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Blame game for dummies: Why do we hold McDonald's to a higher standard than Microsoft and IBM?

It's unfair that we have to accept faulty software, says columnist John Brandt. Software companies need to be held accountable and provide what they advertise.

Why is it that we accept inferior products in the operating system world? Could it be because we have no recourse?...

Could it be because we have so few choices?

Would we accept things that are just broken from another sector of business? I'm not sure that we don't already, but the computer business seems to get more attention and less scrutiny than any other area of business and it appears that no litigation is ever pursued for broken products.

When a fishing reel, toy, CD player or other product doesn't work, we take it back and get one that does work. We will take a product back to the local department store for absolutely any reason and expect our money back -- every time.

John Brandt

It's the American way.

Software either works or it doesn't. The problem is that if it doesn't work, we don't ask for our money back. We don't change to a different brand.

With every release of an operating system we accept more and more problems with just a grunt and a groan and a roll of the eyes, but then it's, "I'll go look for a PTF (or Fix pack)." We've been lulled into thinking that an operating system is so complex that it can't possibly be completely tested and that's just the way it is. We accept it as every day affair rather than the fact that we've paid for something that doesn't work as advertised.

Why do we do this? Because who's going to fight them? Who wants to be stuck in court for 10 years?

We hold companies responsible only when we can "sue the pants off of them." But if we did sue, what would we win?

Nothing. And you know why? It's called an End User License Agreement (EULA). You should read at least one EULA and see what you've agreed to. The term "AS IS AND WITHOUT FAULTS" is contained in every license from Microsoft, IBM and most other software companies. It means exactly what it says. You can't sue them for any problem that you have.

That's some racket, heh?

Some agreements also state that if you contact the vendor with a fix, they own the fix and all of the product you produced to fix their problem. Even if a glitch causes business losses, injury or death and the software maker knew it would cause that problem, you still can't sue. Yes, some of these software glitches have actually caused injury and death.

The developer of the operating system is exempt by the acceptance of the EULA. The only reason we can prosecute someone writing a virus is because they didn't distribute a license with the virus and you didn't "Accept" the license. Some wisecrack out there will do it one day, and we will have to figure out how to prosecute them for taking advantage of the lack of testing and stupidity of humans for accepting the agreement without reading it first.

The U.S. Supreme court ruled that you are held to the terms and conditions of the licensing agreement as soon as you break the plastic on the box. Never mind that you can't read the agreement without opening the box. The courts make ridiculous rulings that they could not possibly justify, including when it ruled that a woman who burned her legs with a cup of McDonald's coffee couldn't have known it was hot enough to burn her without the notation on the menu or window that says, "Our coffee is hot and may cause severe damage and/or injury when spilled."

Come on.

Why don't the software companies do proper testing? They don't have to test everything. We are happy to pay them for a product we don't own, test it for them and then pay them by the hour to help us fix their problems. I once spent three hours on the phone with IBM attempting to fix an OS/400 problem. They required that I give them a credit card to bill because I wasn't an "employee" of the company who had the service contract and the "employee" wasn't available at 3:00 a.m. to confirm my request. Microsoft is even worse.

Who is to blame? When a problem arises in an iSeries shop, it's usually either the program, the operating system or the generic "give it the three fingered salute" -- meaning it's a Microsoft problem. But who is really to blame when an operating system glitch is at fault? When I figure out why it is that we have to tell someone that "hot coffee" means it is really hot, but we can hold users accountable for 20 pages of lawyer talk before they can actually read it, I'll let you know. Overall, we are all to blame because we don't hold Microsoft, Apple, IBM and others to a higher standard of quality than we do McDonald's.

Of course, I wouldn't really know. I'm just a flunky programmer.

About the author: John Brandt is a site expert on and vice president of technical services, He welcomes your comments and feedback; send them to


.c9JgakJTCEH.0@.ee84639/47>Read what others have to say about IBM's lack of quality and post your own comments.

This was last published in June 2003

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