C’mon Pizza Hut

All I wanted was a pizza… just one pizza…

So I’m craving pizza and Pizza Hut deep dish comes to mind. Mmm. I should know better by now, but I went to their website on my phone to see if I could order online. That’s when I encountered a new level of BS usability.

screen shot of Pizza Hut website on a mobile phone with the warning ALERT You are in private browsing mode. please switch to normal mode.
Screen shot of pizzahut.com on my phone

Umm, WTF? Why do you need to track me when I want to give you money? I tapped ‘OK’ and seemed to be able to use the site with incognito mode anyway. Didn’t bother to try to order anything though. You want to block me, I block you and support local business by picking up Double Dave’s, which I learned has a tasty deep dish crust too.

Amazon Locker

I recently tried out Amazon Locker for a package return and it was a great experience. Usually, I choose the UPS drop off option. During my last return, though, I noticed that an Amazon Locker is now available in a more convenient location for me than the UPS Store. So how does Amazon Locker work?

With Amazon Locker, you’re able to drop off (and sometimes pick up) a package at any time to a bank of secure lockers. Shipping for eligible returns is still paid by Amazon and the packages are picked up by the US Postal Service. Next time you start a return, see if there is an option for Amazon Locker dropoff.

Screenshot: Choose Amazon Locker dropoff
Choose Amazon Locker dropoff

If that option is available for your return, you’ll then see a list of drop off locations near you.

Screenshot: Select a drop off location
Select a drop off location

After choosing a drop off location, you’ll get a confirmation message with a date and a drop off code. The reservation is good for only a few days.

Screenshot: your locker reservation is guaranteed through May 8, 2017
Locker reservation confirmed

As with other returns, you’ll get a link to print the return slip and shipping label. This label contains the return code which you’ll need to open your locker.

You’ll get confirmation instructions about the maximum size your package return can be, given the lockers available. Most of the lockers are not very tall. Usually, you can just use whatever box or envelope your item was delivered in.

Screenshot: Confirmation instructions for boxing up your return
Box up your return

It’s time to go to your locker. As it turns out, the one I used is on the side of a gas station convenience store not unlike those Redbox video rental kiosks. It’s bright yellow and I was a little surprised I hadn’t noticed it before while driving by as it’s hard to miss.

Big, yellow bank of lockers
An Amazon Locker location

Each locker bank has a name so you can be sure you’re dropping off at the correct location. Walk on up and start your return using the touch screen.

Touch screen for starting your return
Touch screen on the lockers

There’s a barcode scanner or you can enter your return code on the touch screen. Then, your assigned locker pops open.

Open locker for package return
Open locker for package return

Insert your package, close the door, and you’re done! The touch screen will ask if your locker is too small to fit your package (which happened to me). Just tap ‘yes’ and a larger locker will open.

I was very impressed with this experience. It’s much faster than waiting in line at the UPS Store or a post office. Highly recommended if available in your area.

On Walkability of Communities

My community cause is keeping the sidewalks clear in my neighborhood, primarily the very busy street leading to both a middle school and an elementary school, part of which is in a school zone. On my morning walks, I see parents and kids leaving the sidewalk to avoid things blocking the right of way (ROW).

Our city requires property owners to keep sidewalks clear because the area from the top of the sidewalk to the street is a public easement and intended for equal use by all residents.

map showing public easement between sidewalk and street

What’s the big deal? Well, anything impeding pedestrian traffic makes the community less walkable and presents hazards to those trying to navigate the neighborhood safely. It’s dangerous (and annoying) to lots of community members, including

  • Parents and kids going to school
  • Bikers
  • People pushing strollers
  • Joggers
  • People walking dogs
  • Wheelchair users
  • Blind pedestrians

These hazards fall mainly into two categories: cars and plants.

Cars

In Texas, impeding sidewalks with a vehicle is a ticketable offense. Cars are not supposed to park on or over sidewalks in any way, both by state law and further by city ordinance. Period.

§ 16-5-21 PARKING BETWEEN THE CURBLINE AND THE PROPERTY LINE PROHIBITED
It shall be unlawful for any person to park or permit or cause to be placed, stored or parked any motor vehicle on that portion of the public right-of-way between the curbline and the property line.

car parked over sidewalk near a flashing school zone sign

Some folks want to rationalize their choice to block sidewalks, illustrated nicely in this article. Here’s a video from the story:

In my neighborhood, street parking is not a problem. The roads are wide and there is plenty of room.

Plants

One of the things I love about this neighborhood is that it doesn’t have a homeowners association. No one can tell you what to plant or do with your yard; and with that freedom comes a necessity to keep plants under control. As an ardent gardener, I’m sympathetic to the amount of work it takes to maintain landscaping, until it becomes a safety issue.

overgrown shrubs blocking the sidewalk

The city started a campaign this summer to inform residents of their foliage responsibilities.

Streets, sidewalks, and other public rights of way are for everyone’s use. Property owners are responsible for their private trees and all other vegetation in the public right-of-way next to their property. Overgrown vegetation is a safety hazard and limits the use of sidewalks, trails, streets and alleys. It further threatens public safety when vegetation blocks the view of traffic signs, signals, vehicles, or cyclists. Trimming vegetation and caring for your trees are effective ways residents can enhance neighborhood safety.

Next Steps

I think this is primarily a problem of apathy. People don’t care if their cars impede sidewalks probably because they don’t use sidewalks. On morning, I tried asking someone in his car blocking the sidewalk to keep it clear and it did not go well.

Our city has a very useful 311 (code compliance) app where you can log a complaint in real-time with a photo of the issue and geolocation of the address, leaving enforcement to the professionals.

Just as we have to advocate continually for usability and accessibility of digital spaces, the same still holds true for many physical, public spaces. Education and laws are our current tool set. I’m hopeful we can change some minds though awareness, but for the rest who don’t care, it’s important that we make concerns known to community leaders.