After years of education it's very hard for me to turn off "professional criticism mode" and I try to do my best to channel it into feedback forms and suggestions on surveys, but sometimes those just don't seem to be very effective. I don't think that my blog is any more effective as a platform for change, but I do see it as a better venue for saving such bits of wisdom to use as potential ammo against myself should a product I'm involved with ever make the same mistakes.

So here's a simple bit of advice as an aphorism, and then I'll follow it with the story:

A confirmation page should confirm any options attached to an item, even if said options are embedded into a SKU/product code.

I recently attempted to purchase a t-shirt from an ecommerce contractor of a giant media corporation. I finished the purchase and went, "Oh shit! Did I order the right size?" That was followed by, "Well, I would have noticed on the confirmation page..." and then immediately by "Wait! It wasn't on the confirmation page!" I navigated back through all the screens trying to figure out what size I might have ordered. The form with the size choice said "Small", but I wasn't sure if that was thanks to good ole stateless HTTP and my web browser smashing back to the default or if that was what I had actually placed an order for. Eventually I found what might be the size hidden in the long pseudo-random looking SKU code and it also said small. So I sent and email immediately on discovering my issue and got a back a kind response telling me it was too late.

I rarely care to protect the names, but for a bad experience the response was ok. They still missed out on a few niceties: I can't say enough about consumer-friendly "printable return barcode with no additional shipping costs for the consumer", and I guess Amazon and a few others have spoiled me. Perhaps most odd was that they didn't appear to read the included "return form" (why require it if you aren't going to read it?) and instead of sending the requested exchange for a larger size simply credited the cost back to my PayPal account.

Rather than bother trying to purchase the original product that I wanted I instead used the credit as part of a donation to Child's Play via the Desert Bus for Hope (Desert Bus 2: Bus Harder) "project" [1].

I won't give the name, but I can't help but copy and paste this ridiculous self-description of the contractor: "the leader in shopping-enabled programming and content monetization". I find that hilarious and simultaneously sad. I guess that ugly marketingdroid speak makes some sort of sense for such a weirdly constrained niche somewhere between a marketing/PR firm and a just-managed-to-be-more-than-fly-by-night internet dot com company. I can't even imagine the culture of such a beast, to be honest, with a foot in both worlds and apparently the sense of neither. Not that I'm trying to be cruel, I am just fascinated to peel back the layers of an email address to see the originating company and how it sees itself when its trying to sell itself. Obviously I am not the target market for this company; because I am neither a media mogul nor someone with much/any interest in working for a marketing/PR firm that ultimately sells selling and sales-related services...

[1]This group has forced themselves to play a nearly unplayable minigame named Desert Bus for charity. (The minigame was actually built to be a brutally unplayable minigame, as part of a Penn & Teller exposed practical joke. That the minigame was to be included in a Sega CD/3DO/PC game that was never finished and never published seems to make the whole thing even funnier.) Dollars donated to the charity (and they go directly to the charity) are matched with required play time of the mind-numbing Desert Bus.