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Needlessly Annoying

I just entered my account number at Chevron/Texaco's site, in order to recover a lost user name. The form to do so simply has a text box saying "Account Number." When I look at my account number on my bill, as printed by them, it is a sequence of numbers separated by hyphens, so I type it in as they give it to me on my bill. So of course, it kicks out an error message, telling me not to include any dashes or spaces.

I find it easier to separate the subnumbers, because it makes the number easier to read and verify. Back when I was doing web site ecommerce (over a decade ago), I found it a trivial task to write a line of perl that would strip out extraneous characters, and convert the string to a pure string of digits. Has the technology degraded since then to the point that they have to annoy their customers by making them enter a perfectly valid number twice?


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Some guy wrote:

Sorry for the off-topic post, but at least it's a computer related problem.

Your xml feed file at is not updating itself. The last post listed in that file is "There Is So Much I Could Write About This Subject".

Rand Simberg wrote:

It hasn't worked properly since I upgraded Movable Type. One of many things like that...

Jeff Medcalf wrote:

May I suggest David Platt's fine "Why Software Sucks and What You can do About It." It covers exactly this kind of crap design.

Carl Pham wrote:

Hmm. The interesting part here is that you trusted them to get the rest of the programming right, the key critical stuff that keeps your account correct and your private information out of the hands of thieves, even after thinking they couldn't do a tr/-//d on their input...

I hope you also realize this is a common feature of trojans. If they can hijack your connection for a moment, they get you to type in the account number and password, then give you an "error" message and re-direct you to the correct site, having harvested your important data without your noticing it. I assume you checked the URL carefully before you typed in your data the first time. Plenty of people don't, unfortunately, or even have the URL display turned off because it looks like so much gobbledegook most of the time.

Rand Simberg wrote:

No, Carl, I don't go to fake web sites. I spend a lot (probably too much) of my time reporting phishing emails that I get on a regular basis.

Jethro wrote:

My favorite e-commerce stupidity right now is sites that think they know how to do my address better than me, namely I have an address something like 7789 K 5/8 Road (the county's on a grid, useful if your a little lost, though being surrounded by distinctive mountains helps too). Old Navy and recently iTunes both reject the slash and if I recall right, number in the road name. So I'm reduced to writing K Five Eighths Road. Thankfully, it never stops the charge going through, though I wonder how thankful I should be for that...

Carl Pham wrote:

Reporting phishing sites? Golly, to whom? Do you ever get a response?

Rand Simberg wrote:

To these folks. Unfortunately, I don't get a response, which considerably lessens my motivation to do it.

Bob Hawkins wrote:

Whenever I get one of those forms that can't handle dashes or spaces, I assume they're re-using BASIC code from 1979.

Peter wrote:

Those sites probably use one of those web programming languages designed to 'make things easy', at least as long as you stick with the stuff the designer thought of. The moment you venture into something 'difficult', you really miss having a real programming language, like perl.

I'm sick and tired of people who know squat about computers making big computer decisions, and falling for whoever has the best marketing department. Real techs don't need a slick marketer to direct them to good software products and tools.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on March 3, 2008 10:40 AM.

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