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From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: OT -  Do these sound familiar ?!
Message-ID: <>
Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2002 04:47:22 -0500

On Sun, 24 Feb 2002 23:18:23 GMT, Mikel Potts
<> wrote:

>On Sun, 24 Feb 2002 14:11:52 -0800, Lone Haranguer wrote
>(in message <>):
>> Some 10 years ago we were doing some Christmas shopping in a Super Wally
>> in Corpus Christi, TX.  I had bought two identical items and the second
>> one wasn't scanning.  The woman behind the register called for someone
>> to run and price the item.  I asked why she couldn't just scan the first
>> item again since they were identical.  She was very skeptical and acted
>> like I was trying to pull a swindle.  Finally when she got the price
>> from the runner, she called the manager over and reported me.  He
>> pondered this for a while and finally said.  "I think it's okay".
>> Thinking on your feet must be an obsolete custom.
>Not long ago, at least it doesn't seem all that long ago, cashiers
>used to count my duplicate items, hit a number on the register,
>scan one, and dump the rest straight into the bag. I've noticed a
>recent trend, or it only seems recent, to scan every item.
>At first I though that our school system was to blame, but every
>ten year old I know can count, so I investigated (only a tiny bit).
>It seem that those mysterious bar codes have undergone a recent change.
>Now, instead of merely identifying the type of product they also contain
>a serial number. This makes it possible to link every debit/credit card
>purchase to an item.

Wrong.  But thanks for playing.  I used to write the embedded code
that ran in NCR Point-of-sale terminals so perhaps I can tell you how
things really work.

UPS codes do NOT encode serial numbers.  A class of code DOES encode
quantity so that, for instance, a package of ground beef scans the
correct price without having to be weighed at the checkout.  This does
not and cannot "spy" on you.

The "spying" is much more simple.  the processing power of POS
terminals has tracked the PC world.  Indeed many of the units run PC
architecture computers with embedded software.  That POS terminal at
WallyWorld has at least a Pentium class processor and a large hard
drive and is connected via either ethernet or TokenRing to a back of
the house processor which is in turn linked via leased line or VSAT to

All the items you buy are packaged into a transaction record along
with the time, date, store #, register location and cashier and stored
on the local hard drive until the BOH processor polls for the data.
This record not only tells the store how much of what has been sold,
it lets them study what sort of things were bought together.  Such as,
how many people bought both milk and coffee at the same time.  If the
number is large enough, perhaps it is time to move the coffee
department closer to the milk coolers.  Or move them farther apart so
that you have to walk more of the store and presume ably impulse buy
more.  Nothing has yet identified who you are.

Now you hand them a check or a credit card or you use a "bonus card"
(sic).  The modern check scanners not only scan the bank codes at the
bottom, they also scan and OCR the title block that contains your
name, address and usually anymore, a phone number and maybe even a DL

Any and all personally identifying information you provide is bundled
into the transaction record.  Back at the home office, this data is
used in a variety of ways.  One is to build personal profiles to sell
to the likes of spammers.  Another is data mining to extract buying
patterns and other info of strategic value.  This is compute-intensive
enough that it is usually farmed out to a specialist house.  SSI in
Atlanta is one of those outfits.  That's their only business.  My
software packaged up the data sets and SNA'd them to SSI for

As of when I got out of the business in the early 90s, most of the
large chains were using my software, sold by the Choice Systems
division of GTE.

>Hah! I thought (only a tiny bit), this is the advent of a police state.
>Every crime will be twice as easy to track. Every questionable taste,
>possession, and dietary abnormality will be recorded and stored. Then
>one day, when you fail to pay your traffic ticket, they will throw
>away the key (to your car most likely).

Nitwit.  They've been doing this stuff for decades.  And they're doing
it with personal information that you're cheerfully giving them.  Ever
sign up for one of those bonus cards that BiLo and a bunch of other
companies love to issue?  Think you're saving lots of money from the
little discounts?  Guess again.  Industry statistics show that the
stores that use bonus cards on average mark the prices up enough to
cover the "discounts".  And they make almost as much profit selling
your buying patterns.  Love to use your credit card to buy groceries?
Love to write a check for that 50 cent candy bar?  you're handing them
your personal information on a silver platter.

If you don't want to be spammed and you value your privacy, pay with
cash and don't stores with your business that do the bonus card scam.
Easy as that.

On the outside chance that you'd like to actually know how UPC coding
works, you can go here:

A more layman-oriented approach is here:

John, kicked out of the New World Order

From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: OT -  Do these sound familiar ?!
Message-ID: <>
Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2002 04:56:26 -0500

On Mon, 25 Feb 2002 02:29:46 GMT, Mikel Potts
<> wrote:

>On Sun, 24 Feb 2002 17:55:44 -0800, Steph and Dud B. wrote
>(in message <AQge8.12333$>):
>> The registers can still do that.  It's the QTY button on the keyboard.  They
>> hit QTY, the # of items, then scan one.  That's all there is to it, but I
>> never saw a cashier actually do it.  Too complicated.
>They used to around here, well, around where I used to live. Either the
>people here are dumber, or it's a conspiracy. I have a theory about which.

It is, of course, neither.  It is store policy.  Seems checkers would
get lazy and scan one item in a bunch of similar items (say, blueberry
and strawberry pop tarts) and then  hit the multiplier button.  that
greatly screws up inventory and automatic replenishment systems.
Sooo, the store policy is to scan EVERY item.  More labor for the
checker but much less labor for the rest of the operation.


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