22 Apr 2010

The US can improve

After a few months in Australia and New Zealand, I think we need these changes:
  • The metric system! Would 2 yrs matter?
  • Sales taxes included in prices, but footnoted on the receipt
  • No tipping*
  • Mailboxes that we can modify -- especially with the right to refuse junk mail.**
  • gas prices that do NOT include tenths of pennies, e.g, $2.349/gallon.***
What are your ideas for improvement?

* Tipping is complicated. On the one hand, they give people an incentive to give good service, even if their "glad to see you smile" is rather fake. OTOH, tipping allows employers to pay VERY low wages, with the rationalization that employees who are "worth it" will earn their wages from customers. I'm starting to think that the tip system is more about paying less than better service. (We got excellent service from untipped employees who were proud to be doing a good job.)

** I was complaining to a USPS rep one time about "junk mail." She corrected me with "No, it's not junk mail; it's business bulk mail, and our customers pay us to deliver it." WTF? Who are your customers?! damn.

*** Sadly, gas prices did include tenths of pennies, a wasteful habit -- all those extra nines -- that appears to be a marketing gimmick.


  1. You are speaking my language!

    David, you can call me any time to talk about this stuff...

  2. As an Australian living in the US and being frustrated by these things every day, I'm happy to see that I don't just prefer things the Australian way because it's what I'm used to. There are a lot of good ideas around the world that make life easier for people (many of them small ideas like these), and it is frustrating when people choose instead to make life more difficult for themselves when there are solutions out there. The US seems particularly oblivious to a lot of good ideas around the world, perhaps because of its unusually large population and economy.

  3. I've moved from pro-tipping to anti-tipping over the past decade. I'm not sure service by the waiter is really separable from other things that go into the experience, and would rather the entrepreneur figure out how to allocate resources to give me the best value for my money and not ask me to try to itemize it for him.

    I really don't get the response to tenths of a pennies, though. It would make more sense to me if gas actually came in discrete gallons, but you're buying 12.793426 gallons anyway. (I internalize "2.349" as "2.35", anyway, the same as $19.95 is $20. There must be people who don't.)

  4. Come on, guys. Does everything have to be so rational? Can't the US just do things the way we do them because that's how we like them?

    By the way, the biggest handicap the metric system has in America is the people who do that little chuckle and head-shake. "Those stupid Americans and their pounds and inches. Get with the rest of the world." Speaking for myself, I find that attitude annoying enough that I'll tolerate imperial units just for spite.

    The tip is a nice, personal touch that establishes a direct relationship between the waiter and the customer. It reinforces the idea that, for the next ninety minutes, he works for me. What is the problem?

    No, American is just fine the way it is. Let's leave well enough alone. I vote no. Actually, I take that back, I don't vote at all, I just order my beer by the pint and tip my waitress.

  5. SS says: "Dropping pennies and nickels from our coinage, as New Zealand has done, and rounding prices up. Copper and nickel industry would not be happy, however..."


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