How Staples.com lost my business today

My wife and I are in the process of moving. In the scheme of things, we're not moving all that far (approximately 660 meters if Google Earth can be trusted). In New York City you only need to move an avenue or two to be in a completely different neighborhood.

So, we're moving, and I want to get various things lined up. I used the U.S.P.S. online address change form, am forwarding all of our mail to a P.O. Box to "cleanse" our data trail in Corporate America's databanks, and am trying to figure out our broadband solution (the new building has a T1 we're told with no limit on the exclamations. That might have been cool in 1998, but we have and use a 7Mbs DSL line today, which makes a piddling T1 look downright like dialup. I digress.).

I have found it handy to have a stamp with our address on it for the rare times we actually send postal mail, so I went to Staples.com to order a stamp online. I have an account there, which is probably the only reason I thought to go there. After tooling around the site for 30 seconds I got asked if I wanted to go to the Staples Custom Printing Shop. On clicking "ok", I ended up at http://www.staples.marktheworld.com/browsercheck.asp, which is apparently where Staples has outsourced their custom stamp printing to. The browsercheck.asp in the URL should give away what happened next:

We are sorry for the inconvenience. Our site currently supports only Internet Explorer version 4.0 or higher. This is due to the advanced features used in the product customization process.

Come on. I mean, sure, they probably used an ActiveX control written in 1999 to show what the stamp would look like. And MSIE is used by, what, 80% of the worldwide marketplace? And they probably don't want to waste the precious investment in the ActiveX and ASP coding. The net result is that they lost me as a customer, there is no reason, today, to be designing web applications solely for one browser platform. None. I will accept that if you're on a tightly controlled intranet you might consider it, but really there's just no reason for this.

Posted in Opinion & Analysis

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