davidh Posted January 10, 2009 Share Posted January 10, 2009 Foreigners, most of them, are wonderful people. There are excellent organists and wonderful instruments. They also produce many sheet music publications, CDs and DVDs which cannot be bought in this country. Unfortunately buying from foreign websites is a process often fraught with difficulties. Among these difficulties I am not including those of language; speakers of English have no right to expect that others will include English versions of their web pages, and I have succeeded in buying from websites in French, Dutch, German, Italian and even Swedish. One rather complicated negotiation went rather slowly, until I learned that the proprietor of a music shop understood no English, and that my messages to him were only translated and answered when his son came home from University from time to time. Web translation facilities such as "Babelfish" provide translations which are often adequate for understanding messages received, but risky for sending messages. The first real problem is payment. In several countries it is not expected that all small businesses will have credit card or Paypal facilities. Occasionally firms will send a pro forma invoice requesting payment in advance, but most post the goods immediately trusting the recipient to send back payment. This is not easy. English cheques are not (in general) acceptable overseas. Bank transfers are expensive, and often the only reasonable alternative is to round the payment up and to post banknotes. I have never sent these by registered post, and none have gone astray, although there were a few worrying months when a firm denied receiving a large payment, but eventually apologised because someone had filed my letter without opening it. The biggest problem is restrictive web forms. When a firm shows an email address, then an ordinary unstructured email gets round many problems. When the only access is through a web form, then it may be impossible to submit a request. There are many sites in the US which have a compulsory box for “state” and a drop-down list of American States, with no “other” or “overseas” alternative. I respond by claiming to come from Alabama or Alaska and apologising for my lie in a free text box if one exists. The next problem is the Zip code (or postcode) box. In some countries one is only permitted four digits followed by two letters, in the US the zip code is five digits, followed by an optional hyphen and four more digits. other countries have different lengths and different patterns of letters and digits. Any website which allows only codes which are valid for its own country may reject codes from another, and nor will some sites accept any message without a post code. Telephone numbers pose similar problems. The number of digits required varies from one country to another, and some websites don’t even have room for an international prefix, perhaps on the assumption that no one outside the country would want to phone them. These problems arise from several sources; web designers who are not aware of or don’t care about communications from overseas, and who spend a lot of time building in checks to ensure only valid inputs, without realising that they are substantially reducing the functionality of the websites, which are, after all, intended to sell goods. In spite of the above complaints, I have succeeded in making scores of overseas purchases, and I am delighted that ordering these is now so much easier. It isn’t so many years ago that it was very difficult to find out what music existed, and if one knew about it, impossible to find out who published it or where to buy it. For years I could not avoid the feeling that the main aim of music publishers was to ensure that no one could find about or could buy their music. Perhaps there are a few companies which still have the same aims, but the internet has made purchasing very simple, in the best of cases. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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