Thursday, 30 July 2009

Hands across the water--ha!

It’s not such a small world after all, if the difficulties I had trying to shop from overseas websites is any indication.

My sister’s birthday is next week. She’s notoriously difficult to shop for. Making things even more challenging is that she lives in New York while I live in Devon.

An obvious solution is a gift card. My sister isn’t an type of gal, but I did have luck in the past with a gift from Sephora, the upscale cosmetics merchant. Sephora has dedicated sites for 10 countries, including the US (but not, alas, the UK), so I logged on, put a gift card in my basket, and proceeded to checkout.

At that point a warning popped up, something about the name on the security certificate not matching that of the company. Having had problems with identity theft in the past, I opted not to risk it. There are plenty more sites to choose from, right?

Errr… I logged on to Bliss Spa’s US website, Requested a gift card, headed to checkout, filled out the billing-address form. The pull-down menu for the “State/Province” field listed as an option “NA-INTERNATIONAL”, which reassured me that Bliss would have no problem accepting a UK credit card.

The next field was “Country”. I clicked on the pull-down menu; the only options were US and Canada.

Why, then, was I allowed to select “international” in the “State/Province” field if Bliss doesn’t except international payment?

Next stop: the Barneys New York website. Barneys is a super-upscale boutique department store. When I went there once to buy a bottle of Annick Goutal perfume, the sales staff could barely be bothered to ring up my apparently insignificant $95 purchase. It is also one of my sister’s favourite stores, which explains why she is very difficult to shop for.

Although a $50 gift card at Barneys would just about cover the cost of a pair of pantyhose there, I forged ahead. Here, the billing-address form gave “Non-US/other” as an option for the “State” field. Unfortunately, the only option for the “country” field was the US.

If a website doesn’t want to accept payment from outside the its home country, fine. But don’t lead us along, presenting us with options that aren’t really valid.

And if my sister is reading this: Your birthday gift may be a bit late, but it’s not my fault, I swear.--SC

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