I recently refinanced, and the lender kept getting hung up on how they needed to "contact my county" for verification. Well, in Connecticut a "county" is nothing more than a name on a map or an organizational method. It's not an actual government entity, there's no one to contact.
Massachusetts does organize the judiciary (and some other things like deed registration) by county but in at least most cases, everyone is actually a state employee.
Don't really know how it works in the country as a whole. My impression is that the South generally has more of a tradition of county government.
Street number, name, and zip code is all you need, but even the US postal service recommends keeping the city and state for redundancy.
It sometimes leads to funny situations if you live near city boundaries where you can get mail sent TO multiple different cities that are all your address.
As an engineer I get it, but damn if it isn’t annoying to not be able to have your real address on your packages...if only for aesthetic reasons.
However, Zip Codes directly map to one preferred place name designated by the USPS, and zero or more acceptable alternative place names. These are usually inspired by, but don't necessarily correspond to municipalities and political units that the lots in question belong under.
You're more than likely talking about Zip Code 94608, of whose preferred name is 'Emeryville', but 'Oakland' is an acceptable name . There is a lot of software that takes the shortcut and autofills or autocorrects the preferred name, especially because informal lists of Zip Codes seem to be easier and/or cheaper to get a hold of than through official sources at the USPS .
Perhaps a nationally-known example is the Las Vegas Strip, most of whose famous casino-hotels are located in the unincorporated town and CDP of Paradise, but covered by two Zip Codes that only accept Las Vegas as the name.
In rural areas with weak local government, people develop an affinity for the preferred place name of their address' Zip Code, because it's a standardized way of referring to the locale where more specific names are not widely known.
 https://www.census.gov/geo/reference/zctas.html  https://california.hometownlocator.com/zip-codes/data,zipcod...  https://www.usps.com/nationalpremieraccounts/manageprocessan...
Why on Earth we have zipcodes but still add the city/state is beyond me.
I worked for a water utility in Melbourne Australia. There were (for but one example), two adjacent suburbs, Box Hill and Mont Albert, the latter of which had a perceived prestige.
We'd always have some people, and more so as you reached the border of the suburbs, who'd give their address as Mont Albert, but with Box Hill's post code. This allowed the system to be functional for our purposes without arguing with the customer.
Is it a problem we should have to deal with or feel compelled to? No, but that was the decision made, in this case.
For whatever reason, we decided that naming streets and numbering the buildings on them is too passé, so lots of our cities use District + Number (where the numbers carry no geographic meaning), in parallel with Street + Number, but every building is addressable using only one scheme.
Concrete example with the city of Sofia, Bulgaria - consider these two buildings  . They're both next to Vasil Kalchev street. One is a kindergarten, the other is a block of flats. Let's see what the address for each is, if you want to send a letter to them. The kindergarten is, obviously, St. Pimen Zografski street No. 5... well OK, that's the street on the other side of the building, nothing too strange; while the block of flats is zh.k. Dianabad bl. 54. The abbreviations mean literally "residential district Dianabad, residential building number 54". No, the building is not addressable via the street, you cannot send post to that building or locate it on a map via "Vasil Kalchev street, No. X" for any X. There are, in fact, no numbers on Vasil Kalchev street. And the residential building numbers aren't geographically meaningful - directly east of said building 54 is building 53, but directly west of it are buildings 42 and 43. There is no building 44. There are, however, 33, 33A, and 33B. They are just ad-hoc numbers (maybe with letters) that you need to have in a database, like you have the locations of streets and where the numbers on the street are geographically.
When you can pass through 3 states in 3 hours, it makes sense to "search for all McDonalds in NJ". However in TX and CA, "all McDonalds in TX" is worse than useless for what the customer is actually looking for.
750 McD's in New York, a state of 55,000 sq mi, ratio of ~0.015
1,250 McD's in Texas, a state of 270,000 sq mi, ratio of ~0.0045
1,500 McD's in California, a state of 165,000 sq mi, ratio of ~0.009
We have regions and départements. These are formal structures/entities but are never used in addresses (you get a hint of the département in the zip code).
The foreign web firms do list them, usually correctly. Sometimes they mix up the regions and the départements (usually using île de France, which is a region around Paris, and the rest being départements).
This is not harmful (and ignored during delivery) but shows a one size fits all approach
But as stated by others (about Ireland in their example), even companies that had their hq there asked for zip code at a time there was not any.
So I guess if you start shipping internationally, it’s a big job to make a form that fits every cases.
I wonder if someone have made a list of those particularities. Could be a good idea if not.
Post codes are not generally used in Ireland. The launch was not really successful and even An Post (the government-run postal service) doesn't use them.
Irish counties are fun, as the traditional 26 counties (in the Republic) don't align with the thirty-something administrative counties that now exist.
For the UK, "10, SW1A 2AA" is sufficient for an address . To avoid mistakes, it's recommended to write "10 Downing Street, LONDON, SW1A 2AA", but this can be looked up in the database. It's usual when entering an address online, or over the phone, to give the postcode, the number, and then confirm the street.
The postcode for my workplace in Copenhagen, 2100, covers a good chunk of the city. I have to mispronounce the street name several times when speaking on the phone :-S.
 https://www.royalmail.com/find-a-postcode — try something like W14 9NL for a normal street.
 In fact, SW1A 2AA is sufficient for the Prime Minister's office. Places that get a lot of post are given their own postcode, it can be as specific as an office within a building.
Some fancy webpages fill them in automatically.
It's sometimes easy to assume that if something works in sunny California, it will be applicable in Michigan, or Germany, or anywhere on the globe, and for large fractions of the globe this breaks down under scrutiny. After all, one of the attractions of doing stuff "online" is to not be bound by physical constraints, but activities like logistics clearly involves moving around physical goods, and commerce is all about markets, so what works on one market may fail miserably in a second. Even old-hat brick-and-mortar companies make these mistakes, even if they don't skimp on a local consultant.
Anyone who's actually engaged in post or logistics in areas with limited government-maintained addressing knows that communication is essential, delivery places tend to be negotiated on the fly, and knowing how to get to the destination is more important than where the destination is on a globe. Newfangled coordinate-encoding systems don't solve this: intelligence and know-how on the ground does.
Make no mistake, few of the companies with these problems value these markets. If they valued these markets, they would've figured this out.
See also the falsehoods programmers believe about various things (not even just addresses):
Of course, this is only a problem for valuable items (one wouldn't trust postal employees with that) - regular mail in Africa ends in a PO box.
Expecting customers to be map-literate or adopt whichever fancy geographic coordinates keywords landgrab of the month is a bit hopeful and far removed from logistical realities.
Regardless, I understand and agree with your point. I just think difficulty with pinning on maps limits its adoption vs. actually eliminating it.
 reasoning about maps in general is difficult for many people, not everyone has well-developed spatial reasoning.
Now that's a head-scratcher! Seriously though, I hate these overbroad generalisations - obviously online shopping does work for some value of Africa. I know of people in Africa who shop, pay for and arrange delivery of second-hand Japanese vehicles all online. It's a multi-million dollar industry.
>..not because of web forms with an ability to capture localised addresses, but because of the lack of affordable, reliable logistics.
Ironically, most African countries have functional postal services that are struggling because WhatsApp has replaced letters. Online shops should partner should partner with postal services instead of trying to "revolutionize logistics" unsuccessfully. Trust me, the logistics are fine: if manufacturers can get their product to even the most remote corners of a country, maybe look into how they are doing it, instead of trying to re-invent it with a phone app.
> Look at that form. It has things like street address, state/province, zip code? What is that? I can only tell you that I live in Kanyanya, a Kampala suburb. If you need my exact home, then I’ll either have to send you a GPS location via apps like Whatsapp, Telegram, Google Maps or engage you in a long phone conversation in which I’ll try to describe landmarks, building and trees leading to my house. But street address, zip code? Hell No.
I mean GPS coordinates sent by WhatsApp + name + simple description seem like a decent alternative but it too should be standardized then. But it seems bizarre to me to have local governments not attempt to set up a basic system for mail/package delivery.
It's not just bad for ecommerce but all business, law enforcement, and even democracy.
Finally, I got it to work by typing "Campus of <X> Place, Faculty of <Y> Building". It wouldn't work without the words "Place" and "Building", which we don't ever use (we typically just write "Faculty of <Y>, Campus of <X>"). And the form didn't provide any clue about that being the problem.
The address on a letter has always been a free text input field, it still is when one writes private letters, and everything works fine. Why they have to complicate so much something that just works is beyond me.
Probably because it doesn't Just Work(tm) as well as you think. People in general are pretty bad at knowing their actual deliverable address - if you are someone as large as Amazon having even .1% of your packages returned due to user input address errors is likely quite a lot of money.
Having briefly done e-commerce stuff where we had to ship low value product en-masse I tend to think that .1% is a low estimate - but maybe people have gotten better at this since the early 00's.
When I moved into my house, I effectively had two different addresses that I had to disambiguate based on who I was talking to. As far as the post office was concerned, I lived on Main Street. But a lot of the local maps and local service people thought I lived on North Main Street based on an older street naming convention. At various times, people would tell me I gave them the wrong address.
Also some places don’t show names for different reasons, so having accurate numbers refering to the good entities can be critical.
Steps for creating a Plus Code are:
1. Open the Google Maps app.
2. Touch and hold a place to drop a pin on Google Maps.
3. At the bottom, you’ll see an address or a plus code. Tap this section to find all details of the location and copy the plus code.
If the primary use case is creating an address for my current location - e.g. Home. Then, the instructions are too many.
A "click this button" to create a Plus Code for your current location would work wonder.
Or if they had an app, the single instruction above would equally apply.
I think Plus Codes would fail most Zip Code validation tests.
I think it's a nice concept though, I could see myself using something like that if it became more mainstream, it's a little more convenient than GPS coordinates if you want to meet with somebody in the wild or a large park for instance.
Edit: oh, I got it, the tags at the bottom of the map are not the complete one, they're "local" (you have to give the general location too like "5PJF+FJQ Bayankhongor, Mongolia"). The full code is 8PR25PJF+FJ
Southeast corner of the Texas state capitol building:
I don't want to sound PC but this is the kind of reasons why more diversity and breadth of life experiences is good for businesses.
Sound however you want to sound, and don't listen to those who use "PC" as a derogatory term. I personally prefer to call it "nice" instead of "PC".
You were in America actually...
Except that they might have addresses.
This reminds me of how when the German zip codes were unified in the 1990s, they forgot about one district.
> Although the Gutsbezirk Reinhardswald is officially uninhabitated, two people inhabit and operate the Tillyschanze restaurant, next to the observation tower of the same name above the city of Hann. Münden, located in Lower Saxony. The border between the states of Hesse and Lower Saxony runs between the restaurant and the observation tower. The territory has no postal code as it was forgotten about when the postal codes were assigned in 1993, as such no mail is delivered to the inhabitants. The official address, as given by the authorities, is Tillyschanze 1, 00000 Reinhardswald.
Bierweg 1, 34346, Hann. Münden.
That road did maybe have a name at that time. I don't know. But our house had a name. So we wrote our addresses like this:
Our house name
Zip Code Region name
Then some years later EU forced us to get an address, so the gravel road became a street (according to the name) with numbers that are totally messed up and make no sense since the houses are so spread out. But I guess it somehow made something better?
I've tried to map up the house numbers on OpenStreetMap but I honestly don't know more houses than the one I grew up in and the closest neighbor.
This is like 15-20 years ago that this change happened. But if I want to be retro, I can still send snailmail to the house name. The postalservice manage to sort that out.
Japanese addresses also have format not similar to US/European ones: http://www.sljfaq.org/afaq/addresses.html
Google Contacts seems to solve this by just having a big textarea for you to write your contact's addresses, and I guess showing that address in Google Maps is done by just sending the whole thing as a query against their Maps API.
This is why you just need a suburb or area and your cell #. You need to be available to sign for packages in African countries and they typically cannot just be dropped off on the porch.
The problem with buying online is just the availability of things is poor, you don't have an Amazon-esque level of availability & websites that do basically buy from Amazon and sell it to you after an extenuating long timeframe.
Ordering from abroad is a hassle because of customs and duties and ridiculous charges such as the SGR levy (for Uganda and Kenya) because of the new rail line (even though the rail line isn't really used for your package). If you order something small like shampoo its likely to cost triple and a minimum of $30 from abroad.
The only great experience I've seen is from takealot. Jumia not so much. Kudos to those guys who run Takealot.
For someone who has lived in Africa the address system, or lack thereof is just something people are used to - it's still possible to find places without an exact numerically marked address. It's likely a dedicated courier who is very knowledgeable on the local areas & landmarks is to drop the package over a postman so it makes little difference.
It's a bit of a shame when these type of articles come up once in a while that distill a "sort of issue" into the prime issue on why it doesn't work. It's not to say proper addresses would help alot, but it's certainly not the reason e-commerce hasn't really taken off. The last time it was a discovery on how a small fan can get rid of mosquitoes - obviously not the reality either.
But isn’t that what the article says? That a structured address isn’t appropriate and that other means (such as a pick up locator or, as you scribe it, some level of coordination) is what the companies should be using instead?
Recently a large number of urban single-use electronic lock postbox providers have emerged, which automate away the inevitable phone calls from time-poor couriers and deliverymen by SMS-ing you a code to your local single use postbox. If you go enter the code, you get your mail. Otherwise, after 24 hours or some exceedingly short time they take it away and your parcel enters no mans land, in which case you have to request redelivery.
No street names or numbers, and you have to know what "third roundabout" means to even get started (there are three major roudnabouts in Managua, the third one is the one closes to the lake. And "toward the lake" means "north". It's a single word in Nicaraguan Spanish and it's used in place of the usual Spanish word for "north".
Fascinating! Lake Nicaragua (which is what I'd naively assume a person in Nicaragua would mean by "The Lake") is in the south of the country, so that's really unintuitive.
Edit: OH, I see this is in Managua, which lies on the southern border of a different lake. I guess it's like New Yorkers using "downtown" to mean "south" (or rather, southwest)
What is the word?
The british-sounding lady at the other end wanted a zip code. I didn't know of any zip codes and looking at letters in the building's mailbox I could not see anything looking like a zipcode.
She said she could not direct me to a 'nearby' hospital if she didn't have a zip code.
Told her to just pick randomly, that took some convincing. How far could you be from a hospital in Gibraltar anyway?
Plus Code seems to just be encoded Gps coordinates which seems far easier to integrate.
Simply using lat/lng or one of these deterministic systems (geohash, plus.codes, etc) is a far superior option for something to be adopted globally.
What3words is a deterministic hash of the gps coords.
If the transporter ships directly to your home, you have to be here when he comes (and in France you never really know...).
If you haven’t bought large furniture or fridge or whatever, it’s simpler to go to a shop, it’s open on a wide range of hours.
For the shop owner, it can be a good deal as, well, you are in his/her shop.
I desperately try to send something since Monday. Without success.
Another useful delivery man which appeared relatively recently are Amazon Lockers. They have funny names, though (mine is "falafel")
Instead it's because:
a) enough online shops assume you have one
b) advertising mail providers needed it
Frankly if physical spammers need it, then that's an argument against having it to me, and it's sad that online shops forced this by just assuming we had them :(
I guess captcha before showing an ad-ridden site is 70% of the reason I don't read bad articles. thanks medium-google-cloudflare.
My current ISP doesn’t provide me a public IP address, so I’m sharing the IP with other clients of that ISP.
A month ago I also noticed captchas on google and cloudflare. Because half of the internets use cloudflare that was kinda noticeable.
I’ve searched a bit, found the cause (and a bunch of black list checks resources). I’ve e-mailed my ISP describing the issue and linking to that check page, they did something and the problem went away.
If you’re the sole user of your IP address, check the detection details. Some of these honeypots/black lists even tell you what exact malware they think is likely to cause the trouble. Then scan/update your computers (all of them that are using that IP address), and wait a bit. AFAIK, if the spam stops coming from that IP, their entries expire after a while, probably days or weeks.
also, glad to see HN removed the click bait title.
Many e-commerce companies operate in my country Nigeria and I have never heard that their major complaint centered on valid shipping addresses. The problem exists true,but it is a relatively unimportant one. DHL, FEDEX and other couriers whose principal business is delivery of goods are doing just fine last time I checked.
Purchasing power and disposable income are low across the continent and for those reasons I am personally bearish about the prospects of e-commerce in Africa in the medium term.
How will you know whether or not a mail-system in a remote location will even know what a plus code is, and then, be equipped with that technology on an individual carrier basis?
Are these just pie-in-the-sky proposals or are people using them now?
It works offline on cheap android devices with GPS for discovery, which can also be done with a satellite map. Directions via an intent into another app with nav is now built into the main apps.
In fact, it's already used for doctors finding women in labour in improvised settlements in South Africa.
Disclosure: former employee, who wishes them all the luck in the world getting people to use it!
As an outsider (and someone who knows nothing about you/your culture) this sounds like "I don't want to accept change" or "noone is going to force stupid codes on to me". So id love to hear the reason!
I live in quite a remote spot, so before, my address was just my name + the general area I live. Thats fine for the postman who knows where I live, but I dont know how other delivery services figured out where I was. Also I'm pretty much at the centroid of 3 towns, and different services would route deliveries via different towns. I had to learn through trial and error to put 'via X' or 'via Y' as my address depending on what service I was using.
Eircode clears all that up.
Also, on the subject of online forms, a major source of annoyance/confusion is the ubiquitous first name/last name fields (most people in Myanmar have just one name since family names aren't a thing). Some split their name in half to fill the two fields, which as you can imagine doesn't work very well when formatted as "last name, first name" or Mr. Last Name, etc.. :-)
(Admittedly, its not very useful for location funneling)
The rigidity of street addresses is relatively new (within living memory)and was designed to accommodate a technological gap (paper maps, basically, and emergency services).
It’s more humane to let people specify things like addresses the way they want (my grandmother refused to kowtow to the imposition of numerical street addresses and continued to use her house name until the day she died).
This is like the Spanish Academy changing the alphabetic sorting rules in the 1990s because crufty PCs had trouble with ch and ll — and then shortly thereafter they became fast enough!
> I can only tell you that I live in Kanyanya, a Kampala suburb. If you need my exact home, then I’ll either have to send you a GPS location via apps like Whatsapp, Telegram, Google Maps or engage you in a long phone conversation in which I’ll try to describe landmarks, building and trees leading to my house. But street address, zip code? Hell No.
And says that despite that, the web forms ask for nonsensical data. The right thing is for the delivery location validator to take GPS, phone number, list of landmarks, etc, canonicalize it as best it can, and send that info to the delivery company. Not try to fit the delivery info into some Procrustean form.
As an example, because of private courier companies, South Africa has a thriving online shopping scene, despite the South African Post Office becoming a shambles in recent years due to mismanagement. Addresses are not a huge problem for the sorts of people who would shop online in SA.
Africa is not a country, it’s a continent.
Lack of adoption effectively functions as vendor lock-in :(
Well, a pick-up point is not something that's really innovative and is not something that's only useful in Africa.
These are opposites. Which is it? Pick one.
Developed countries haven't always been as developed as they are now.
Likewise, assuming all problems in Africa are due to innate differences in "blacks" rather than considering other possibilities certainly says something about the person making that assumption.
(edited for minor typos/grammar)