back to article Rackspace backtracks over toff-proof sign-up process

Rackspace has been forced into a hasty about-turn after it emerged that it was discriminating against aristocrats, power couples and other bigwigs with a sign-up and billing process that refused to recognise double-barrelled surnames. The policy put it totally at odds with a modern Britain that adores Royalty, and prefers its …


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  1. Tom 38 Silver badge

    I say

    Bit of a rum do, eh old boy?


    1. David Hall 1

      sponsors abound

      Presumably this was an ad for rackspace (everyone's favorite sponsor of el reg) rather than actual news.

      Since, indeed, it isn't in fact news.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: sponsors abound

        "Presumably this was an ad for rackspace"

        They need a new marketing department, then. I know all publicity is good publicity but they can surely do better than an article that says "we're crap".

  2. therealgsej

    alternative title

    Small error spotted in web form validation

    is it a slow news day?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You're lucky the validation failed

    I have a double surname that is hyphenated (like "Villa-Lobos") in some of my documents and unhyphenated (like "Vaughan Williams") in others. If people ask me which is correct I tell them I don't care: they should punctuate it according to their own style guide. I frequently find myself unable to use websites and have always suspected that in some cases my name is to blame (and in other cases my unusual choice of operating system and browser no doubt). However, I don't usually get a clear and simple error message. The failure is usually obscure and difficult to diagnose. Perhaps I should own multiple credit cards with different versions of my name and try each one in turn ...

    I would guess that before comparing names one should remove diacritics from Latin letters, delete all other characters, and normalise to upper case. This is what I've always had done to my name on flight tickets and I've never had a problem when travelling. Presumably the systems used for travel have been heavily tested during use for weird names.

    1. Kristian Walsh
      Thumb Up

      Yep, keep it simple, and don't second-guess.

      Being clever bites you on the ass, but it's way too common.

      What bugs me is when software tries to be clever with its data entry, to the point where it rejects valid entries. In a former life, I remember doing localisation assesment the "Welcome" crapware you get on new [insert name of popular computer system]. The code that asks for your phone-number needed to be changed four times: Once to allow variable-length numbers (i.e., almost the whole world outside of the old Bell System), once to allow area codes longer than three digits (UK), once to deal with Denmark that doesn't have area codes at all, and then again to deal with numbers longer than 10 digits (UK).

      ... all this so that people could put in a bogus phone number?

      A friend of mine has one of the best surnames ever for breaking stupid name-splicing algorithms ("X de Y"). I also like to give my address as the charming Dutch town of 's-Hertogenbosch, which causes no end of fun when someone is showing you their spiffy new customer management system.

  4. Skrynesaver

    A title

    Clearly the proles a plotting something against the beloved arse of crockery.

  5. nickrw


    We're not all nobs you know. Some of us are just bastards.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Same problem us Irish have had for years

    O'Connell is, I am frequently told, an invalid name. OConnell let's me get past the validation (and the CC still works too) but is actually the invalid spelling.

    1. Sean O'Connor 1

      To be sure

      I've given up using the apostrophe in my name on my credit cards because it causes so much trouble :(

    2. Gav

      Your fault

      Well frankly it serves you right for having a name that looks like attempted SQL injection.

      Friend of mine is called ';DELETE FROM CUSTOMER; You can't imagine the trouble he has signing up for things.

      1. prathlev


        It's a classic:

        1. Daniel B.
          Thumb Up

          Bobby O'Tables

          is coming for you!

  7. Andy ORourke

    Don't get me started........

    My surname has an apostrophe in it, causes havoc with pretty much any electronic sign up form :-)

  8. Rob O'Connor

    Funny chars in surnames

    Having funny chars in your surname can be a nightmare. I have an apostrophe in mine which any computing fule kno can do interesting things to poorly-written code. The amount of times I've got to the checkout on a shopping site for it to barf, and me not knowing if the payment was taken or not.


    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Funny chars in surnames

      "The amount of times I've got to the checkout on a shopping site for it to barf, and me not knowing if the payment was taken or not."

      If you double the apostrophe up and one gets through, start brushing up on your SQL.

  9. Colin Millar

    What do you expect?

    Rackspace are, apparently and in their own words, the world leader in cloud computing.

    A firm which by its own admission is dedicated to all things vague and ill-defined can hardly be expected to recognise value in regular expressions.

  10. Fredrick Smith


    A credit card ?

    Doesn't your word suffice ?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: What?

      Indeed. Can't Her Majesty or His Royal Highness vouch for you?

  11. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Is premature validation the root of all evil?

    So they allowed digits, but not hyphens, apostrophes or spaces? Who wrote this system, C3PO?

    So they were filtering names, but then insisting that the result matched a third party system for payments?

    Perhaps we should start teaching CompSci students *not* to validate data. Tell them it is uncool and only for wimps. The smart ones will realise this is rubbish and do it anyway, but they are precisely the ones that can be trusted to get it right. The idiots will be taken in and we'll be spared their stupidity.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      gritish bas

      british gas have been the worst for me.

      My email domain includes a hyphen, and after getting me to type it in twice, their site accepted it and promptly removed the hyphen without telling me. It was only when I tried to log in that I found they'd corrupted it. Took ages to work out what they'd done!!

      I guess that's what they call progress.

      1. Allan George Dyer

        That's bad news...

        for anyone with an internationalized domain name using punycode.

        The fail's for BG, not you, AC.

  12. Paul_Murphy

    he he. - try this for a name


  13. Anonymous Coward

    XKCD link

  14. Cameron Colley

    Reminds me of hte hell that is Apostrophe's in SMTP addresses.

    Can't find an RFC to point the moaning "customer" at so have to allow them -- then systems like third-party spam and virus filtering won't accept them in logins and web forms etc. have problems with the address. Never had problems with hyphens though.

    1. Cunningly Linguistic

      Not to mention...

      ...Greengrocers' Apostrophes.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: Not to mention...

        Don't you mean Greengrocer's Apostrophe's?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Keep up with the fashions, old boy!

    Surely it's fashionable to write something like "Damon HartDavis" these days. Of course, you then appear like some kind of accountancy firm or Wall Street investment bank after a merger and before a rebranding.

  16. Marcus Aurelius

    Even more annoying

    Is that there is never anywhere to put your titles before and after your name, or even if they do they don't grant enough space.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Not just toffs

    My wife kept her maiden name when we married, so our kids are named Jones-Smith. I guess that makes them aristocats... :-)

  18. Anonymous Coward

    personally I'd be moaning...

    ..that they wanted my credit card details in the first place (which would eliminate the cc name mismatch). Free trial should mean exactly that - and anyone taking credit card information that 'won't be used' is in breach of some law or other...hmm if only the DPA had a section on unnecessary collection of personal information....oh hang on..

  19. Just Thinking

    Semicolons are the worse

    My surname is ;drop and it causes me loads of problems.

  20. Z80

    @Cameron Colley

    Think of it as your punishment for misusing them yourself.

    1. Cameron Colley

      My apostrophe's are not your's so go away!

      My punctuation is second to none.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I think people should be more chilled about their names

    Sometimes I use the hyphen in mine, sometimes not, or use one or other part or even Mr. <wife's maiden name>, whatever seems reasonable at the time. I don't even mind having cards with different names and signatures.

  22. Kubla Cant

    The Curse of Unnecessary Validation

    WTF is the point of validating somebody's name? As long as I supply one, my name is whatever I say it is, subject to things like credit card approval. The same goes for other free-form data like addresses.

    On a related note, why do web forms make us repeat our email addresses (or, more likely, copy box 1 and paste into box 2)? We're deemed capable of getting a 16-digit card number right without repeating it.

    And what's with forms that won't accept phone numbers with spaces or "+" signs? Actually, I know the answer to that one, because I worked on a site where they told me that their auto-dialer wouldn't accept spaces. Is this really the 21st century?

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      unnecessary validation

      Don't get me started ... oh, too late...

      When my sister-in-law got married, she was told that she could legally use any name she liked, and several if she so chose, as long as her intentions weren't fraudulent, so in the UK at least, name validation is pointless to the point of being wrong.

      Addresses, I believe, have a preferred form as far as the UK post office is concerned, although I'm pretty sure you couldn't even write a grammar for it, let alone a regular expression.

      And before we go, can I just mention that asking a user to divide their name into "title", "forename" and "surname" is almost always an indication that you intend to separate the parts and stick them back together in the wrong order next time to talk to the customer.

      Sorry. I'll go and sit down in a darkened room now.

    2. Cameron Colley

      The email address makes sense.

      Your credit card number is checked and an error is returned if it doesn't match the other details you give -- there is no way that anyone can check that you entered your email address correctly (other than asking you to reply to an email sent to it, and even that only means you got the domain correct).

      I agree about the over-checking though -- some moron where I work forced SMTP addresses to only be of the form <firstname>.<lastname> so anyone with a slightly different form caused errors which propagated across several systems.

    3. Ian Cumbers

      Validating email is for their benefit, not yours ;-)

      -On a related note, why do web forms make us repeat our email addresses (or, more likely,

      -copy box 1 and paste into box 2)? We're deemed capable of getting a 16-digit card number

      -right without repeating it.

      I think that's because they can validate the, err, validity of the CC number straight away, but if you get your email address wrong, you won't get their crap^h^h^h^h useful marketing material....

  23. NogginTheNog

    Damn people!

    Having names that don't fit into nice logical well-defined computerised systems. It's just not on really...

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    My name is...

    slim shady, "Slim Shady so-sick-off-royal-news smith"

  25. jake Silver badge

    Another side of the coin ...

    From the late 1970s thru' the late '80s, I was legally known as "jake"[1]. Just the four letters, lower case. Was on all my legal documentation, from Passport & licence, to credit cards to my taxes. I finally went back to my birth-certificate name in 1990ish, as I could see that this modern, literal, computerized world was going to be rough on the whimsical ...

    [1] The actual name has been changed, to protect the guilty :-)

    1. Allan George Dyer

      I knew a guy...

      in the 80's who said his name was Splodge. He was a bit miffed when his electric bill was addressed tp S. P. Lodge.

  26. the spectacularly refined chap Silver badge

    To paraphrase Steve Jobs...

    Change your name. Not that big of a deal.

    1. Richard Morris


      I tried to buy a phone from Vodafone and their website refused to believe that an email address ending .eu was a valid one.

      I emailed their customer services and their advise was register for a hotmail account!

  27. irrelevant


    I've got an apostrophe in my surname too. It causes no end of problems, but does sometimes throw up interesting SQL errors.. What irritates me, though, is the sites that automatically de-capitalise the letter after the apostrophe. If I take the trouble to type in mixed case, please keep it like that!

    Worst incident was when O2 upgraded their website - old version was quite happy with me. New version crashed with lots of errors as soon as I logged in.. it took months before they fixed it - by creating me a new login and misspelling my name - and I could get into my bills again.

    My young daughter has a first name with a hyphen in it, as well as the apostrophe in the surname. I can foresee many interesting times ahead with websites...

  28. Alan Brown Silver badge

    not just toffs

    Anyone sensible enough to use NAME+suffix email addresses to enable filters to easily toss inbound mail into appropriate folders tends to find that a lot of sites don't like 'em.

    Including a LOT of UK sites whose helldesks claim that + isn't a valid character in email addresses.

    Mine's the one with the questionmarks all over it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ah yes, the wisdom of the helldesks.

      + is a perfectly valid character in an email address. Just not in the hostname part. Same for, oh, at signs, spaces, and so on. Quote it and all is well again, except when some script or other, perhaps written in php, decides it isn't.

      So why do we even have helldesks, those dens that are supposed to enlighten us but at the same time manage to pull their betters down and manage to make brains rot instantly? Wasn't all this computing technology ment to be "intuitive" and therefore it would be entirely and instantly self-evident what is a valid email address and what isn't?

      So much boneheaded stupidity abounds these days that I think this intuitivity premise is a cake of a lie and that odd characters in email addresses acceptance is not really fixable. Then again "most people" grew up on a certain bundled client, which is just about the worst email client there is* and even more these days can't be arsed to write a proper or even readable email.

      I'm with Knuth on this one: Email was fun in the 80s. Wish I could get away with not having any email account these days. He can, but I can't afford the replacement secretary.

      * it's fine, I'm told, as a companion to that upsell of a collaboration messaging server that so very much is not an email server, but gets universally abused as such. You know the one, it even "enables" the sender to delete sent mail from the recipient's inbox, distressing panicked office drones everywhere when, not if, they find out the hard way that this button doesn't work anywhere but on their own local network. From the same company that brought you a "common internet file system" that is entirely unfit to expose on the public internet. They're not responsible for all stupidity on the internet. Not quite. But if there's a field where they actually manage to innovate it's there.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        "Just not in the hostname part."

        Hmm, but a hyphen is and the domain I use for my email has one.

        There are quite a large number of places who seem to think this isn't possible either though. Reading out <something> hyphen <something> dot TLD over the phone sometimes results in; "I can't enter that sir, it's invalid.".

        An interesting variation that I have heard here is the helpful offer to replace it with an underscore, which their system will accept. Always gives me a good laugh that one.

        I guess a simple DNS lookup to validate the hostname part is considered de trop by some UI builders.

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          the hostname part

          "An interesting variation that I have heard here is the helpful offer to replace it with an underscore, which their system will accept. Always gives me a good laugh that one."

          Be thankful you weren't asked to subtract the second half from the first half.

  29. Richard Pennington 1

    From Dr. Xavier Wolfeschlegelsteinhausserbergerdorff, Jr.

    Many sites do not allow me to use my correct academic title.

  30. Spanners Silver badge


    It also discriminates against those of us who are known by their second name - like Simon Peter Jones known as Peter.

    My bank refused to allow me do have my account details showing my name as it is actually used. Something to do with money laundering. Was not too happy with my signature as it showed it "wrong". I thought that it was supposed to be a consistent squiggle. At least I won that bit.

    As far as I know, you can call yourself what you like as long as there is no criminal intent.

    It is the bland middle class English speakers thinking that everyone should be like them.

    1. jphb

      Misunderstanding names

      I also am known by my second Christian name. This caused considerable confusion when work place acquired a clever 'phone system with an extension/user database populated from the staff list. I used to regularly receive 'phone calls asking for "John" - my first Christian name.

      To add to the complications I also have three Christian names and I have known systems that address me as Mr. <first Christian name> <third Christian name>.

      Too many people making assumptions rather than doing some serious leg work researching the options when designing systems using names. It would be nice if some national or professional agency could give general advice to coders on the ground on such issues, even nicer if they could get it right.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: It would be nice if...

        "...some national or professional agency could give general advice to coders on the ground on such issues, even nicer if they could get it right."

        Nicest of all would be if languages that claimed to be "suitable" for web development offered data validation APIs.

        Actually, I'm professing my own ignorance here. They probably do, and the real problem is probably that the average coder reckons the API spec is too difficult to read so it will be faster to "roll their own".

        Actually, no, the *real* problem is that the web-site owner who is paying the aforementioned turkey does absolutely no testing of what they have bought before inflicting on their customers.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    I can see how it happened ...

    many moons ago, I worked for a (now defunct - surprise, surprise) financial software house. Day 1, I was playing with the system, and discovered that it would not capitalise the second letter of my surname, which is of the form LeCxxxxx. That's how it's spelt. That's how use it, and that's how I like it. There was a bit of clunky code which reformatted the string to only have a capital first letter. I logged it as a fault, and was promptly told to STFU - what did I know. I innocently asked if the Jersey sales team knew of this ....

    Of course day 1, in Jersey, the client using our software got a complaint, from a "LeCxxxxx" who had millions to invest ... these folk really take their moniker seriously. Became quite a flashpoint, as the code was so sloppy, there were quite a few places which "verified" the name. So even changing the data entry screen wasn't a guarantee that you wouldn't get a document with the correct spelling.

    The poor BA who had poo-pooed my fault log really got it in the neck, as everything was in black and white - including my comment that anyone with a French surname would not be treated properly by the system.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    title? who cares about titles?

    It amazes me the number of places that insist on a title (even for us unennobled plebs) and then address us a forenme + surname or merely forename. Another waste of time and effort.

  33. Julian Bradfield


    Often, the "validation" (rejection of perfectly good email addresses) is done by javascript in the page. Using nice toys such the Web Developer Firefox plugin, it's easy to modify the page...

  34. Dave Bell


    My teddy-bear apparently likes reading advertising emails. It's a good thing he has an email address that these sites will accept.

  35. david 12 Silver badge

    snail mail address

    Used to have the same problem with my street address "Residence 6, Greensborough Training Centre, Thornbury 3181" (That address no longer exists anyway).

    In a mail sorting centre, a suburb was a bag that was delivered to a local post office for delivery sorting. That bag was collected by a Training Centre employee, so the post office didn't do delivery sorting at all.

    So there is no actual street name there. If you needed to make a delivery, you drove along the private road and looked for residence 6. It taught me never to make assumptions about the form of a street address.

  36. Dan Paul

    Most "Customer Avoidance Systems" can't even handle Jr

    Having followed my fathers wishes and named my first son "the Third" (I'm Junior), I have to laugh at the capabilities of these "Customer Avoidance Systems" to comprehend everyday naming conventions.

    Many online credit card payment systems apparently puke technicolor when I enter a simple "Jr" as it shows EXACTLY on my credit card and banking statements.

    Now my oldest son has III (3rd) after his legal name and NONE of the various credit agencies can make the differentiation between us since we all have the exact same name EXCEPT for the Sr, Jr, III.

    It's bad enough that imbecilic customer disservice people can't even call me by my correct last name, let alone trying to explain to them the difference between my belated father, myself and my oldest son.

    Given that some people are known to give themselves and their children even more unusual names, perhaps some enterprising programmer can come up with a character string for a name that when processed by a computer, deletes everything besides the ordered goods SKU's, the ship to address and the payment authorization (from someone elses credit card).

    Now THAT would be a name worthy of soon to be royalty! (At least "royal" off what they could sell on Ebay)

  37. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    I've lost count...

    of the number of online job application sites that refuse to allow me to apply for jobs because they insist my telephone number is invalid. I stare and stare at 0114 xxx-xxxx and see nothing wrong with it, they only allow me to progress if I enter 0114xxxxxxx, which /isn't/ my phone number.

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