Web Mender

An incessant whine on web design.

December 22, 2002

Mistaken Identity

A pharmacy chain's web site blocks Opera users at the door. The features they want are better supported in Opera than either of their suggestions!

I wanted to confirm the hours that my local CVS stores are open. That seems like a simple enough task. As is often my preference, I fired up Opera and asked for cvs.com. As occasionally happens, I was greeted by a page informing me that I needed to upgrade or replace my browser. Sigh.

. . . CVS.com remains compatible with the majority of browsers and platforms that are currently used.

Hmm. I don't think so, or I wouldn't be looking at an error message, seeing as Opera is in the top four browsers. Perhaps they mean they support the browsers (and the operating systems needed to run them) that dominate the market. I'd like to propose a similar barrier to entry for brick-and-mortar CVS stores, as well. Imagine a screening process implemented by security guards at the door. "Your shoes aren't on the list of approved footwear manufacturers, so you might not be able to walk on the floor. Your shoes have to be made by one of the top two shoe manufacturers, and nothing more than eight months old. Come back when you have the right shoes."

But here's the kicker:

Upgrading your browser doesn't cost you anything, and it provides you with these key advantages:

Sure, it only costs time and aggravation. Consider the obscene download size of some browsers. That alone could be a prohibitive obstacle. In the case of browsers that integrate tightly with the operating system, all sorts of troubles could start with a browser upgrade. And maybe there's the cost of a new computer because the two chosen behemoths have gotten so resource-heavy. But on to the promises:

Significant improvement in your Web browsing experience using cascading style sheets

I have to admit they're right that this is a benefit. As somebody who's had to tweak style sheets ad nauseum to make Netscape happy, I definitely agree that a newer browser is a plus. But Opera are the good guys in this regard. Netscape 4.x is the enemy! I dare the web team at CVS to explain to me how Opera's CSS implementation is insufficient for their needs, when Netscape 4.5, quite possibly the worst CSS implementation ever, will do the job.

Highest security available for credit card transactions (a current Security Certificate will accompany the browser upgrade)

Opera is quick to support new security standards, including their pioneering implementation of TLS 1.0. Not being an American company, they are not beholden to the US government to compromise the strength of the encryption they provide.

So CVS, by setting their browser sniffing to only allow a few select browsers is happy to lose customers. You'd think they'd've put more thought into the last paragraph on the error page:

CVS.com is committed to your satisfaction, and we want you to have a pleasant and secure shopping experience with us. We sincerely regret any inconvenience that this situation may have caused. Your interest in our site is appreciated.

The Good Stuff

So even though on principle I should vote with my wallet at their competitors, I still ventured over to CVS.com with IE. I must say, they have one of the best store locators I've seen. The search can be narrowed to stores open 24 hours, stores with pharmacies, and more. The search results include comprehensive listings of the hours, even differentiating pharmacy hours from store hours. It's a clean site, and I wish they'd give other browsers a chance.

Further Reading

Posted by ventura at December 22, 2002 08:38 AM