Y2k still bugging state liquor stores (WA)

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Tuesday, January 11, 2000, 08:09 a.m. Pacific

Y2K still bugging state liquor stores

by Dionne Searcey Seattle Times Olympia bureau

OLYMPIA - The Y2K bug bit the state's liquor operation, gumming up computers and complicating transactions for clerks. It's the biggest Y2K-related problem reported so far in state operations.

The computer system that keeps track of the state Liquor Control Board's sales, inventory and shipping started acting up early last week at liquor stores, said board spokeswoman Gigi Zenk.

Clerks at 157 of the state-owned stores reported a host of electronic quirks. They couldn't access inventory databases, their computers didn't track retail sales and some credit-card transactions were slow.

Problems were so frustrating that 24 of the stores closed down for anywhere from 15 minutes to almost the whole day on Jan. 3, the first business day of the new year.

One store in the Richmond Beach area of Seattle was closed until late afternoon. And a Yakima store closed for 6 1/2 hours.

The glitches are getting fixed, and the system should be free of the bug by the end of the week, Zenk said. In the meantime, some clerks are recording sales by hand and taking inventory using pen and paper.

"Our store employees have been working really hard and doing things the old-fashioned way," Zenk said. "They continue to deliver service under some really tough situations for them."

In the past six years, Washington spent $100 million to fix potential Y2K problems. As a result, state officials say, Y2K was largely a yawn.

Rob Harper, spokesman for the state's Y2K team, said each state agency was in charge of its own computer fixes. Liquor operations were not deemed "critical" and were not monitored by the state's Y2K Coordination Center, which served as ground zero for Y2K-related problems.

The state's Y2K team now is largely defunct and officials say they were not informed of the Liquor Board's recent problems until yesterday.

"The situation is that we did not have a critical system failure," Harper said. "We've maintained the accountability of state property."

Last month, liquor-control officials noticed what they feared might be Y2K-related glitches in the 15-year-old electronic-operating system, Zenk said. The "point-of-sales system" controls most transactions at liquor retail outlets.

Technicians thought they had cured the problems. But their corrections triggered computers to misread the date and erroneously close out sales for the end of the month.

As a result, the computer's internal calendar is out of whack and is causing systemwide glitches, Zenk said. She did not have a cost estimate for fixing the computer problems.

Since the problems occurred on slower business days, "your average customer should not have seen any inconvenience," she said.

Other Y2K-related problems at state-run facilities:

Telephone-service disruptions that have been fixed at the Reynolds Work Release program in Seattle.

False readings that were recorded from the perimeter fence at the Clallam Bay Correctional Center, giving prison guards the impression that people were near the fence when no one was. The software would not accept a zero in the last position of the date field. A temporary fix was made, and a vendor will make final corrections. Overall security was not affected.

Minor problems with radiation equipment at the University of Washington Medical Center. Equipment displayed inaccurate birth dates for some patients.

-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), January 11, 2000


"The state's Y2K team now is largely defunct and officials say they were not informed of the Liquor Board's recent problems until yesterday. "

It's ironic that following this statement the article goes on to detail that there have only been 3 other minor state glitches. How do they know?

-- (RUOK@yesiam.com), January 11, 2000.

Aloha and Great job with all the posts, Homer

-- Carl Jenkins (Somewherepress@aol.com), January 11, 2000.

Ought to see what is happening at fisheries and nat resources in olympia main office building. Going to be a bad year for money collections. Don't know who owes how much. Will see it in a couple months as we get close to the end of quarter numbers.

-- scared in wa state govt (scared@to.tell), January 11, 2000.

---I say...FREAKIN GREAT!...those state run legalized LIQUID CRACK houses need to crash and burn! Liquor is the #1 mental health problem, and #1 social problem in the US, it's a DRUG, and shouldn't be promoted by any state government. Prohibition doesn't work, but NEITHER does social-governmental acceptance, and it certainly is none of any states business to be in the private sector marketplace.

-- alcoholism (rampant@heartbreakingproblems.USofA), January 11, 2000.

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