Walmart’s Computers Can’t Perform Basic Arithmetic

- jim Young 20190319

The three Rs are basic skills taught in schools: reading, (w)riting and (a)rithmetic.
taken from a space-filler in "The Lady's Magazine" 1818 

I was probably about 8 when I started my first job at Youngs IGA in Stroud in the early 1960s. It was
Youngs IGA - circa 1960s
owned and operated by my father and his brother, so I was fortunate to be able to start my first part-time job at such a young age.

For 25¢ an hour my job was sorting pop bottles. There wasn’t much need for any mathematical skills to perform that task. It was pretty simple. Coke bottles went in the boxes marked “Coke”, Pepsi bottles went in the boxes marked “Pepsi” and the Orange Crush bottles went in the boxes marked “Pepsi”.

Surprise! Yes, there was some skill involved even for an 8 year-old.

But when I graduated to the position of giving customers refunds on their bottle returns, multiplication became a little more important. I had to know things like 11 x 2¢ = 22¢ (the deposit of a single pop bottle at the time was 2¢.)

I continued working at the IGA summers and weekends for the next couple of decades and Youngs IGA eventually became my first full time position when I had completed school.

Obviously, over the years my duties and responsibilities there required more complex skills and abilities.

I only remember one calculator in the entire store in the early years. It sat in the office where my Uncle performed most of the accounting duties.

Mechanical calculators with a pull handle were brought in to help at inventory time but that was it.

Being able to make a quick calculation as to the cost of one can of corn that was priced at 3 for $1 or reducing an aging bunch of bananas by 10% was a routine part of pretty much every day.

Of course the cash registers that were manned (or should I say “wommaned”) by Mrs. Beamish and Mrs. Wice helped to add up a customer’s purchases. Calculating change however was still a manual duty.

Most cashiers today rely on their registers to calculate the change. Few even know how to properly count it back to their customers.

Manual calculations today are rare and when necessary, the lack of skills to perform them become painfully obvious. So it becomes essential that computerized calculations are accurate.

However that doesn’t always seem to be the case with Walmart’s online purchases as is evident in this recent online purchase from Walmart.

Actual Walmart Invoice
The invoice I have here has been unaltered except the areas that have been blurred out for privacy reasons.

The purchase was for 3 taxable items indicated by the Tax code “J” and 6 non-taxable items, indicated by the Tax code “D”.

It shouldn’t be too difficult to calculate the total.

The taxable items add up to $35.32.
HST @ 13.0% of that total would be $4.5916 and has been correctly rounded to $4.59. 

The total of all non-taxable items comes to $24.90.

Walmart doesn’t break down the subtotal into Taxable and Non-Taxable items, but I’m sure you will agree that $35.32 + $24.90 = $60.22; NOT $59.88 as Walmart has calculated.

The “Pending total” as Walmart refers to it comes to $64.47 when in reality it should be $64.81.

What happened to the 34¢?

I have crunched these numbers by hand, with a spreadsheet and even had My Shirley double check my calculations but the only logical explanation is Walmart fails Arithmetic.
Correct Calculations for Walmart Invoice

How can this be?

Human error doesn’t seem a likely explanation as I am quite certain this is a computerized invoice.

Even data entry input is improbable as the calculations would all be made on the incorrect input and not be obvious.

Is it a programming error? If so, logic would suggest that others are being likewise affected. This should be a much larger concern for Walmart, especially in light that the error was in my favour. At least this time.

In the past I have contacted Walmart with similar discrepancies I have noticed in my invoices and receipts most of which had to do with incorrect tax codes on items. Walmart never had the courtesy to reply.

So this time I will keep the 34¢ in my pocket and leave Walmart to try to figure their own mistakes out.

Because sometimes the good guys deserve a win.

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