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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Not so great moments in address processing

With the ongoing collapse of financial institutions in the United States, some folks have consoled themselves by saying, “Well, granted the idiots on the trading side have lost a few terabucks, but at least our transaction processing, internal controls, and backroom data processing remain the envy of the world.”

Or, maybe not.

I have had an American Express Card for about 20 years. I had no problems transferring the account when I moved from California to Switzerland in 1991, and the account has been billed to me here ever since. Then, today, a statement came to hand which was mailed on November 25th, 2008, which is kind of tardy since air mail usually takes about four days between the U.S. and Switzerland. Then I looked at the address. My proper address is as follows, which was used (with a single character typo in the street address) by all previous American Express mailings:

John Walker
Street address redacted
CH-2523 Lignières

The address on this poorly-guided missive was as follows:


I can see why this letter occasioned a bit of head scratching among the sorting staff of the Swiss post office who, with their accustomed frightening efficiency, eventually got it to my mailbox.

It would appear American Express have implemented an “address rewriter” which decided to clarify my exotic address by expanding the country code “CH” for Switzerland into an abbreviation for “County Highway”, necessitating the abbreviation of the name of the town since it didn't then fit on the line.

I guess it isn't just the trading departments that are hiring ever-so-clever string theorists these days.

Hey, it's a lot better than the transfer agent who, in 2004, sent stock certificates to me at an address in Swaziland!

Posted at December 10, 2008 01:10