Technology at work

There was nothing posted yesterday, and when I thought about it I read the post from June 23rd, and sure enough I did say, “If I do not post tomorrow, check the registry of jails and prisons in Florence.” There was nothing of the sort that kept me from actually putting anything up, more that I was just tired and only looking to have a bite to eat when I got home. I read the news and all the sites on my list yesterday, but nothing would have motivated me to actually make a post.

Just to clarify before I move on, I did not kill anyone, I am not in jail or prison, and anyone who is spreading those lies may be next on my list…

Now for more discussion of the ‘Great Shelf Tag Adventure’. Yesterday we finsihed the tagging of the store, in theory. There are tags for like 98% of all of the items that we have, most are at or near the price of the items that they are replacing, and the ones that aren’t are behind the tags of the items that we have in stock. That all went pretty well. Where we ran into a problem was when I was trying to get all of the new items uploaded to the register. I had been wondering if there was going to be enough memory in the actual registers to hold all of the new items that were being added, the actual total of new items was actually only around 1,500, since I didn’t put a lot of them in thinking that we may not actually order them, so I would add them later if we did.

I had uploaded about 600 new items to the register, and had about another 400 in the program ready to upload, when I tried to do the upload and got my question answered with the following quote, “Request has over-loaded memory banks”. What this means is that we/I/the store can not add a single item to the register without first deleting an item that is no longer in use. The problem with that is that I only know how to do that one item at a time.

I tried to call the people who made the software that actually interacts with the register to see if they could tell me how to do a large group all at once. I was not able to contact them by phone so I tried to email the guy who sent me a solution to a problem that we previously had with the software, still no response. We could simply be fucked on this. If I take the items out one at a time I can only do about one item per five or seven seconds, and I would need to take out about 400 of them to complete the items that are already in the program but not the register. There are literally thousands that I know can be deleted, I can even print out a list of them since the program will let me display a list of upc’s based on paramaters that I make, unfortunately I can not figure out how to delete them in a similar manner. Being that it is already Friday night there is no way this will be resolved before Monday so I will just have a lot of time to stew on it, and try to figure out a way to circumvent the limitations of the program.

Technology sucks when it is not doing what you want it to.

Now for a bit of background relating to the problem, not because I think you want to read it, but because I really want to say it. This problem has been a long time coming. Our cash registers don’t have monitor screens like a lot of stores, they don’t have hard drives or anything of that sort, all they have is a stick of RAM. The memory was upgraded a couple of years ago, though I don’t really remember why, but it is still just a stick of RAM. There is only so much that one can put onto a memory device of that sort. As they were constantly telling me to add items to the file, items that I knew we were never going to carry again, I was thinking that there was going to be a time when there just wasn’t any more memory to do it. Of course it only happened now, as I was trying to add a thousand items to a list that probably has ten-thousand items already in it. Of those items already in the file we likely still stock less than half of them.

The biggest problem, however, is the store brands. There are always two ‘store brands’. One is one that supposedly rivals the national brands, while the other is a cheap, plain-label type that is always a lot cheaper than anything else on the shelf. When we started using the scanners (and thus when the original database of items was made), the store brands were TV and Rainbow. Very shortly after we had started to use the scanners TV was replaced by Best Yet. That meant that every single item in the store that had been ‘TV’ had to be entered into the register as ‘Best Yet’, and since there are different upc’s for every different brand, that doubled the number of store brands in the register. Fast forward about two years and Rainbow was replaced by Exceptional Value, with the same doubling thing going on with the registers. Then, last year, Fleming went out of business taking with it ‘Best Yet’ and ‘Exceptional Value’, which were simultaneously replaced by ‘Springfield’ and ‘Special Value’, respectively. If your count is working, you should note that we already have SIX store brands stored in the memory of the cash register. This latest undertaking was trying to put in ‘Shurefine’, ‘Super Savings’ and ‘Western Family’. Numbers seven, eight and nine, as far as the number of ‘store brands’ in the register. If, at this point, you have not yet figured out that there is way too much useless shit in the register, you are likely going to vote for Bush since you just don’t understand logic.

Now for the upside. The UPC of every distributor is on every product they sell. The first five digits of that UPC is the company code, while the last five digits is the product code. As a for instance, 51000 is the company code for the Campbell’s company, while the last five digits are their own number to identify what type of soup it is. All of the store brands have to abide by those same rules, so I know that all of the items that were either TV or Rainbow start with the first five digits of 11205. I can list all of the items that start with those five digits by doing a search for all items from 1120500000 to 1120599999, and I get a listing of every TV or Rainbow item that we ever had in the system. I can delete them one by one, then it will let me add one new item to the system for every one that I have removed, but that is slow going. By Monday I am hoping to have gotten an email back from the people who made the software explaining how I can delete them all at once. Deleting all of the 11205 items would free up thousands of item spaces in the register. For that matter I could also delete all of the 42187 codes in the register, since we only have a couple of Best Yet items left on the shelf and I could re-enter them if necessary.

Adding to my frustration is the fact that if the size/weight of a consumer package changes, the UPC must also change. This means that when you buy that thing that says “33% more FREE” it will have a totally different UPC than the item has when it is the normal size item. Similarly, Frito Lay likes to change the weight of the chips that they sell so that they can keep from raising prices- What used to be a 16oz. bag of Doritos is now at 13 1/4oz, and it still has gone up in price- every different weight must have a different UPC, that is something I would have never known had I not been working here, though I did think that the amount of air in the bags had been increasing pretty considerably over the last few years.

Long story short, there are exactly two options at this point. The first is that I get an email from the guys at RIS, or even a call, explaing how to get rid of all of the 11205 and 42187 upc’s, thus clearing the space for thousands of new items. The second is to actually pay to upgrade the registers so that they have enough memory to handle all the upc’s. There is a third, very frightening, option. That third option would be to completely blank the cash registers and go through the program files to send only the current upc’s. The only way I can think to do that would be to do it one at a time. It would take a hell of a lot of time, but I could completely purge the system and thus free up a hell of a lot more space than either of the other options. Estimated time: 100 hours. The quickest, easiest fix would be to slap a bit more memory in the registers, what will actually happen remains to be seen…

Also, the meat scale at work started to malfunction after a series of power outages around noon today. By ‘malfunction’ I mean that it just doesn’t work at all. That scale has been there far longer than I have, I tried all of the troubleshooting things in the owners manual and got nothing. It is just fucking broke.

As with damn near anything, if they were to give me an hour alone with either system I bet I could come up with a way to solve, or at the very least circumvent, the problem. Unfortunately that never happens unless I do it on my own time. Imagine trying to simply do surgery to remove and appendix while someone is constantly hovering over you yelling, “are you almost done? How much longer? Are you sure you know how to do this? I don’t have time for this. You either can or you can’t. Where’s the god damn appendix, we have been here three minutes already.”

Enough Said.

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