Inconvenient Convenience: Signs Your Retail Website Sucks

Happy Shootin’ DudeSomething has been bothering me for a while now. And this morning it came to a profanity-hollering head, which means it’s time for a rant. But first let me ask you a few questions: When you step up to the checkout counter at your local grocery store, do you have to fill out an application to make your purchase? No, just hand over a fistful of green and walk out with your grocery bags. And how about the electronic store? Same story right? Now what about the post office? Do you need to your information on file to buy stamps? No again, right?

So why in the name of Lucifer’s left ass-cheek should you have to create a profile when you make a purchase online? Isn’t shopping online supposed to be a convenience? Isn’t it supposed to be as easier to buy on the internet than in real life?

Let me explain why this incredibly stupid process has me foaming at the mouth this morning. As a great fan of taking care of as many chores as possible on the internet, I decided to go online to print out some postage for some cigars I’m sending to a friend. I know I have an account on the USPS website, so I spend fifteen minutes trying to remember what my user ID and password are. In no time it becomes clear to me that not only do I not remember it, I apparently made a typo when I answered the “secret question” to reset my password.

No matter, I’ll just buy the postage without signing in. No big deal. So I enter a page worth of shipping details and click continue and boom, I’m looking at a login or register page. What the hell? I can’t buy postage without surrendering all my personal details for them to store in their customer database for my convenience? What if I don’t want you to remember my credit card information and address for my convenience? It’s not very convenient to have to enter all my details twice to make a purchase, especially if I almost never use your service!

To add insult to injury, what’s the deal with all the password restrictions? If you require the user to enter a password with 2 uppercase letters, 5 lower case letters, 3 symbols, 2 numbers and a picture of Al Gore in a sombrero, all your securing is the fact that the user will never, ever remember this password. Unless you’re a bank, YOUR WEBSITE IS NOT THAT IMPORTANT. If I want to make my password 1234, which is about as secure as the average person’s ATM PIN, dammit, let me! I’ll even go half way with you on this. If my password isn’t up to snuff, refuse to save my credit card information. Sound fair?

And while I’m on my soap box, let me just mention that if you do make me login to see what’s at the end of link you email me, you damn well better remember where I was going after I sign in. I can’t tell you how much it pisses me off to follow a link, be forced to log in only to be dumped out to the homepage. (Fortunately for things on my desk the USPS website did not do this to me.)

So in summary, let me help all the online retailers out there with a short, simple lists of things to fix to make your user-friendliness to go from crap to cool.

Signs Your Retail Website Sucks

  • You require your customers to create a profile to purchase things you could just as easily buy in a brick and mortar shop.
  • You require your users to create a password more cryptic than the Voynich Manuscript. Unless you’re a bank, a brokerage firm, or traffic in information requiring security clearance. (No, secret recipe barbecue sauce does not qualify!)
  • You make me login to follow a link, and then forget where I was going. You forget me, I forget about your website.
  • The only thing I should ever have to enter more than once is my 25 character password, and only when I create that stupid profile.

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  1. Joe Drinker said,

    March 13, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    No profile in brick and mortar shops? You’ve obviously never tried to buy batteries at Radio Shack.

  2. Brian said,

    March 13, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    Actually I did just that a few years back… It was a surprisingly painless transaction. (Though the implant does itch a bit.) Did they introduce yet more reasons not to patronize in the years since I’ve been there?

  3. Nicole said,

    March 13, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Moving back to the states, I was beyond frustrated to find that I need a ‘club card’ to get sale prices at just about every big grocery store, drug store, pet store, etc. And getting one of those cards involves filling out an application where they want way more information than I feel comfortable giving. I had a bit of a meltdown at Von’s one day when the clerk told me I couldn’t have a card without filling out the address portion of the application. After she explained that the whole purpose of the store having my information was for my own benefit, I got so angry that she gave me the card even though I had only given my name. And I’m getting angry all over again while I’m typing this 🙂

    As far as internet purchasing goes, I guess it doesn’t frustrate me as much because it’s been a pain in the ass across the board from the beginning whereas grocery stores requiring you to join their ‘club’ in order to get sale prices is something new (by new, I mean in the last 10 years or so). What I don’t understand is that people don’t seem to be bothered by it. Everyone I know has 10 different cards and they have no problem having to enter their phone number or swipe that card every time they go the store. And the sad thing is that the grocery stores will actually charge you the full price for groceries if you don’t use the card.

  4. Joe Drinker said,

    March 13, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    I don’t mind because I’m a total information whore. I’ll sell my personal information to the highest bidder.

  5. babychaos said,

    March 18, 2008 at 10:39 am

    The one that really gets me going is when they make the phone number field mandatory.

    I don’t want all their marketing information, I don’t want an e-mail from them every three days and since I’m on a special register that means people who cold call me are fined £2,000 a pop I definitely do NOT want to volunteer my phone number and have the buggers ringing me up with special offers at all times of the day and night. What with my phone company utilities, bank and everyone else doing the same thing I have enough of those!

    The other one I hate is “special delivery instructions” and then they give you 40 characters to leave them in. After “If I’m out” you’ve used the sodding lot!

    See now I’m getting angry too!



  6. Brian said,

    March 20, 2008 at 10:52 am

    Thanks for the comments guys! It looks like I’m definitely not alone in my irritation at the ridiculous attempts to harvest personal information in the guise of providing “convenience”! I just hope the ire I’ve raised in everybody has been somehow therapeutic! (Or at least not too damaging…)


  7. December 22, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    Geez, I have filling out all this information to Post a Comment.
    But I did it anyway, just to rant . . . and illuminate you to the fact the USPS does Not WANT, NEED, OR DESIRE you to do it on the internet.

    “The United States Postal Service is currently the third-largest employer in the United States . . . operates the largest civilian vehicle fleet in the world, with an estimated 260,000 vehicles.” Read the Wiki:

    If the USPS cared about you online they would have developed electronic means and methods of communications.

    And BTW, if you lied on any of the registration account details, you are in violation of the law and subject to search and seizure by the USPIS without due process. Get pissed about that!

  8. Brian said,

    December 22, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Dude, what are you doing reading my blog? You should be out delivering the mail!

    You’re probably right that the Postal Service isn’t interested in my wants, needs and desires. As it has no need to operate as a profitable independent business, customer concerns are completely irrelevant.

    But wait a second, why have a website if you don’t want people to use it? I guess in a strange way it makes sense to make these services available online, and make them so painful that people resort to standing in long lines again. You could say, “see that new-fangled innernet thingy ain’t nuthin’ but a passin’ fad” as the lines grow again. Secure in you knowledge that you really do know what’s best for us.

  9. Rick MacDonald said,

    June 28, 2009 at 11:51 am

    I agree completely but this isn’t the half of it…trying using the USPS CONTACT US by email!

    It doesn’t work no matter what info you put in or select. It keeps telling you that you need to select a sub category of which there isn’t any.

    You don’t know FRUSTRATION until you try every which way on their email form trying to get it to process!

    You’d think they’d know something is wrong when they didn’get any emails. I guess they just think their website and sevice is perfect.

  10. July 9, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    you know Rick, thanks for telling it like it is! i feel the same way about the USPS. there in deep SHT and need money from the gov. get a new site buds.

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