I just booked a flight with a company that until today I considered a major Canadian airline. Their online booking system has changed slightly since they switched to SABRE and now they have input constraints that I hope would result in serious marks being docked in an elementary programming course. The company serves all regions of Canada and also offers international flights. But they come up with this:
Please spell your first and last names as they are on your government issued photo ID that you use for check-in. For example if your name is on your passport as Thomas Jones, please enter it as Thomas Jones, and not Tom Jones. Information entered into the name, address, password and cardholder name fields must be entered without special characters. Special characters such as apostrophes, hyphens, periods, symbols or accents (e.g. ^ à é # ) are not accepted in these fields by our system. (e.g. Enter Stéphanie Ducharme-L'Heureux as Stephanie Ducharme LHeureux, St. John's as St Johns, and Apt. # 123 as Apt 123).
I find that unprofessional to the point of insulting. If the purpose of the data is to collect the customer's name and home town, then collect that, not some garbled bastardization thereof. If the purpose is to compare the data with a straight ASCII database, then it is the duty of the programmer to strip or convert unwanted characters. I fly airplanes for a living and I think I could write a function that cleanly replaced accented characters with their unaccented equivalents and removed other special characters from a line of input, in not much more time than it would take me to write and format the dialogue telling the user to. But I'd be more likely to work a little harder to allow my database to spell my customers' names correctly. Asking a person to corrupt her own name for the purpose of buying an airline ticket is requiring a person to lie about her identity and herself. If an airline can't hire a programming staff that can deal with the concept of special characters, it makes me wonder if they can hack the complexities of time zones and confidential information. This would make me laugh if it didn't disgust me.
Update: I wrote them an e-mail to tell them that myself and I promptly received an autoreply beginning ...
If your issue is of an urgent nature (youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re traveling within the next 72 hours and/or needing a change or cancellation to an existing booking), please contact the Sales Super Center at 1 888 WestJet (937 8538).
That's right, travelling is misspelled and there are nine spurious characters replacing the apostrophe in you're. If you work at Westjet in Calgary, do me a favour. Find the person responsible for approving that garbage and slap them upside the head for me.