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Downtime procedures ....

by Bill Osler / October 17, 2006 10:47 AM PDT

I went to a store today that did not have power. I think the power went out about the time I pulled into the parking lot, but not due to anything I did. In fact, the entire Hanes Mall area in Winston-Salem lost power just as I was pulling up to this store.

Anyway, I did not know about the power outage until I walked into the building. There were staff members there who mentioned the power was out, but they did not say anything else at the time. As I browsed around I asked one of the sales clerks whether they could ring up sales and such when the power was out. He didn't know. I kept on browsing around.

It wasn't hard to find the things I wanted, so it only took a few minutes. When I got to the checkout area the clerk told me they could not actually sell anything. They apparently couldn't even take cash. The clerk wanted me to leave the merchandise and return later to actually purchase the items.

I was unenthusiastic about leaving because it's a 25 mile drive one way to the store, and I didn't know when I'd get back into Winston-Salem so I just left the stuff on the counter.

As luck would have it, I had to make a trip back into town this evening. I found my items again and went back to check out. The clerk rattled on about how she couldn't believe people tried to shop while the power was out. I told her I couldn't believe they weren't prepared to do business without using their computers. She apparently didn't like my attitude, but our encounter was mercifully short.

I know that our office can conduct some of its routine business (but not credit card transactions or appointment scheduling) when the power goes out. We have battery backup that keeps essential lights on for about 2-3 hours and we can see patients for many problems even during a power outage. It's been years since I worked in retail, but back in the days of electric (not electronic!) cash registers the store I worked at had plans that permitted us to operate using an old hand crank cash register when the power went out. Our operations were limited, but we could still sell stuff.

That raises a question. Do most retail establishments just roll up the sidewalk and stop doing business during short power failures? I have a UPS on every computer in the house. I guess I assumed that they would do something similar with cash registers. I guess I was wrong.

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Similar experience about 3 years ago
by Steven Haninger / October 17, 2006 11:14 AM PDT

at a discount outlet. The power went out and emergency lights came on. All cash register transactions were halted. Customers who wanted their merchandise held for later were given that option. Those who did not were to put their stuff in large laundry type carts. Store security people appeared from every nook and cranny and positioned themselves at all doors. I had only a couple items and asked if I could just take them back to the racks but was told "no". It was almost intimidating.
It's possible that a comprehensive backup power system that would maintain sales and security operations for an average power outage would be cost prohibitive unless the area was prone to short term failures. I also suspect most store space is rented or leased and the current occupant is limited in what electrical hardware they can attach to main service entrance.

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Same thing here couple of months ago..
by Rolway / October 17, 2006 11:48 AM PDT

But, the store was on a power back up system. (Shaws Supermarket) When I went in, I noticed it was pretty dimmly lit and not very many people in there. One register was open for transactions. So, they can operate and function if the store installs generator backups.


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In one of my ealier lives
by Dragon / October 17, 2006 12:14 PM PDT

a few years ago, there was a mall that would immediately ask customers to leave the stores and they would roll down the security cages (or whatever you call them). One such time, I left the mall and stopped at a store that was in front of the mall, close to the street. Their electricity was out, but they were still conducting business. They had a calculator and pen and paper, and were figuring the totals and taxes that way. Everybody was happy. I bet most people these days couldn't do that if you held a gun to their head.

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