The first instance of this was when I tried wiring a lump from my account there to my Canadian bank, when I was leaving the country. Every last detail of the information on the transfer has to be perfect or it won't go through: not just the account numbers, but the address of the bank, the name on the account (which is a tricky one in my case), even punctuation has to match exactly. You can't do this yourself online, you have to do it with a representative over the phone, so I relayed this information in painstaking detail, double-checking everything, and yet the transfer didn't go through. It took a few days for notification of this, though, so I had to call them back and go through it again – and that didn't work either. Finally the third time, less than 24 hours before I took off for the UK, we managed to get something that worked. I understand human data entry can be prone to error, but you'd think a bank would be halfway decent at filling out financial transaction forms.
I still have that account, in part because many American online retailers don't let you use a bank card with a non-US formatted address. But when I tried to use this card it kept getting declined, which made no sense – all I could figure was that the address I was inputting didn't match the address on file, somehow. I'd changed it to my parents' address in Utah, which has unusual 'grid plot' addresses: for example your house will be 654 South, and your street 3200 West. As I'd had to do this over the phone, again, I thought maybe the person at the other end (in Florida) had written it differently than I would write it (654 s 3200 w) – spelling out South and West maybe, or putting a period after the initial, or not putting a space – who knows? I had an important transaction to make on Thursday, though, and no matter how many different iterations of the address I tried, I could not get it to work. Not wanting to make a phone call if I could help it, I signed onto the bank's help-chat, which miraculously is staffed by human beings (or else really, REALLY elaborate bots) and coincidentally got someone who was actually from Utah to check the address. It turned out the street address was fine, the discrepancy was in the zip code.
The zip code.
Five numerals, no punctuation or abbreviation, only ten digits to choose from instead of 26 letters, and that's where the mistake had come in.
It's a problem when computer engineers get other engineers to test a new product – they can only imagine how someone who knows how it works would think of trying to break it. You try to make these sorts of things as idiot-proof as possible, but frankly I don't have the scope of imagination to anticipate where the idiot is likely to strike.
Well, it all got sorted out in the end and the card worked, but it's yet another lesson that I can never underestimate – or understand – how others' minds work ... especially when they're in Florida.