“Tales of a Scorched Coffee Pot” — E1

Jason McGathey
8 min readMay 25
Healthy Hippie Market grocery section
section of items that actually belong to grocery

One of Teri’s first key lessons for him concerns the addition of new items to their computer system. Months earlier, when they first began installing this Orchestra software, she arranged a blank Excel template twelve columns wide, sent this to all department managers, merchandisers, and store managers. It’s fairly self-explanatory, and she is adamant that if anyone wants a new item added to the system, they must email it via this form.

“If it comes in and it’s wrong, fire it right back at them,” she tells him with a chuckle, “sometimes I’ve sent it back to them two or three times, you know? But hey, it’s one of those things, it’s gotta be right.”

Well, yes and no. Edgar is on his own, off to the proverbial races, soon after learning the basics from her. And he is already a little less hardline about some of these stances than she. The first three columns in this spreadsheet are pretty much crucial, yes — UPC, department, product name. But even these, one could argue, were often art forms requiring a bit of nuance.

Preferably one would hope they were transcribing a UPC directly from the barcode itself. However, even these were not infallible. Some packages omitted the last digit, a complicated check number of sorts that, like the final number in a bank account, somehow verified that all the preceding ones were correct. Others, typically more low-budget type companies, omitted the final digit and the first number, somehow, either on their products or catalogs or both. Still others didn’t list the number underneath the barcode at all. These required scanning to snake charm and conjure the magical digits, which was often actually preferable to them unknowingly transcribing an incomplete one. Most UPCs were an even dozen digits, but the odd product line, books and wines chief among them, would have 13. Assuming you had the full number, when they in fact sent you one of these without the check digit, was often about impossible to pick up ahead of time.

From the beginning, he’s gotten in the habit of checking every item they sent him, to make sure it doesn’t already exist in the system. You really don’t have much choice. Aside from all the other reasons, doing so typically would at least pull up a similar item in the same product line (the first six digits, known colloquially as the family