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The "zip code" is not universal

Many e-commerce sites and online shops ask you for credit card info (which is, of course, absolutely necessary for completing the transaction), for some data like the address, name, etc, and for the "zip code".


WTF is this "zip code"? What does "zip" stand for?

From what I understand, this is some kind of US "postal code", used to deliver mail to it's destination.


However, in my country there is no "zip code". There is a "postal code" - however, it's not widely used, it's not precise, etc.

So, most people don't use the postal code.


Developers who develop e-commerce sites should be aware that "zip codes" are not universal - not everybody has one!!!

They should now force the buyer to enter a zip code - or, they should allow the buyer to enter "n/a".

Mike
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

One of my personal peeves is sites that have the USA preselected in the country combobox. Extremely arrogant!

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Heh. I coded one of those. The concept is basically:
We built the site in our country, we'll list the countries in any order we like. IOW, not necessarily "US first because US is best" but "US first because that's where we are"

They may not be politically correct these days, but IMHO there's nothing wrong with a little nationalism and patriotism.

However, the original poster was absolutely correct about US-centric myopia. Put your own country first, but be sure to provide for the others (including learning their addressing requirements) if you intend to serve them.

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I've seen many sites which identify your country and present you with the correct currency and address format, any ideas how this is done?

Tony Edgecombe
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

They usually get that information from your browser settings, I guess.

Tools/Internet Options/General/Languages or such

Sam
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Unfortunately it's a very human thing - everyone has a lot of cultural baggage that chances are we're unaware of. 

Case in point - MS Word (un)helpfully tries to put "Yours truly" at the end of a letter.  I assume this is common US practice.  However, being that I'm in the UK where the practice is "Yours sincerley" (if addressed to an individual) or "Yours faithfully" (if not -  i.e. "Dear Sir / Madam") it's a bit of an irritation.  And this is between two countries with a (mostly) common language and a highly interconnected business culture.

A cynic writes
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Philo,

So you're designing the site for your own convenience---"that's where we are"---and not your users?

What's wrong with listing the countries in alphabetical order and not pre-selecting any of them or perhaps having the top item as "Please select country" and pre-selecting that?

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

If 99% of your customers were coming from the US, wouldn't you want to do them a favor and put their country first?  Certainly there are a lot things that we do as americans that are arrogant, but this isn't one.  This is just practical.  I personally think it is crazy that I have to scroll through hundreds of countries that maybe 1 or 2 orders per year come in from, just to find the United States down near the bottom of the list.

christopher baus (tahoe, nv)
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Philo said that he put US first "because that's where we are" which isn't the same as US first because market research has shown that's where the majority of our customers are from.

I don't really give a damn where the creators of a site are based and you'd better be sure that the majority of your customers are *always* going to come from the US if that's your reason.

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

If your customers are from the US then you will of course be "something".us instead of "something".com, won't you? If you are, however, "something".com then you will find that potential non-US customers (somewhat over 6 billion) out number potential US customers (a measly 200 and something million). If you want those 6 billion people going elsewhere then keep your American-centric site, it really is that simple.


Tuesday, October 21, 2003

And one more thing:

Addresses in the US seem to be very short. I don't know why. 2 very short lines of text.

Addresses in Europe are longer.

So - my advice to e-commerce site builders:

- allow the user NOT to enter a "zip code", or allow them at least to enter n/a, or NA

- allow for a long address to be written

Mike
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

The best usability I've seen for dropdown of countries is where they list the common ones right at the top and then rest.

So you get at the top - USA, UK, Canada or something like that.

Really appreciate that.

(Based in the UK btw ;) )

James 'Smiler' Farrer
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I'm irritated every time I must enter the county part of my address on a UK site.  The Royal Mail don't require it as part of the address.  You do enter your post town in CAPITALS don't you? ;-)

John Ridout
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Who gets to decide which countries are the common ones?

This debate reminds me a bit of this:
http://blogs.gotdotnet.com/raymondc/PermaLink.aspx/8b23d26b-7e11-425d-b612-13396ef3ec71

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I don't mind putting USA at the top, but it is annoying that they then use the entire ISO country list for the rest.
How many orders from afghanistan do amazon.com get ?

Then there's trying to guess which to look under:
England,Britain,Great Britain,United Kingdom, or UK

But I suppose that's our fault really !

Martin Beckett
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I think I've only ever seen it listed as United Kingdom actually, certainly on the sites I've used (and I've used quite a few over the years).

My mental model is now to look just above the USA in the list.

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

My own experience with my own sites, in .com domains, suggests that the bulk of customers comes from the US.  Doing something that rules out foreign countries is potentially a bad idea, but there's no benefit to putting a lot of effort into supporting foreign addresses.  You'd be suprised just how few legitimate inquiries come from Albania or South Africa.

As for the country code, that's perfectly reasonable to ask for. The Royal Mail might not require it to deliver within the U.K., but if a package is coming from the U.S. to the U.K., the U.S. Postal Service will require that country code for the package to get where it's going.  The only country we can send to without a country listed, besides our own, is Canada.

You might also be shocked to learn that a lot of businesses aren't really interested in selling to foreign markets.  Just because a business can reach the world doesn't mean that they're targetting the world.  For instance, while all of my customers are accessible to viewers from England, I know that all of them would refuse the business because shipping from the U.S. is impractical. So there's little reason why they should take into account foreign addressing requirements.

Clay Dowling
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Its not that hard to discover the country that an IP address is coming from.  The better sites change the address format depending upon the set of countries.

There are considerable differences between countries in what an address is and how its put together.

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

A lot of sites only have "zip code" because they will only ship to the US.  That is how ours is set up.

Matt Watson
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

This is why forcing the implementation model on the user is hardly ever a good idea. The address is broken out into separate fields is because that's how the database expects to receive it. Why can't the address on a form be a single, multiline edit box which will accept ANY address. Then have the software figure out where the fields should go in the database - why do they need to be split out into constiuent parts anyway???

This way you can have:

  123 Main Street,
  Atlanta, GA 30303

or

  456 The High Street
  London
  5BC 4RY

or

  789 Main Road
  Vancouver
  BC
  8BY X34

etc..

Interaction Architect
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

All this over a Postal Code  (ZIP stands for Zone Improvement Plan and yes it is extremly US centric) and it usually represents a post office in the US that services the address.  I have no Idea why it is still called ZIP (the Zones were improved in the late 1950s or early 1960s) other the US Postal service (then a department of the US Goverment) was very successfull in its education effort.  And oh in the US try sending something by the US Postal service without the ZIP code.  side Note: Presently the US Postal Service is a corperation wholely owned by the US Goverment.

That is what a ZIP code is.

The Software Build Guy
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

"You might also be shocked to learn that a lot of businesses aren't really interested in selling to foreign markets"

I wouldn't be shocked at all. They don't need .com in such cases - they can just stick to their own country's domain suffix, and it will be pretty clear to anyone that they don't sell internationally. And nobody will moan at them for putting "Zip code" or whatever other local peculiarities exist on their form either.

In short - if you want to sell internationally by all means go with .com, .net, etc. but you'd better make damn sure that it all is international otherwise people can be offended and "go" elsewhere.


Tuesday, October 21, 2003

"Why can't the address on a form be a single, multiline edit box which will accept ANY address"

Because the developers were lazy. Because the management wanted it yesterday. Because the board wanted to add a few local curency units to their bottom line this year instead of next.

Pick one.
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Hear hear.

Isn't it about time we replaced postal/zip codes with GUIDs? ;-)

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

So don't split the address fields out in the database. Why do you need to do that, really? If you're shipping something, you've got everything you need in that one field.

And if you need sales metrics is it really that hard to query for geographic info on a single address field?

Interaction Architect
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Zip code (Zone Improvement Plan code) is a means of defining a geographical locality.  Some countries call them postal codes or postal zones.

In theory, in the USA, no zip code should have a duplicate address within it.  Also, no zipcode should overlap two jurisdictions, although I don't know if that is still true.

I/we only require zip/postal code if the client ships to US and/or Canadian addresses only.  When allowing worldwide shipping, we require it until you select a country that does not support the codes.  The reason is money.  Most shippers get a substantial discount when shipping with zipcodes.  The addition of zip+4 can reduce the cost even more as it identifies a sub-district in a zipcode. 

To make it more interesting zipcodes get added every year and the US Postal Service has a pretty hefty fee to send you a copy of them.

As for US first in the list, as I live in the US, I dislike going to the bottom of the list to find United States.  Therefore, I/we usually place the names of the top 3 client countries first and everyone else being alphabetic OR allow you to type in the first letter "U" and jump to those. 

So, there you have it.  More than you ever wanted to, or cared to know about zip codes. 
http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blmailus4.htm

MSHack
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

This problem has largely been solved.

Any corporation interested in catering to an international market years ago created localized websites.  Often you pick your country when visiting a website, and your preference is stored in a cookie.  You are then redirected to a localized version of the website.

Amazon Germany caters to German customers as they should.  They shouldn't have to worry about the occasional American visiting their website in hopes of obtaining that European Import CD for cheaper than in the US, and they don't.

The US version of the Amazon website caters to US buyers.  Each website has its own address entry screen localized for the target audience.  We shouldn't have to lobby for a multinational address entry screen, we should be asking for localized address entry screens.  Amazingly, any site that is interested in a multinational audience already did this years ago!  I therefore don't see any problems with sites that don't cater to all audiences equally.  They often aren't intended to.

Elephant
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Interaction Architect  --  "And if you need sales metrics is it really that hard to query for geographic info on a single address field? "

To me this question boils down to garbage in/garbage out.  The company I work for is very interested in metrics by geography.  But if we were to allow a free text field you would see the "U.K.", "United Kingdom", "Great Britain", "England" phenomenon (nevermind the whole upper/lower case issue) which would be a nightmare.

Better to have a unique field for values that you want coded.  The system we use is 4 lines of free text address, with postal code (yes, we label it postal code even though we're in the U.S.) State/Province (we do most business with US and Canada) and Country (which determines if Postal Code and State/Province is required).

Rob H
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

"Why can't the address on a form be a single, multiline edit box which will accept ANY address"

Where I work the credit card companies want the fields seperated so they can do address verification against the card. I wish I could just say "Type your billing address exactly as it appears on your bill" and have a big text area but they want me to hand them an name, addr line 1, addr line 2, city. state, postal code, country and phone number all in seperate fields. I could program some logic to rip the text apart into blocks, but at $.60 a transaction the cost of each mistake a person makes in their address can be rather expensive. I also like to have the zip code seperated out so I can do some pre-checking of the address to make sure it makes some basic sense. If a town/state/country pairing is not in my system as a part of that zipcode I can issue a warning that says "please double check your zipcode, if it is correct please continue".

I have looked (over a year ago) for and had been unable to find a single registry for all the possible address formats for the major countries we work with besides the US (south america, middle east, asia, and southern europe). I would have loved to have made it so our customer service reps ask what country you are from and they immediatly know the proper verbage to use to ask for the address information they need. The amount of time it was taking to figure the postal codes of just a few key companies out weighed the financial returns of the work and the delays in progress that was expected of the project.

Jeff
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

But it's only been solved for the large Amazon & CNN type corporations. For a small business, such as a gift shop, that wants to sell & ship  internationally, it is not cost effective to deploy and maintain multiple sites. They just need to know where to mail the item.

Interaction Architect
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Hmm.. sounds like there might be a market for a universal address parser...

Interaction Architect
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I make a point in putting in the "zip code" field one of the following things:

"Zip is a computer program - go download it, and read it's binary code"

"PkZip 2.04g"

"WinZip 7"

"Why are you asking for my ZIP files password?"

UnZipCoder
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

What is all this about ".us"?  It used to be that some government pages used .us, like www.ci.nyc.ny.us (city of new york web page) but even those are switching to .gov.  I'm afraid that in our typical american arrogance we've decided we don't need a two letter coutry code.  After all, it's our internet [ducks]

Keith Wright
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

It's worth remembering that .com was originally reserved for US commercial domains.  So if you're not from the US and you're going to a .com domain, don't be shocked when you find a lot of US-centric bias. It really is our domain.  And a lot of us aren't selling to foreign markets.  What I want to know is why the .uk domains don't cater to the U.S. market. I mean, the nerve of assuming that we'll be paying in pounds sterling instead of the more universal U.S. dollar.

Clay Dowling
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

The US doesn't have a country code, just as the UK doesn't put the country code on stamps. Perks of being the first.

By the way Clay, John was complaining about having to put in the county (like Kent or Lancashire) not the country.

The real cause of complaint is that there are still many sites that let you get through seven screens before you find out that they only serve a specific country. This is not just in e-commerce. I have a legit copy of Broderbund Home Architect and Landscape Designer, and both pester me about registration nearly every time I open the program. Yet when I go through all the registration process to get the freebies - well, to get rid of the goddam reminder actually - I find on the last one that they only accept registration from the US and Canada. To add insult to injury the address given on the CD box is for Mindscape UK!

And a minor point. Where do you get these drop down list boxes of countries from? Last time I needed one nobody seemed to know, and I ended up typing a list out.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Mike, there are some differences between your country’s (did you specify Romania in a previous thread?) mail system and Canada’s for instance. In Romania every city has one code and one code only (maybe except for the capital). In Canada, and US for that matter, the resolution goes to a higher degree. For instance in Romania 0300 is the city of Pitesti while in Canada M6R 1P3 is the left side of Geoffrey St from house number 20 to 36 (I’ m just making the numbers up).

The postal codes are useful in two instances. First the postal code checks the correctitude of the address. There are huge databases on CDs to map all postal codes to streets and numbers and all bulk mailers run their addresses thru them in order to pull the wrong ones. Secondly, and much more important for corporations, it allows for huge savings when bulk-shipping. Once the bar code is printed on the envelope, the rate for shipping the letter almost halves because the routing thru the mail system is done automatically instead of having a person to read and decipher it.


Still there is no reason to list Afghanistan and not accept orders from that country. Once you list all countries you have to put all of them on equal footing.

19th floor
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I once worked at a company that had offices in many different buildings in many different states. Their internal mail system used a system of "mailstop" codes that was totally unrelated to the normal U.S. postal system. For instance:

KSOPKC0201

Which means:

KS = State: Kansas
OPK = City: Overland Park
C = Building "C" (arbitrary assignment of letters to every office building in the city.. apparently if there were more than 26 the city code had to be split up)
02 = Second Floor (not sure what they'd do in a building with more than 99 floors)
01 = Mailstop #2

(Note: this is a real mailstop of a real Fortune 500 company.. can anybody here guess which one? Bonus if you can tell me the actual street address.)

Each floor had one or more mailstops (each of which was simply a table with one box labelled "in" and another labelled "out"), usually numbered clockwise around the sides of the office. Every employee knew which mailstop to use for sending and receiving mail, and they even appeared on everyone's business cards.

In addition to actual mail, the mailstop codes were conveniently used for any application that needed to identify locations within the company, such as dispatching on-site repair people for PCs and phones (which was exactly where I worked with them... in the software that was used for said dispatching). They were a lot easy to store in a database than 3 or more lines or random address text.

I've often wished that "real" addresses could be that easy to deal with.

VersaTech
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I'm surprised at the number of responses that say "the US doesn't have a country code" (i.e. top level domain).

Of couse it does - it's .us

It wasn't widely used before because the rules for getting one were obtuse and they were always hierarchical based on your city/state - my rocketry club's domain was nira.chicago.il.us (and can still be reached there). It didn't matter that we weren't just in Chicago, we had to have this as our domain.

Recent changes in .us have changed the rules for new domains, you can buy just about any .us if you meet some simple rules. I actually went ahead and bought the .us counterpart of my personal .org as a backup.

As to '.com is/was US commercial' and 'if you have a .com you better sell around the world' - both are nonsense.

RocketJeff
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

As I've just created a list of countries for a different application...

The ISO list is at http://www.iso.ch/iso/en/prods-services/iso3166ma/02iso-3166-code-lists/list-en1.html

The two letter short code also happens to be the code used for domains.

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Anyone know of a place where I can get information such as this which would be useful for internationalization? Database of address formats, etc.?

Mike Swieton
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Not a database as such, though it might be an entry in UN EDIFACT's repository but this http://www.bitboost.com/ref/international-address-formats.html#Formats
is a reasonable collation of address formats and links

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

"And a minor point. Where do you get these drop down list boxes of countries from? Last time I needed one nobody seemed to know, and I ended up typing a list out. "

Go to a page that already has the drop down, and select "save as" in your browser.

rz
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

A bit of History (for non-US persons, mostly).

Zip codes are unique (i.e. a specific address exists in only one zip code). The zip codes were originally 5 digits. Recently, they've been subdivided with an additional 4 digit extension (so now, they are "officially" 9 digits total).

The US postal service will deliver mail without a zip code but the zip code makes it easier to automate label reading.

Simplistically, the zip code represents the city and the state (it does not represent the post office servicing the address). Large cities will have multiple zip codes. Zip codes sometimes are specific to a building. (For example, one could identify which of the former World Trade buildings someone was working in by their zip code).

You can mail stuff without the city and state if you include the zip code.

While it's stated that ZIP stands for "zone improvement program", it's pretty obvious that the "full name" was a back-formation. That is, the ZIP acronym was chosen then a "reasonable" meaning for it was invented. ZIP (as a word) means "to move quickly" (clearly helpful in convincing people to use the ZIP code: your mail will get there faster).

njkayaker
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Buildings can have more than one zip code. Of course, the only one that I know of where this is true is the Pentagon (the main building for the US military). It has four zip codes; and if i recall correctly, they are for the Department of Defence, Army, Air Force, and Navy. Oddly enough, even though the Pentagon is physically located in Arlington County Virginia, the zip codes assigned to the Pentagon are Washington DC ones (i.e., they're within the range assigned to Washington DC (National Airport, also in Arlington Virginia, has a Washington DC zip code as well)).

In terms of history, before the US Postal Service introduced zip codes, many cities had their own numeric codes for locations inside them. And the USPS wanted to make it more uniform.

Byron
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

If the majority of your customers are from the US, then the US belongs at the top of the list.  It's stupid to require 99% of your customers to pick through a list of hundreds of countries when you can just put their country at the top.  Political correctness must die.

SomeBody
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Versatech:

This is the closest match I can find. Am I even close? :-)

http://www.pmaengg.com/parking.htm

Executive Hills Building "C" Parking Facility
Overland Park, Kansas:  210,000 square foot pre-cast
parking facility for associated 270,000 square foot office
building.  1986.

runtime
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

It's unfortunate that the US went with 5 numerical digits for their zip codes.  The Canadian and UK system of letters and numbers produces a much larger number space w/ the same number of digits.  For example, every block (or so) in Canada has it's own postal code.

I'll even argue that the Canadian system of alternating letters and numbers is better than the UK system because it vastly reduces error (is that a 5 or an S).

The zip+4 extension to US postal codes didn't really improve the situation much.

Almost Anonymous
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

How about sorting your country list by the number of customers/hits you've received from the country?

Jim Rankin
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

"How about sorting your country list by the number of customers/hits you've received from the country?"

So would you update that on a regular basis? Because you wouldn't want to annoy your customers with an out of date order. If so, how often?

What an earth is wrong with an alphabetically sorted list?

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I would have the top 3-5 countries by orders listed first  (not too hard to program, can be a monthly job to calculate) followed by all the countries you ship to listed alphabetically, including the previously listed top 3-5.

Guessing from what the browser tells you can be good too, but only to select the default choice, not to make the final choice.

Richard Ponton
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Executive Hills Building "C" Parking Facility
Overland Park, Kansas:  210,000 square foot pre-cast
parking facility for associated 270,000 square foot office
building.  1986.

Don't think so. I worked there in the 90's and that place had no parking garage.

Interestingly enough, Googling for "KSOPKC" turns up nothing of interest, but Googling for the actual street address (since I know what it is) turns up a page containing KSOPKC. (It also turns up some pages that list that building as an environmental hazard because it contains sulfuric acid!)

MSN search does the exact same. Wtf?

VersaTech
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Just to slam the morons, maybe it will keep them at bay. I write sites for my USERS not my country. Patriotism and political correctness etc. got NADA to do with it. I put the U.S. as the default cus 99.9% of my customers are from the U.S.  You simply show your inferiority complex when you complain of this, maybe you are not  moron but just lacking in self-esteem and see slights on every form. What a miserable life  you dogs must have on the net.

Me
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

How much simpler this is than actually finding out which country your customer, or possible customer, is from so they don't even have to choose.

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

"Its not that hard to discover the country that an IP address is coming from.  The better sites change the address format depending upon the set of countries." -- Simon Lucy

Simon - can you give me an example of such a site? Just curious. Thanks!

Zahid
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

In response to a couple of comments about how difficult it would be to parse addresses out from a single multiline editbox: using automation and Microsoft Outlook, you can do this easily. Create a contact and assign the multiline value to the Address field. If possible, Outlook transparently parses it out so you can immediately query the "City" field, for instance. I don't know if it works for non-US addresses, though.

Not being a web developer, I have no idea whether you could incorporate this into a website, and if you did, I suspect you wouldn't be able to rely on it for efficiency or scalability  :)  But for a local app where you can be sure your user has Outlook, it's a breeze.

Zahid
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

FWIW, discovering country by IP breaks in some scenarios. Most notably, it's very hard to tell where an AOL user is really coming from.

Dave Rothgery
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

"One of my personal peeves is sites that have the USA preselected in the country combobox. Extremely arrogant! "


One of my personal peeves is that Windows sets IE as your default browser. Extremely arrogant!

Mike
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

" If you want those 6 billion people going elsewhere then keep your American-centric site, it really is that simple. "

Like that poor bastard in Africa with flys crawling on his eyes was going to buy something anyway.

Mike
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Yes, because absolutely everyone in Africa is like that, aren't they Mike? Dealing with stereotypes makes life so much easier, don't you find?


Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Some examples of services delivering country information

http://www.dotnetcountry.com/
http://www.bardsa.com/MyIPSuite/
http://search.cpan.org/~tjmather/Geo-IP-1.21/lib/Geo/IP.pm
http://www.maxmind.com/app/country

Maxmind is the commercial version of the Geo-IP perl library

As for AOL, I thought that now AOL was giving country specific reverse dns for its dialup addresses? 

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, October 22, 2003

"Yes, because absolutely everyone in Africa is like that, aren't they Mike? " 

No they certainly aren't.  That wasn't my point.  If you can't see it, I probably can't explain so you'd understand it.

Mike
Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Mike, I've just re-read what you originally wrote and realised that I completely got the wrong end of the stick.

Please accept my apologies and I'll remove my foot from my mouth and engage brain before posting again.


Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Zone alarm spoofs IP address. Plenty of people use anonymizers.

A combination of cookies and IP locates might be useful, but won't get over the fact that the person going to your site from a Chinese ISP might be a Brit or Canadian or American.

Incidentally, any site that doesn't have physical constraints shipping outside the US, but still has 99.9% of its customers from the US must have something very, very wrong with its design.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, October 23, 2003

> I have looked (over a year ago) for and had
> been unable to find a single registry for all
> the possible address formats for the major
> countries we work with besides the US
> (south america, middle east, asia, and
> southern europe).

The registry you are looking for is the Universal Postal Union -- http://upu.int/ -- which documents address formats for every country in the world (look under Resources > Addressing).

The industrialized countries have highly standardized formats for which algorithms can be written, but many smaller countries have sketchy address formats and there's not much you can do about it.

Nate Silva
Thursday, October 23, 2003

Here is a more direct link to the database of international address formats:

http://upu.int/post_code/en/addressing_formats_guide.shtml

Nate Silva
Thursday, October 23, 2003

>> Incidentally, any site that doesn't have physical constraints shipping outside the US, but still has 99.9% of its customers from the US must have something very, very wrong with its design.<<

What if you sell American flags?

Mark
Thursday, October 23, 2003

>> What if you sell American flags?

Think of all the sales to the middle-east - they have to buy the flags before they burn them...

RocketJeff
Thursday, October 23, 2003

Good news from Romania! Until last year we couldn't sign up on Yahoo! or MSN, unless we declared fake ZIP codes, because we had 4 digit codes (I used to insert a 0 or, depending on mood, to use 12345.) Now, we switched to a six-digit code system, so I'm using only 12345.

Luci Sandor
Tuesday, February 10, 2004

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