Um, how’s that going to work again?

Fujitsu is going to roll out trolleys with scanners so that shoppers can avoid the checkout queue. Naturally, this assumes a degree of honesty on the part of the shoppers. What’s amusing about this is how they plan to “trust, but verify”.

According to Marcus May (retail director, Fujitsu Australia):

bq. “By the end of 2006, we plan to put in weigh scales at floor level that will know if the (bill) is accurate. The scales will know the weight of every item”

Um, right… so the scanner will know “hey, they just scanned a two-litre bottle of Coke. That weighs about 2035g (give or take a bit to allow for minor variations in quantity and weight of packaging). Hey, the trolley just got 2043g heavier! That must be the Coke!” Fair enough.

But let’s look at some ways to scam the system: “Hey, they just scanned a two-litre bottle of LA Ice Cola. That weighs about 2035g. Hey, the trolley just got 2043g heavier! That must be the LA Ice Cola!”. LA Ice Cola, of course, sells for about half the price of Coca Cola, but is the same weight. Then there’s the 2-kilo container of ground coffee, which costs about 20 times the cost of the Coke bottle… So, as an audit mechanism, weight sort of sucks.

Now lets look at the ways the system can produce a false negative: “Hey, the trolley just got 10385g heavier! They didn’t scan anything! Shop-Lifter! Shop-Lifter!” Boy, will those security guards be embarrassed when they try to arrest the young housewife who just put her 18 month-old son in the seat at the front of the trolley.

Look, self-scanning systems are a good idea, but saying you’ll use weight scanners as a verification mechanism… please, don’t insult our intelligence – that’s what Big Brother is for.

Author: Robert Watkins

My name is Robert Watkins. I am a software developer and have been for over 20 years now. I currently work for people, but my opinions here are in no way endorsed by them (which is cool; their opinions aren’t endorsed by me either). My main professional interests are in Java development, using Agile methods, with a historical focus on building web based applications. I’m also a Mac-fan and love my iPhone, which I’m currently learning how to code for. I live and work in Brisbane, Australia, but I grew up in the Northern Territory, and still find Brisbane too cold (after 22 years here). I’m married, with two children and one cat. My politics are socialist in tendency, my religious affiliation is atheist (aka “none of the above”), my attitude is condescending and my moral standing is lying down.

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