Fun With Localization

I implemented something pretty fun today. You know how I said a while back that the whole point of the experimental storefront was to push the envelope to ridiculous lengths? In that spirit, I added realtime currency conversion to the price widgets.

This is what you see in the United States, in a region outside of my sales tax responsibility:

This is what you would see if you were another unfortunate denizen of the Republic of Texas, where digital goods are somehow considered to be “tangible personal property”:

And now for the fun of it, some other currencies (GBP, CAD, and EUR):

Okay, here’s how it works. It polls for the latest exchange rates, then saves them to the database. Every hour and 30 seconds afterwards, it polls for a fresh set of rates. So, the storefront updates the rates every hour, shortly after OpenExchangeRates updates their values, and in between, the buttons and catalog price strings pull the rates stored in the database and apply them to the default USD pricing.

The actual PayPal transaction will probably still display in USD–I don’t have any foreign currency to test it with, and this is something I guess we’ll need to find out after the public beta starts, but I’m pretty sure it’ll still be transacted in USD as that’s the default currency in my account. However, the storefront rates will still give you a good ballpark figure in your own currency, plus or minus a few percentage points, and that’ll save you the bother of hitting up Google for a conversion for every item on the page.

About those few percentage points of difference…well, there are actually a few different currency exchange rates. The interbank rates are what large blocks of currency are traded at by banks and financial institutions, then there are the retail rates, which are generally higher and assessed against smaller amounts of currency. Most currency converters and the newspapers generally display the interbank rates, while the retail rates are what you get zapped with when you exchange cash in another country or make an international transaction. To address that, I’m planning to add both a “quoted rates are approximate at best” disclaimer and add an extra 3.5% to the displayed total to account for PayPal’s conversion fee, which should bring the displayed total pretty close to what you’d actually end up paying in a non-USD currency.

Work on the experimental storefront will be somewhat spotty over the next few days, since there are a few things I have to do over at WorldWorks. Nothing sexy, mostly just time-critical administrative stuff, so I wanted to post this update to tide you guys over in the meantime. 🙂

10 thoughts on “Fun With Localization

  1. northernheathen

    Wow, you’ve really done alot of work on this it would certainly speed up the purchasing.

    with your creative MOJO on the ascendence, whats next on the horizon.
    can’t wait to get my hands on this model. i could do with some Card modelling therapy.

  2. Carl Fishman

    I like this! It won’t make any difference for me if you do it (since I live in the US, but not Texas), but it would set a great example for other people! (I’ve been known to order stuff from the UK and Australia, and always have to wonder what the exchange rate is.)

  3. zorg

    As far as I can tell, Paypal automatically shows me the price I’m about to pay in Euro, as part of the payment process. This seems to me to be a Paypal feature (it only happens on the Paypal site), not something the store owner needs to set up. So it doesn’t really matter much whether the original site offering the product is able to display more than one currency in the first place.

    That said, anyone who’s regularly spending some money on US products online can do the currency conversion in the head. I know I can 🙂

  4. Christopher Roe Post author

    Yeah, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could at least see a ballpark figure in your own currency without having to think about it or click through to PayPal to see the total? It’s the little things that matter. 🙂

    Oh, and while you’re at it, it’d be interesting to see how far off PayPal’s rates are compared to the exchange rates the store is pulling. IIRC, they tack on an extra 2.5% to the buyer as well as the extra 1% to the seller somewhere down the line. What I’m unsure of is whether or not they actually show that up front or if they prefer to quietly ding people for it after the fact.

  5. Christopher Roe Post author

    Oh, it’s not there yet–I spent quite a bit of time playing around with the model after the test store went offline, and I haven’t had a chance to figure out what I want to do with it yet.

  6. Becky Ratliff

    OK! Chris, I have enough senior moments all on my own, without you making me think I’m imagining models that don’t exist. 😀

  7. George Coutts

    I missed it too Becky, whilst I was out of action for a bit 🙂
    I hope this resurfaces at some point, if I had been aware of it it would have been an instant purchase (I am a sucker for Chris’s spacecraft as you know 🙂 )
    I only just found this alternate blog of yours today Chris, I got had the old blogger page boolmarked straight to the forum page, and never even saw your homepage link…guess I was out of it…lol

    Got some catching up on reading to do it looks like

  8. Christopher Roe Post author

    It’ll return at some point. After testing the experimental storefront, I turned around and Frankensteined the model for a different experiment–I wanted to see if precuts were more technologically feasible in 2011 than they were in 2009, and it happened to be handy. Some of the minor changes made to the model were improvements and need to be rolled back into the original PDFs before it resurfaces.

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