Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fun with databases: How cereals turn into silverware

This morning my wife came back from grocery shopping. Among other things, she brought back a new organic cereal mix that just had started to hit the shelves. My wife was happy because she got it for free - more or less.

While paying at the cash register, my wife checked the receipt because the amount seemed to be higher than expected. Then she noticed an item on the list that wasn't in her cart: A 24 piece silverware set. What was in her cart, but not on the receipt was the new cereal mix. After some phone calls by the store clerk to the supervisor they together found out that both the silverware and cereals were in the product database, but somehow the system mixed it up. Was the barcode on the product incorrect? Were both products listed with the same barcode? Was it a database inconsistency or a system glitch?

My wife got the cereals for free as token of appreciation for waiting and the trouble and left some puzzled store employees behind.

Did you run into similar situations? Any ideas how this could have happened?