Have a Nice Day, Period

Friday, June 20th, 2014

Over at the United States Postal Service’s website, you can handle many different mail-related tasks, including holding your mail while on vacation. You might think that providing such a tool online would lead to abuse, but it’s been available for years without apparent issue, and it’s very convenient. The form also includes an “Additional Instructions” field, which is a great place to have a little harmless fun.

The blank form

While preparing for a recent trip, I discovered that this field prevents the use of exclamation points. As soon as one is entered, an error message appears:

Have a nice day! - Sorry, that's not a valid Additional Instruction. Please double-check it and try again.

It’s amusing for “Have a nice day!” to be an invalid instruction, though perhaps accurate for a postal worker. I guessed that this prohibition was an attempt to prevent abusive messages, like “Don’t lose my mail, you worthless idiots!”. I would not be deterred, however, in my quest to wish some random mail carrier a nice day. Here’s the resulting message:

Have a nice day! - Sorry, that's not a valid Additional Instruction. Please double-check it and try again.

While writing this message, I realized that while exclamations points are forbidden, swearing didn’t seem to be. Here you can see what’s acceptable and what isn’t:

Unacceptable: Get fucked, you shitheel! Acceptable: Get fucked, you shitheel.
Well that’s not very nice.

It seems that rather than a goofy protective measure, the prohibition on exclamation points is merely the result of lousy web programming which also excludes several other punctuation marks like parentheses, brackets, and even semicolons.


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