Why is that $499 TV ringing up for $0.99?
January 22nd, 2005 by scaredpoet

It appears we now know why Wal-Mart is so gung-ho about replacing the barcode with new RFID technology: bar code fraud.

According to an article in eWeek, someone discovered that if you buy a low-priced item, scan the UPC symbol and then print out multiple copies, pasting them over any high-dollar items in the store, those big-ticket ticket items will of course ring up the low-value price of the spoofed item.

This isn’t rocket science; anyone with a brain and the motivation could have figured this out a long time ago. However i imagine most people hadn’t tried because they (like I) had assumed that the fraud would be easily detected by the cashier ringing up the items.

Well, not so at Wal-Mart. The UPC fraud ring that targeted the chain guessed correctly that cashiers wouldn’t bother to notice.

What’s appalling about this is that there is one check against the UPC system that would normally work: the human element. Shouldn’t cashiers find it a little suspicious when a top-brand HDTV rings up as a 99-cent box of Q-tips, or perhaps be attentive to the fact that, whoops, this piece of paper with a fake barcode just happens to be taped over the real thing? Even worse, the article mentions that the scam was completed when the person “authorizing” his or her own discount would go to the service desk and return the item, getting a refund for the FULL price of the item. Shouldn’t eyebrows have been raised when someone hands in a receipt for that big-ticket TV they somehow paid $.99 for, expecting to get back the $399 full price for it?

This, my friends, is the price of hiring unskilled people at rock bottom wages, and not bothering to value or train them: they start to not care. Or worse, they’re just that braindead. It’s just sad that instead of addressing the problem, at least raising wages a bit to attract more competent people (or even motivate those who are working for them now to be a little more attentive), Wal-Mart would rather spend its money on a schnazzy, high-tech system that they expect should be idiot proof.

And by the way, RFID can be foiled, too.

One Response  
  • writes:
    January 26th, 2005 at 2:58 pm

    Why is Walmart pushing for RFID tagging from their main suppliers?
    This recent article in eweek is an interesting find by scaredpoet: ‘Wal-Mart Stung in $1.5 Million Bar-Code Scam’ [...]

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