Reader Janet Butt was trying to sign up for an airline miles program when she ran into a prudish form processor that deemed her last name “illegal.”
I tried to sign up for the Airmiles Reward Miles program at http://www.airmiles.ca yesterday, June 2, 2009, but could not complete the registration process due to an error. The error read, “There are illegal words in your input text”, as per the attached picture. At first, I thought that perhaps the system had a problem with the punctuation in the name of my city, St. John’s, Newfoundland (as I have had issues with this on other sites before), but after removing the period and the apostrophe, I was still unable to register. Then it hit me. My surname is Butt.
I Googled “funny surnames”, just to see whether there were other “illegal” names out there. Oddly enough, I was able to continue without error by using the last names Balls, Death, and Cockshott (all real surnames)
No “illegal words” error when I tried to sign up as “Janet Nipples”, either.
I contacted them via their feedback link and they contacted me today, saying that I could email my information to them for processing. I asked if they might fix this problem and got a reply with their generic message saying they would “forward my concerns to the appropriate department”.
We don’t know what to do here. We understand that there is a need for safeguards, lest the online world be overrun by Amanda Hugenkisses and Mike Hunts. Nonetheless, these restrictions eventually preclude people with unfortunate real names from using them, adding even more hassle to their lives.