Foreigners Not Welcome

Is the concept of the global village simply a myth? Looking at certain US based web sites one might think so; do the designers of these sites not realise that more potential internet users exist outside the US than within?

A little while ago I was catching up on one of my Flickr photo feeds when I came across a reference to a competition with a Leica M7 as first prize. I’d love to earn one of those so of course I visited the link. Turns out it is a promo for, a new photography site, apparently started by Chris Weeks, a photographer whose work I am familiar with from Flickr.

Having been through this kind of thing once or twice I immediately checked the rules to see if I was eligible and found that I wasn’t, as they say “Leica M7 Sweepstakes (the “Sweepstakes”) is open only to legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia who are at least sixteen (16) years old at the time of entry.” I don’t really have a problem with this as there are physical prizes involved, and with the cost of foreign shipping and other, possibly legal factors to consider, it is not unusual for web sites to restrict competition eligibility to the country of origin. Being a sucker for photographic web sites I decided to join anyway so clicked the link and got the registration form, which has a Zip Code field. Most of the world outside the US has postal codes, not zip codes, but web sites typically accept them along with US zip codes. Not this site though; when I submitted I got back a message saying “Please enter a valid US zip code”, and this is why I’m writing this post.

What is the deal with sites like this? Are the owners or designers ignorant and not realise they are excluding most of the world’s population? Do they deliberately exclude those outside the US for some reason? In which case why not go that little bit further and analyse visitor’s IP addresses so that they can block us from accessing the site completely, perhaps with a nice polite(?) “FOREIGNERS NOT WELCOME” message. I prefer to think that it is not malicious and in the case of, I still want to join, so thanks to Aaron Spelling for giving us Beverley Hills 90210, which not only provided us with entertainment but also provides foreigners with easy access to a US zip code that can be used to circumvent silly blocks like these.

Chris, if you should happen to read this post, I don’t really live in Beverley Hills, but in Cape Town, South Africa, where foreigners are welcome.

3 responses to “Foreigners Not Welcome

  1. I had the same problem the other day registering on a site. It is really annoying. I overcame the problem in the same way, using a US postal code I dug out from somewhere. I guess we can learn from this and ensure that anything we put up on the web takes into account the fact that it has a global audience.

  2. The reason why some sites refuse to let users outside of the US to register is that there is no money to be made on foreign users if it is a US based company. It’s the truth.

  3. You bring up a good point here. Funny how timely it is, I just tried to register to vote for your photo (in the final 16 hours!) and could not do so. I lack a South African registration number! I tried to make one up, but I have no idea how many digits it takes, so sorry I cannot vote for you!

    I have a real estate site in the U.S. and I made very sure anyone can register if they need my help. Many pre-done sites I’ve subscribed to lack the forsight to enable international people to register. Guess we are still not quite that global economy at the grassroots level.

    BTW your photos are marvelous! I would like to suggest a few photo clubs I belong to, please go check them out.

    Your country is very beautiful, I rode my bike from J’burg to Cape Town one month in 2000.


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