I’ve just had a frustrating time trying to order a package in France. The story has a happy ending but really?
In the shipping section of the order they requested the mobile number at the delivery address. I entered it. It failed verification. Remembering that mobile numbers in France differ if you’re calling from outside the country or inside (no, it’s not just adding the country code) I looked up the differences. Nope, I had it right. Tried again with slight variations. Nope. Gave up. Sent a note to the vendor.
The next morning they replied and asked me to enter the address and phone directly in the order instead of the address book. Nope.
What was I doing? Was I transposing things without realizing it? Was I including a return when copying the number from Contacts? Nope. Then I tried a couple online number verification services. Failed them, too.
I messaged my friend (at the number ) and asked her to text me her mobile number exactly as she would give it to a French person. Copied it from the message and, you guessed it, it worked. But it looked exactly the same! What on earth?
So, I fired up Python in the terminal ready to execute “my Number”==“herNumber”. Didn’t even have to press return. When myNumber was pasted-in the Terminal escaped the two invisible, zero-width characters at the beginning and end of the mobile number: U+202D myNumber U+202C.
Mac Contacts appears to enclose all phone numbers, not just furrin ones, with those two characters when you copy them. It doesn’t do it when you export a VCF. And, I just tried once but it appears IOS doesn’t do this.
What are those two pesky characters? U+202D is a Left Right Override and U+202C is a Pop Directional Formatting. In other words it’s probably exempting the phone number from the surrounding text flow direction—an issue if the surrounding text is Hebrew or Arabic (or Japanese or Chinese ).
They’re zero-width so you can’t see them when you select them and it is impossible to omit them by drag-selecting.
The reason, obviously, the copy failed verification is because multiple website developers aren’t filtering their inputs. Well, they do, sorta, by asking you to omit various and sundry characters yourself rather than writing a straight-forward regex.
The moral of the story is that when things fail that look exactly the same, key it in manually (Why do we use these computer-things again?).
Edit: This is with macOS Ventura 13.0.1 and the behavior occurs when you copy a number directly from a contacts card.