Validate … intelligently

I currently live in The Netherlands and will shortly be moving just across the border into Germany (my fourth country of residence – I would be adding “Masochist” as a middle name if it didn’t create so many administrative hassles). Along with the fun of packing and unpacking boxes, dismantling and reassembling furniture (which was hard enough to put together in the first place!) and trying to sell a house, there are a lot of companies that have to be told about the change of address.

Hanging on the Wire

When I last moved in 1998 I spent a lot of time writing letters with new address information to various organisations.  Since then many companies are providing a service to change address online. It’s been interesting that, though this is a small country and tens of thousands of people move out of it every year, very few companies provide the option to provide a foreign destination address on their change of address website pages, meaning that I now often have to spend much time hanging on in phone queues, listening to tinny electronic renditions of Bach, trying to find out how to provide a change of address.  And often it boils down to writing that letter, just as we were doing back in the days “before Internet”.

In some cases the online forms cause some interesting confusion.

In searching for a removals company I filled in a form which requested, amongst other information, my current postal code (1018 VV in Amsterdam) and my future one (48455 in Bad Bentheim).  As you can see, the first one is Dutch and the second is German, and they have different formats.  One removals company sent an estimator and provided an estimate for a move to the village of Wagenberg in The Netherlands, 100 km to the south of Amsterdam, instead of one to Bad Bentheim in Germany 200 km to the east.  Upon investigation we found that the company had taken the 1018 of the first postal code and the 4845 of the second (without any reference to what came after it or the format of the data provided; nor with any cross referencing to other data such as the countries of origin and destination) and provided the quote for a move within The Netherlands on that basis.  Though they do many international removals, they hadn’t considered that the data entered on the website might refer to a foreign address.

A Lost Cause

I won’t be giving my business to that company.  Apart from the estimator’s high spirited jollity (which I found alarming and doesn’t work as a sales technique on me!) and his insistence on speaking to me in German (a language I can currently hardly stumble along in), the thought of waiting for my furniture in Germany whilst it speeds its way towards Belgium is more than a little worrying.  Full marks to them for attempting some validation on the data collected – but half-hearted validation won’t work – it needs to be applied intelligently and without compromise to the job in hand.