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April 26, 2005 12:01 AM

Broken: Business Week's internationalization

BusinessweekReuven Lerner writes:

I was recently living and working in Israel.  About four years ago, I went to BusinessWeek's Web site and registered in order to gain access to its content.

Unfortunately, BusinessWeek didn't just want to get my name and e-mail address; they wanted to get all of my contact information.  One of the mandatory fields in their registration form asked for the state in which I live, in a text field (rather than a pull-down list).

Hoping that some human would read the addresses that were entered, I used the limited space to indicate that Israel doesn't have any subdivisions such as states or provinces.

Little did I know that my registration information would be handled by a computer, and that it would be used to send me (paper) solicitations to subscribe to BusinessWeek.

Every six months or so, I am asked if I want to subscribe to the magazine.  As you can see from the scanned form that I have enclosed, my little address correction from oh-so-many years ago has remained undetected in their computer system.


I've worked in a printing house for a few hours and I would see stuff like that go by all the time. Quite sad but entertaining.

Posted by: jeff at April 26, 2005 12:49 AM

A very common case of bad design. The country I live in has provinces, but we never specify them in addresses.

People who do forms for such things should make sure the state/province input is not required for non-us/canadian addresses or at least have a "N/A" or "Non-US" option in the selection field if it is a dropdown list.

Posted by: Steven at April 26, 2005 01:44 AM

When I get to an intrusive form that insists it has to have an address for me I just write "you don't need this." All sorts of mail may be addressed to me but at least I don't actually get any of it.

Posted by: Carol at April 26, 2005 03:07 AM

Hee! On one of the forms I recently filled up (don't remember who for), they had a "Beyond Limits" option for state if you lived outside the US.

I had address labels written "Cyberjaya, Selangor, Beyond Limits". XD

Posted by: Tiara at April 26, 2005 07:34 AM

Does it come with a pre-paid envelope to return the subscription in? If so, have fun posting all your junk mail to them.

Posted by: Alden Bates at April 26, 2005 08:29 AM

Funny how it says "Professional Service" and then lists your address as Israel Doesn't...

Posted by: Unkownimous at April 26, 2005 08:31 AM

Just as bad: registration forms on web sites (newspapers, for instance) that not only have a 'state' field with no 'other' option, but absolutely require you to have a five-digit postal code.

See my own rant on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's (intrusive) registration form here:

Posted by: codeman38 at April 26, 2005 10:34 AM

What's truly broken is $230 for a subscription to a magazine that lost its way years ago.

Posted by: Citizen Of Trantor at April 26, 2005 10:41 AM

That is too funny. One time, my brother was online, ordering financial information from a company. At this time, he was in University, and thus was unemployed. The web site would not let him request the financial info unless he filled out all of the fields (Job title, company...) so he filled them out randomly. A week later the information came, and this is what was on the label:

Dr. Jayson XXXXX

Director of Lesbian Research

Lesbian Company of Canada

123 Street, Quebec Canada

xxx xxx

The person who delivered the mail must have gotten a huge laugh out of that label!

Posted by: Adina at April 26, 2005 10:55 AM

What's sad is many companies will not ship to PO Boxes. I once signed up for a free item which was very small and would easily fit in a PO Box, but when I entered that in the address the web page said they don't deliver to PO Boxes. I got around that by sending it to P-O Box, and it arrived a week later.

Posted by: Roger at April 26, 2005 11:27 AM

I just noticed something even more interesting-- the phone number it says to contact for assistance on the BusinessWeek subscription is a UK number! That makes the whole state/province thing seem especially odd...

Posted by: codeman38 at April 26, 2005 11:36 AM

What's broken is web sites that a) make you register first, and b) think people will actually enter legit information. (Well, I guess one person in Israel has...)

Posted by: Jacques Troux at April 26, 2005 12:41 PM

well, on posting legit info, my address is

Posted by: Bob at April 26, 2005 01:27 PM for mandatory registration pages.

'Nuff said.

Ok, but I'm gonna say it anyway, darn it: I HATE those stupid "to help us serve you better" web forms you're supposed to register on to see online content. You WERE serving me better when I could go directly to the friggin' article without giving you enough personal information to open a bank account and obtain my personal medical history, thank you very much.


It's okay, I'm done now.....

Posted by: Erich at April 26, 2005 02:42 PM

Ok, this is a bit unrelated, but I just have to ask... Why does the NYTimes require registration for full text articles, yet recommend the use of There's a link to the relevant article at the bottom of the bugmenot main page. I won't include the URL, because it's way too long.

Posted by: anitsirK at April 26, 2005 04:02 PM

A problem I've had is that many of Bugmenot's accounts don't work. I wonder if that's because some evil person decided to enter nonexistent accounts.

Posted by: fuzzy at April 26, 2005 05:08 PM


If a URL is long, you can always use some free web-service that does link shortening (for example or and such). And the aforementioned NYT article link becomes

Posted by: FL at April 26, 2005 05:30 PM

You can report the accounts as not working on Bugmenot. I use the bugmenot extension ( for Firefox ( and it works great.

Posted by: Roger at April 26, 2005 05:32 PM

That's great. Just great!

Posted by: no one at April 26, 2005 07:49 PM

Erich said: You WERE serving me better when I could go directly to the friggin' article without giving you enough personal information to open a bank account and obtain my personal medical history, thank you very much.

Right! Exactly! Right on!

The information is to serve THEM better, of course, not us, and they ought to come right out and say "We want this information so we can charge more money for our online ads. Please help us out by providing it".

If the sites that required registration were upfront about why they want the info, they might get better info.

I wonder how many people registered at the NY Times site live in Albania. That's the first country in the drop-down list.

If you register at the NY Times, and use something like for your e-mail address, and tell it to remember you, then you can go directly to the articles from links such as or without having to see the reg page.

Posted by: DWalker at April 28, 2005 11:44 AM

There's sanity behind the no PO boxes rule and the mere fact that yours worked doesn't mean it always will.

PO boxes can only be reached by postal mail. Package delivery serivces can't send to them. Thus if the company always ships by UPS they can't allow PO box addresses. Some companies ship by various methods depending on what's cheaper for that package.

Incidently, size isn't a problem. I've gotten oversize stuff in a PO box before. They handle it the same way they handle packages with the cluster box up the street--if you get something too big you find a key instead of the item. The key will open another box at which point you can't remove the key but you can get your item out.

Posted by: Loren Pechtel at May 1, 2005 11:30 AM

I just had a really scary thought. What if it wasn't read by a computer?


Posted by: Mike Dodson at May 15, 2005 06:04 PM

You could have written "Central District" in the state/province box, as Modi'in is in the Central District.

Posted by: Gabriel at September 11, 2005 03:11 PM

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