Virtual NPC 1, NHL.com nil

Well done Air New Zealand and the NZRFU for understanding the way the internet is supposed to work. More than can be said for NHL.com - my friend Brandon is still waiting for the Canadiens jersey he ordered online.

Poor Brandon; he still hasn’t received an intelligent reply from NHL.com nor, more importantly, has he got his Canadiens jersey (see Giving e-tailers some stick). Still, it’s about a month till the hockey season starts so there’s hope yet.

In the meantime (and because Sky hasn’t bothered to carry the pre-season games) he’s keeping himself entertained with the NPC. Imagine how excited he got when a friend emailed him and told him about www.virtualnpc.co.nz where you can play along each week by picking winning teams and margins to win points and prizes. At the end of the season Air Points members get to convert their points into Air Points. “Grand,” thinks Brandon, “free Air Points. Let’s be having some of them.”

The only catch is that our hero isn’t actually an Air Points member – he’s a United Frequent Flier but never saw the point of belonging to another Star Alliance member airline’s programme (that’s the whole point of these alliances isn’t it?). This promotion, however, has him convinced so off to the Air New Zealand site he goes. Registration is a breeze and before he knows it, he’s back at Virtual NPC, adding his Air Points membership number to his profile. Guess what happens next? He gets the old “Air Points membership number entered does not exist” error. Hmmmm.

A quick email to Virtual NPC later and it’s all sorted. Apparently the Air Points and Virtual NPC databases only talk to each other once a week. They’re looking at ways to improve it and, in the meantime, they were more than happy to update Brandon’s profile manually. Well done Air New Zealand and the NZRFU – this is the way the internet is supposed to work. It’s no wonder Virtual NPC took on 22,694 members in its first six days of operation.

Further on the subject of why NHL.com won’t ship to New Zealand. I received an interesting email from a reader. My correspondent asserts that the real reason many US merchants won’t ship to New Zealand is because of the high incidence of credit card fraud and went on to say that our banks and police won’t do anything about it. I am well aware of the fact that the banks are less than co-operative in that they don’t offer particularly good authentication services and they make merchants wear the risk of fraudulent transactions but I was under the impression that they – and the police – still took fraud reasonably seriously. He reckons that nine out of every 10 online orders is a fake and that, having been in the business of selling online for five years, he’s no longer interested in it. Is all this for real? I have absolutely no experience of anything like this.

Surely if NHL.com didn’t want to sell to New Zealanders because it thinks we’re all fraudsters, it’d say that, wouldn’t it? Are we that different from Australia that it’ll ship there but not here? What are other peoples’ experiences? Has anyone else had trouble buying anything on the net because of being from New Zealand? What are the banks doing about this?

Swanson is IT manager at W Stevenson & Sons in South Auckland. Send letters for publication to Computerworld Letters.

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