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The Appearance of Competency

27 Jan 2004


Is the bottle half empty or half full? I snapped this picture in a terrible chain restaurant in the Atlanta Airport. This ketchup bottle is made of ketchup-colored plastic, giving it the illusion of always being full. The problem was, however, that mine was empty. But nobody knew, so I had to ask for another bottle. The poor waiter had physically lift bottles on all the tables around mine to fine one with ketchup in it; but none had any. He went to the back and refilled mine, leaving the rest empty.

Why would a restaurant use these? They present a clear impediment to efficiency, not to mention a customer annoyance. My only guess is that they’ve chosen a product that gives the illusion of competency despite an obvious usability problem. So in the end, employees suffer, customers suffer, and the company comes out looking, well, stupid. ​

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