Saturday, October 20, 2012

Still LIfe With Robin: You Must Submit

by Peggy Robin

I'm sure this has happened to you: You are shopping online, you find what you want, click to put it in your cart, fill out all the shipping and payment information, and before you click the final "submit" you decide to double-check that you are ordering the right thing. But that last page of the transaction does not contain the details about the item you are about to purchase. And when you go back a page to check, the payment information disappears, and you have to re-enter it.

That's not the worst of it, either. On some websites, when you go back a page to change something, not only do you lose the payment information but you lose the shipping address, too. This can lead to trouble when you are having something time-sensitive (let's say, a textbook needed for a college course that starts in a few days) shipped from your account to the recipient in another state. The default for shipping is your home address, not the student's address, but if there's nothing to alert you that it's been changed back to your home address automatically, then the textbook is set on its merry way to the wrong address -- and on top of that, you're out the two-day shipping premium that you paid for fast delivery. Yes, it is your fault for not noticing, but the website does nothing to help you avoid this all-too-easy mistake. And it should! I can't help but think that any good web designer would not set things up this way. Nor should any company want to let its customers mis-ship orders, when it should be a simple thing to alert them to a change in the shipping address before the order goes through. All I am asking is for a chance to view all the details of the order in one place, on a single page, before hitting "submit." Is that really too much to ask?

Okay, okay, that's not all I want. If I could make just one universal fix to the display of shipping information on the pull-down menu on website order forms, it would be this: the destination of DC would always show up consistently alphabetized with the rest of the states. That is, right underneath "Delaware" you would always find "District of Columbia" if the states are spelled out. Or right under "DE," "DC," if the states are in the two-letter postal code format. It just drives me crazy to have to scroll down to the bottom of the list, way past all the states, to find something called, "Washington, DC." But this after I have already identified my city as "Washington." So the package, when it finally arrives, bears a label addressed to "Washington, Washington DC."

If, of course, it actually does arrive. Because it could end up shipped elsewhere, if I've accidentally checked a previous recipient's address as the destination. And that's because I was not able to double-check that before hitting "submit." Which brings me full circle to my original complaint.


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv,, and All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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