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Is Your Site a "Soup Nazi"?

Right now, I’m planning my wedding. Recently up on my "to do" list: find a speciality chair rental place in Toronto.  We’re having "theatre-style" seating at our wedding, but we also want some speciality chairs for the wedding party.  I was able to locate a number of chair rental places in Toronto via Google.  No problem there.  Now, to see what they have to offer …

A couple of sites had some cursory information – a list of options, a few pictures.  But when I tried to find what specific chairs that Contemporary Furniture Rentals had on offer, I ran into something I haven’t seen since, well … ever.


For access to our website, please email us?  You have got to be kidding.  Why *have* a website if you don’t want people to access it?


As you can imagine, this shop was immediately crossed off my list of potential vendors.  Especially when another furniture rental place in TO, Dominion Furniture Rental, has a fully-open website with a full product list of every piece of furniture that they offer for rent with prices, plus some rental FAQs and other great content.  Done!  These guys are getting my business.

Throughout the day, I continued crossing items off my to-do list and the shock from seeing "please email us for access to our website" started to wear off.  I consoled myself with a variety of mantras: small business – not very familiar with Internet – likely just a fluke – internet newbies – just getting started – nothing to worry about.


How was I to know that the really big shock was yet to come …

When you’re planning a wedding, you need a lot of postage.  Invites and thank you cards.  I’m a gal who likes pretty pictures – why would I put a pic of the Queen or the flag on my wedding invites when I could have colourful flowers, or hearts or dinosaurs!  Let’s see what Canada Post has on offer.

The main Canada Post Postal Shop has some good stamps .. a few flowers, the "celebration" stamp.  Also FIFA and Joni Mitchell.  Still not right for quirky gal who is having an even quirkier wedding.  Now, I used to collect stamps.  And I used to get the cool catalog from Canada Post that had all kinds of amazing stamps in it.  Feeling a little smug, I went into the Philatelic Shop on their site; the collectors get all the good stamps.  I wasn’t even deterred by the "Registration Required" warning.  I’m happy to give my email, create an account, whatever – if I get access to cool stamps.

Look at this picture!  Look at all the delights that lie behind it! I KNOW my cool quirky stamps are here.  Let me in!


I dutifully register.  Not too bad, standard fields (though I do give them a fake phone number).  OK … done!  Let me in!

And then THIS screen appears.


Gack!  WHAT?!  You want me to WAIT to shop on your site?  Is there some security clearance that is required for me to shop for collector stamps?  Is it because I gave you a fake phone number?

Now unlike the rental company, there is no alternative to legal Canadian postage.  I’m like Elaine on Seinfeld and Canada Post is the Soup Nazi.  No cool stamps for me today!

So, e-tailers, take a walk through your sites.  Are you a Soup Nazi?  What irrational barriers are you putting up to your customers who are ready and willing to buy: unreasonable registration forms, waiting periods, confusing navigation?  Are there good reasons for doing so?  I mean REALLY good reasons?  Chances are, there aren’t.  C’mon, we just want some soup.

[Note .. to be fair, Canada Post did get back to me within 1 business day – just like they said.  But I still find it a *mystery* why I had to wait at all!]


  1. Rob Cottingham
    Rob Cottingham September 6, 2007

    This is the weirdest approach I’ve seen to what I’m guessing is user registration. Maybe someone convinced them it was like having a lineup and a bouncer outside the door of a hot nightclub.
    I snicker… but how much dumber is this than building sites that only work with a particular browser? Or haven’t thought through accessibility? Or usability?
    True, someone actually had to do work (and here I have to shake my head violently to get my mind around this fact) to erect these barriers to entry. But your post served as a handy reminder to me that unconscious sins of omission can do almost as much to turn people from our sites as more deliberate stupidity.

  2. Chris Goward
    Chris Goward September 6, 2007

    Great examples, Kate.
    Unfortunately, it is web site owners like Contemporary Furniture that are the least likely to be reading this blog.
    I am continually surprised (although I should be learning by now) that the companies that need the most help are the ones that are the most difficult to sell on the idea of website optimization. Often when I speak with a website owner that has a terrible web site experience and think it’s a shoe-in to want to increase their conversion rates, they’re the ones that get a brain-cramp and think they’re doing everything right.
    Why are so may marketers so defensive about their crappy visitor experience?
    Too many marketers have disproportionate inertia (read: lazy brain). They’ll spend more time thinking about what to wear to the next CMA gala than they have all year on their conversion rate.

  3. microyoda
    microyoda September 10, 2007

    Great examples. What I love about digital is how the “worst” stuff rises to the top….

  4. Monica Hamburg
    Monica Hamburg October 7, 2007

    These policies are hilarious and incomprehensible.
    However, I applaud Canada Post’s security measures. You don’t want just anyone buying stamps.

  5. My Name is Kate
    My Name is Kate July 4, 2008

    Is it Time to Send Your Website to Summer School?
    I’ve heard this a lot lately: I need more traffic. I need more traffic. I need more traffic. And I listen to the people who are saying it to me and I think, No, you don’t. Your website and/or product

Comments are closed.