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Fuck you, let me pay you

For my online scheduling and appointment booking application MakePlans I have implemented SMS reminders. So if you book with a hairdresser you will get a SMS the day before your appointment reminding you about your reservation. This is helpful for the customer and helps businesses reduce no-shows. After some research I ended up using Clickatell as a provider mainly due to their flexible prepaid pay as you go pricing. Other alternatives required a registration fee as well as a fixed monthly fee. But this was a couple of years ago and now there are some new players in the market offering very cheap SMS, most notably Twilio and Tropo. Unfortunately neither of them were able to fully support international messages or specify a custom sender-id. So I had to continue using Clickatell and top-up my account with some credits. Easier said than done. After entering my details and amount to be paid I was presented with the the error “declined payment”. After trying to pay with both my MasterCard and Visa card I suspected something was wrong on their end and contacted support. And this was the respond I received:

"Dear Espen,

Thank you for contacting Clickatell.

 Your card is being declined by our payment gateway as the originating IP Address for the payment does not match up to the card's country of issue. 

Kindly place a payment within the country of issue in order for your card to be accepted."

I am from Norway but have lived in Kuala Lumpur for a year. Obviously flying back to Norway to pay $100 to send a few text messages was not option. I replied to Clickatell saying so and received this reply:

"We need to see a recent bank statement for the credit card used for your latest transaction. 

The following information has to be visible on the statement: 
The name and address of the card holder, 
The last four numbers on the credit card, 
The name of the bank..."

I am not really interested in contacting my bank to get a bank statement just to pay a supplier.

As a developer who travels a lot I find this policy customer hostile, puzzling and outdated. While I do understand Clickatell needs to protect themselves from credit card fraud this is not the way to do it.

So what happened after this? Well I did some further research on alternative providers and it seems a found a great one. Hoiio is similar to Twilio but in addition to low costs and a sensible API they can deliver to most countries and specify sender-id in messages. They are based in Singapore and while signing up for a trial at 10pm local time on a Sunday night I emailed support with a question. Just minutes later I receive a reply from the API lead developer. I’m switching.

Post title inspired by Mike Monteiro

Written on 12 April 2012.
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