I live a block from the Post Office in a relatively small city. It qualifies as “rural,” which means that the Post Office doesn’t have to deliver mail to my home, so as to guarantee revenue to the PO in the form of renting a PO box, something which has increased in price at about five times the inflation rate while I’ve lived in my house. Thus, if anybody is sending anything to me via USPS, they have to send it to this PO Box. Thus, my bank only has the PO Box address for me. However, anybody sending anything to me by any other shipper can’t use the PO Box, so they need my street address. Fortunately, USPS has an ingenious way of handling this: they only look at the last address line above city, state ZIP to deliver to. Thus, you can put whatever you want above that line and USPS will blissfully ignore it and deliver it to that last listed address. Not a bad little system, really.
But it is way, way too complicated for people who write address parsers. Some will allow multiple address lines, but they don’t seem to understand why those other lines are there. Paypal won’t validate my full address, with both street and PO Box forms, because the bank doesn’t use both. Not a few online merchant systems barf when you try to ship to a Paypal non-validated address, and hillarity has ensued not a few times when a merchant has decided to ship to my street address with USPS.
Well, today’s adventure was with eCost.com, someone who has shown up on a RSS feed I have for tech bargains. They had some items I wanted at prices I wanted, so I decided to try buying them. Silly me! They had an option for Paypal checkout, so I thought I’d try that and reduce the number of companies with my credit card number in their databases where they can be stolen and misuesed. Silly me! Their system notices that there is a P.O. Box in the shipping address (along with my street address, as per USPS guidelines), and locks down — can’t possibly process a transaction with a P.O. Box in the shipping address. It turns out that, not only can I not use PayPal checkout, I can’t even pay via PayPal because, when you try that, it sends you to PayPal checkout, third base.
Stupid address parsers. I’m telling you.
Then, adding to the annoyance, when I do their check out, sending my stealable credit card information to their site, their address form munges up my phone number, stuffing the whole number (area code included, and hyphens) into the “phone number” not including area code field and the field is only seven characters wide. And then it barfs when I try to submit the form as it’s sent up — like it’s my fault that their form munged up the phone number.
I’m still doing the purchase, but I got really, really annoyed along the way.
Stupid address form scripts.