Why is this hard?

So a while
ago
I asked people to tell me what the last version of sendmail was
that required unique forward files for all users to avoid having mail
seem to disappear for some of them. Richard Soderberg sent me the
winning entry: Sendmail 8.11.6, which is to say the behavior is
still present.

I was disappointed by that answer because I wanted to use the contest to
point out cargo-cult behavior. Cargo-cult behavior from intelligent
people is always funny; sendmail being unfriendly stopped being funny
sometime back in the 1980s.

Anyhow, I just went to ThinkGeek
to buy him the promised t-shirt. The experience brings me to the
following conclusion:

It should not be really hard to
buy things on the internet in 2003.

So, first of all, he had the t-shirt he wanted on his wishlist. Ok,
great! That means I just click a few times, enter purchase details,
and away it goes, right? No. In order to buy someone something on
their wishlist, you have to already know their shipping address.

So I sent them mail, assuming he hadn’t filled forms out right or that
I’d missed a form somewhere, and they send me a “Sorry, it’s against
our privacy policy to tell you his address” formletter. (Never mind
that I didn’t ask for his address.) Apparently ThinkGeek
expects people with wishlists to give out their home address to anyone
that wants to buy them something because they are concerned about
privacy.

Being committed to buying the t-shirt, I have to give money to these
people anyhow, so I write the wishlist off as broken and just go through
the usual menus to buy the t-shirt. I get to the last page of the
transaction, and I get this error:

DOH! Seems as though we have a problem!

There was an error processing your credit card. Please verify
your credit card information (and billing address) and try
again or try a different card. The specific cause of the error
was:

Invalid request data.

Ah, yes, INVALID REQUEST DATA. How helpful. It’s always nice to see
at the end of a transaction that the whole thing was built by
yahoos that don’t understand why internal errors shouldn’t be exposed
to the customer. Also, note to marketing: I bet customers who are
giving you money grudgingly to begin with don’t think “DOH!” on a
“Your card was declined” message to be as funny as you thought it was
when you put it in.

On the other hand, I recently needed more rechargable batteries,
and once again I found the buying experience from the cosmopolitan and
high-tech >Thomas Distributing — which I suspect is a 200-square-foot store
with two or three employees, in an industrial park somewhere — to be pleasant and effortless.

At least I will soon be able to revert to my policy of not giving
money to companies that put effort into not accepting it.