurd answer. "No sir, I'm still there" :D The judge chuckled :)

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 2:28AM
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Years ago, long before e-mail and when women were still fairly uncommon in the tech world, I worked with a lady named Dot Thomas. She went on a business trip and had things arranged via phone. She had a very precise voice, so she and other men she was traveling with made no pretense about their business. They had, at the time, arranged for a plane to arrive at a certain time (this was a chartered flight, back in the day). When they arrived, the red carpet was rolled out, a car was waiting, coffee was served when they arrived, and they wanted to know which one was 'Dr. Thomas'. Imagine what happened when she told them her name was Dot. And their embarassment. She was a good friend and has long since passed on but I remember that story. She always got a kick out of it.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 11:12AM
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You all have had me laughing for the past two days!

Here is a recent email from a company I order from.

Yes they are both still in stock. Please let me know if you don't get the fax. We are sorry for your incontinence.

Yes, I received the fax and have faxed the payment to you.
Uhm....did you really mean to say: We are sorry for your incontinence?

Yikes No!
I am so sorry that is what happens when you hit spell check and answer the phone!!!!!!!
I have received your Acknowledgment and we are processing your order.
Thank you for your Patience!(easier word to spell!)

I was hoping it was a typo! Lol!

That correspondance still makes me snicker!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 12:31PM
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ME: That is just a picture of your furniture in the parking lot of the antique store.

Quick! Call Restoration Hardware. Another new concept for their catalog! "Deconstructed" furniture displayed in parking lots all over the world.

This kind of reads like Up the Down Staircase for the design set. You really need a blog.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 3:47PM
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Working with lots of different people makes you either super patient or ready to lose your mind! I am a counselor at an area high school to over 750 students so I know your pain! I use email almost exclusively now and love how parents rarely read my whole emails.
This was my favorite from last week from an email I sent to the whole school.
Me: Monday Lunch Chat will be held on Monday Oct. 15th.
Parent response: what time are you holding the meeting?
Me: At lunch. All of my lunch chats are held then.

I forwarded it to my boss and still am laughing about it.

I get a gem at least once a day:)

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 7:34PM
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CKGM mayne I am missing something, but when my kids were in high school there were several lunch times.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 7:52PM
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CKGM, so are all lunches at the same time? It's funny, but I probably would have responded the same way the parent did. Maybe I am missing something! :).

At our elementary school, lunches run from 10:30 until almost 1:00 (we have over 1,000 students).

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 8:05PM
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Whoops, ellendi, you and I were posting at the same time, I guess.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 8:07PM
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I send short simple emails asking a couple of questions. Usually only one question gets answered. How am I supposed to do it? Send three emails? I don't know.


OK I just have a couple of questions for you;
1. question one
2. question two
3. question three

Once you get back to me on these we can finish this up.

Response example;

Reply to question two. And comment or complaint about something we resolved a month ago. Questions one and three are not addressed. Oh and they want to know how long it will take to finish.

I'm completely confused about people anymore.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 10:20PM
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kathy77, me too! My favorite is when they read the email, call me up and say that my email didn't make sense or they still don't know what I want. So I read the email to them exactly as written and they say "Oh, that's easy, why didn't you just email those questions?" Grrrr!

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 10:27PM
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I have gotten to the point where, if I have ten questions for someone, I will send ten separate emails, one at a time, and wait for a response to each one before I send the next.

I have even sent pictures embedded in emails (not as attachments) where it says "see picture" and they don't see it because they don't scroll down.

Not everyone is like this, but a lot of people seem to be.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 11:23PM
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