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Y2K Bug, One Year Late

A Y2K-type computer bug hit cash registers in 7-Eleven stores this week, causing them to read the new year as 1901 instead of 2001 and inconveniencing customers who wanted to make credit-card purchases.

A spokeswoman said the problem was fixed late Tuesday night and most stores were operating normally Wednesday.

Officials at the Dallas-based chain of about 5,200 U.S. convenience stores and thousands more around the world thought they had nipped calendar-related computer glitches a year ago when, like many other big corporations, they geared up for an onslaught of Y2K bugs that never came.

7-Eleven said it spent $8.8 million preparing its in-store computer systems for the rollover from 1999 to 2000.

"This was all specifically devised for 7-Eleven and was all Y2K-compliant," said Margaret Chabris. "We did some 10,000 tests on it, and it was working fine until Monday."

Chabris said about 15 percent of 7-Eleven's sales involve credit cards - not including credit-card ports on the outside gas pumps, which she said were not disrupted. 7-Eleven had 1999 sales of $8.25 billion.

Chabris said it wasn't clear whether the company lost any sales because of the outage. For one thing, customers could still pay by cash or check. For another, she said, most of the stores still have devices for manually taking an imprint of a customer's credit card.

The chain has a proprietary system that tracks inventory, weather forecasts - to change the product mix during hot or cold spells - and all cash-register sales. The system is critical in helping 7-Eleven manage inventory in stores that have limited shelf space.

The 7-Eleven spokeswoman said major hardware and software vendors on the overall system, installed in 1999, included Electronic Data Systems Corp., NCR Corp., and Affiliated Computer Systems of Dallas. An EDS spokesman said the company did not work on the point-of-sale system, where the bug occurred, which 7-Eleven confirmed.

Businesses and government agencies braced for service disruptions a year ago because older computers and software were programmed to use only two digits to represent the year. The shortcut saved computer memory by ignoring the 21st century.

By DAVID KOENIG
©MMI The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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