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Rick van der Lans

Welcome to my blog where I will talk about a variety of topics related to data warehousing, business intelligence, application integration, and database technology. Currently my special interests include data virtualization, NoSQL technology, and service-oriented architectures. If there are any topics you'd like me to address, send them to me at rick@r20.nl.

About the author >

Rick is an independent consultant, speaker and author, specializing in data warehousing, business intelligence, database technology and data virtualization. He is managing director and founder of R20/Consultancy. An internationally acclaimed speaker who has lectured worldwide for the last 25 years, he is the chairman of the successful annual European Enterprise Data and Business Intelligence Conference held annually in London. In the summer of 2012 he published his new book Data Virtualization for Business Intelligence Systems. He is also the author of one of the most successful books on SQL, the popular Introduction to SQL, which is available in English, Chinese, Dutch, Italian and German. He has written many white papers for various software vendors. Rick can be contacted by sending an email to rick@r20.nl.

Editor's Note: Rick's blog and more articles can be accessed through his BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel.

Last week, my family and I visited a basketball game in Phoenix. The Phoenix Suns were playing against the Philadelphia 76ers. It was a great game, the Suns won with 106-95. However, before I was able to get into the stadium I had the following experience.


A few days prior to this game, I bought the tickets through Ticketmaster.com. To buy those tickets, I had to enter my credit card information. Normally, this doesn't cause any problems, because credit companies operate internationally and know that some of their customers are based outside the US and they know those addresses might have different formats and structures.


What I had to enter was, as you might expect, my name, credit card number, expiration date, and a security number. In addition, I had to enter my address information so that they can verify a few things. So, dutifully I entered my address including the zip code. Entering the address components went well until I got to the zip code. The zip code was not accepted because the system expects five digits and I tried to enter four digits and two letters, which is the format of the Dutch zip code. But it didn't accept the letters. They had probably switched on a simple check: digits only please.


Now, this caused a problem, because for getting through the verification process I had to enter the correct zip code, but for buying a ticket I had to enter an incorrect zip code. Eventually I made the decision to enter the zip code of the hotel I was staying at. And, to my surprise it worked. I got my tickets and printed them.


Unfortunately, Ticketmaster.com had accepted my address information, however the credit card company's IT system had not. I discovered that when I entered the stadium and showed them my tickets. They were not accepted. Guess why? The zip code didn't match the rest of the address and it didn't correspond to the correct address.


How is it possible that in the year 2010 we still have problems with this simple type of data entry. Didn't they get the right definition of zip code from the credit card companies, or don't they check whether the zip code matches the rest of the address? Is their system not aware that the formats of zip codes can be different in other countries? And how is it possible that they first inform me that the credit company has accepted the credit card information, and later on they indicate they haven't. We have about forty years of experience in developing IT systems, and we still make errors such as this.


In the end, I did get in, I just bought new tickets at the ticket sales, and guess what, I got exactly the same seats. I still wonder if I had also entered the full address of the hotel, whether it would have been accepted.

Posted March 2, 2010 5:09 AM
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