I realize that I’m at risk of turning Making Light into the outlet for a series of appalling Andy Rooney-esque rants against the annoyances of the modern world. This is what happens when you get old.
But I can’t resist sharing with the Fluorosphere what happened to me, just now, when I tried to purchase actual home delivery of that famously financially-challenged and yet still essential newspaper, the New York Times.
As many of you know, “Nielsen Hayden” is my legal last name. It’s also what’s on any the credit cards I would be using to pay for this subscription, if I could get past this screen. Yes, it’s true, in 2012, even institutions as stupid as Mastercard, Visa, and American Express have managed to wrap their walnut-sized dinosaur brains around the idea that some people’s surnames have a space in them. A space in them! Good God, man, no one can live at that speed. You’re asking the impossible. (Cue Eddie Izzard: “The Dutch speak four languages and smoke marijuana.”)
So I’m a little dubious about simply entering “Patrick Hayden,” even leaving aside the fact that being told by a farking commerce website that my actual last name is not “a valid last name” is (a) pointlessly offensive and (b) a complete violation of sensible UI design practice.
And before you ask, yes, I got the same error message when I added a spurious hyphen and entered “Nielsen-Hayden.”
Really. Does the New York Times refuse to accept subscriptions from Gordon Van Gelder? Or Greg Van Eekhout? Or Daniel Day-Lewis?
Whoever maintains this site for the New York Times needs to read Patrick McKenzie’s magnificent Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names. And whichever New York Times employee is responsible for soliciting print-delivery subscriptions on the Web needs to get out their ass-kicking boots and commence using them for their stated purpose.
“Please enter a valid last name.” Please kiss my double-last-name-with-a-space-in-the-middle ass, The New York Times.
UPDATE, December 12, 7:40 PM: Three tweets from @NYTdigitalsubs, about an hour ago. In essence, they say please send your email address so we can fix this, and then we’ll try to fix the larger issue. Well okay then. Good going, New York Times.