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Standardize everything



I like the autofill feature that most Internet browsers offer, but the problem is that no two forms are created alike. Some want a Mr./Mrs./Ms. Some want a middle name or initial. Almost all of them want your address, but sometimes there's more than one field with the street address, always separated by the zip/postal code. Phone numbers are all over the map - you can fill in anywhere from one to four boxes per number, depending on whether there's a field for extensions. Some also have multiple lines, looking for some combination of home, work and cell numbers.

Then there's the inevitable birthdate field, which is extremely bothersome because everybody seems to be using different standards. Some want day/month/year and others want month/day/year or year/month/day. Some spell out the months, others use numbers.

There's no rhyme or reason to any of it, it's as random and arbitrary as the people who came up with the form.

And it's annoying. We have two national standards councils, the Canadian Standards Association and Standards Council of Canada, which presumably is in touch with other standards councils around the world. That's why we can have a universal thickness to motorcycle helmets and propane tanks and why "Stop" signs are pretty much the same wherever you go. Why don't they spend a little bit of time to standardize forms, or at least some sub-formats like dates? How hard would it be to say, "from now on everyone in the world must present dates numerically as day/month/year."

There are a few other things I'd like to see standardized on the web, but the main thing is prices.

Comparison shopping recently for plane tickets was an agonizing affair and we only really looked at two airlines. Each airline posted a sale price, which should make it easy to pick the lower rate, but everything changed when the fees were added in - and those fees don't appear until you've already done everything but input your credit card information.

Ditto for concert tickets. Ticketmaster, widely (and somewhat accurately) reviled as an evil monopoly choking all the fun out of life, is the only company in the world that can transform a $20 concert ticket into $50.

Whether it's airlines or phones, all of these added fees are, for all intents and purposes, hidden until you've all but committed to make a purchase, which is exactly how the companies want it. They want to make it hard for customers to comparison shop, and to get people excited about travel/concerts while luring you in with a lower price.

It's not like these fees are standard or anything; they're arbitrary. My wife discovered that one airline we looked at offered a lower sale price but was actually more expensive once the fees were included.

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