Author’s Note: From time to time I’ll be posting about things that bug me and what I’d do about them were I given carte blanche - here’s the first in a series…

Today, I tried to renew a subscription for an association I belong to by going to their website; I was looking forward to this because they’re based in the US and being able to renew online, even with a $1.94 “internet processing charge” would be cheaper than going to the bank and getting charged $5 for a US money order, then spending another buck on postage.

Alas, it was not to be.

While the mandatory fields included “state” and “zip code,” I incorrectly assumed that since there was a pulldown selection for “country” I’d be given some leeway, but no…if I didn’t enter a state and 5-digit zip code, I wouldn’t be able to process my membership renewal.

Since the assn. newsletter I received in today’s e-mail was the edition stating that the online registration was available I wrote a reply asking if the site could be updated to allow non-US members to use it; I received a private e-mail saying that it wasn’t cost-effective at this time to alter the form but if I were willing to call the registration person (long distance, on my dime), he’d try to register me over the phone. I figured that a call might be cheaper than the time and gas to hit the bank, plus the bank fees for a money order, so I gave it a shot.

Unfortunately, he was unable to process my credit card information for some reason; I’m thinking it’s because he was entering it on a US computer when I’m located in Canada…I may be off-base here, but stranger things have happened.

When the smoke cleared I ended up going to the bank anyway, but I was able to combine it with other errands so it wasn’t a total waste - still, it pisses me off that things like this happen. I know that there’s a lot of pre-built merchant systems out there and that the association isn’t completely to blame for using something that doesn’t allow people outside the US to access it, but I do blame them somewhat for not thinking of this before they implemented it. I asked if they could at least put a notice on the site that the renewal forms can’t be used without having a US address; they said they would do so but it hasn’t happened yet.

This long, drawn-out preamble is meant as a lead-in to how I’d change things if I were Emperor of the World:

1) All pre-built shopping cart software would be written in either a country-specific or worldwide version and sites would need to clearly mark them as such…no more bullshit of having the option of selecting a different country when you can’t complete the transaction.

2) While we’re at it, everybody would standardize how credit card numbers are entered on their sites; while most sites want you to enter your CC# with no spaces between the numbers, there are still some sites that expect you to include the spaces - and what’s worse is that almost NOBODY lists the format they want it in, which means if you don’t do it the way they want it’s just rejected with no explanation - and you’re so desperate to order your goat porn Chick tracts that you keep trying various permutations in the hope that eventually, you’ll get lucky.

3) Oh what the hell…hey, people that program ATMs, here’s one for you: If I enter my PIN incorrectly, tell me right away - don’t make me wait until I’ve punched in all my transaction details, and only then tell me that I messed up and I have to start all over again! Sweet zombie Jebus, folks, do you really think someone trying to fraudulently use a bank machine is going to be deterred by making them take extra time to guess a PIN? I suppose it could be worse, though - everybody should be grateful that you’re better at designing ATMs than you are with electronic voting machines.

I’m not asking for much here, people, but be warned - HEADS WILL ROLL.

Now put down the Twinkies and Mountain Dew, get off your fat coder asses and get to work.

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