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Bruce, Caroline

Third-Class Treatment for Non-Americans

The American Printing House for the blind is an amazing organization.
Over the past hundred and fifty years, their excellence has been
unparallelled in many respects. They have put out voluminous amounts of
books for the blind, and they have designed and made many devices and
other pieces of equipment used by the blind.

However one area where they, along with many other American companies,
fall very short is in their treatment of international customers.
Currently, APH offers an online store. It is only available to
Americans. Their stated reason is the variance in shipping costs around
the world, this despite the fact that many nonprofit organizations and
companies deal with this just fine on a daily basis.
Being Canadian, my working hours are pretty similar to their own. This
gives me a few options. I can either phone my order in, this making my
credit card number available to anyone in my office within earshot, I
can fax it in, requiring both sighted assistance and permission to send
a long-distance fax, or I can mail my order in, adding days or weeks to
the order time and putting my credit card at risk of mail-tamperers. The
message I get from all this is that, because APH and
organizations/companies like it can't be bothered with international
shipping rates online, my security as a non-American is somehow less
important than the security of an American, who can easily, securely,
quickly and without sighted assistance, place an online order.

It's not only APH. There are many others, and I am very tired of the
third-class treatment non-Americans get from American businesses and

This does not apply, by and large, to the American people. Once the
average rank-and-file American is made aware of the inequality, he or
she generally agrees. My American friends are wonderful people, and I do
not want to transfer my anger toward these companies who will not offer
equality onto the American people. But this message needs to get out
there: If America believes that all are created equal, then it should
treat all equally.


It's important to note that your creditcard is really no less secure over the phone than it is online. And often times, it's the person(s) at the other end of the transaction that you have to worry about more than someone who may or may not be close enough, and paying enough attention, to actually hear what you're saying. The only potential advantage to doing it online, and it's only a slight advantage, is you can do it at a time when there's no one else who could possibly walk by and hear, or see, roughly what you're doing. And I say slight advantage for two reasons. First, as stated that assumes the people nearby both are close enough and care enough to actually hear and either acknowledge or remember what's being said, or what they've accidentally managed to catch a fleeting glance at on your monitor on the way by. And second, while it eliminates potential problems that may or may not be significant threats from the point of origin, it does nothing to prevent your creditcard info from being misused or otherwise at the other end, as well as opening you up to the possibility of it being intersepted by a third party--the so-called man-in-the-middle attack.
Now, I'm not saying all that to make you more paranoid than you may or may not already be, but rather to point out the concept of absolute security/privacy is really a myth. If we all stopped doing things or avoided doing things a certain way because some piece of information may or may not be overheard by a person standing 10 feet away, or even because someone happened to be writing it down as you were giving it to them so that it could be used later, we'd never get anything done. That includes in person if you happen to not be able to see what's going on--you could hand someone your creditcard and while you're receipt's being printed off, they could be writing down the info off of it. But, just because it could be happening, doesn't mean your chances are anything beyond extremely slim.

So, in shorter terms... stop worrying and pick up the bloody phone. You're not losing much.