7-Eleven stores hit by Y2K-like glitch

When the new year started, customers at convenience stores operated by 7-Eleven Inc. found that their credit cards were too advanced for the company’s point-of-sale systems – 100 years too advanced, in fact.

Dallas-based 7-Eleven confirmed yesterday that it was hit by a Y2k-like glitch on Monday, when the cash registers at its stores identified the date as Jan. 1, 1901, instead of the correct one. That temporarily left the company’s main systems unable to process credit card transactions, a spokeswoman said.

The convenience store chain’s point-of-sale software was responsible for the glitch, the spokeswoman said. She added that software developers at 7-Eleven worked furiously to fix the bug and had a patch up and running at all of its 5,300 U.S. stores by Tuesday night.

The bug may not be at all Y2k-related, the 7-Eleven spokeswoman said, but she noted that the company still can’t say for sure exactly what caused the problem with the software. 7-Eleven uses technology from vendors such as Electronic Data Systems Corp., NCR Corp. and Affiliated Computer Systems Inc., but the software in its point-of-sale system is proprietary.

The company spent US$8.8 million upgrading its systems before the year 2000 changeover – a relatively small amount because the chain had already installed a series of Y2k-compliant software packages and systems throughout the 1990s. IT workers at 7-Eleven ran about 10,000 tests on its software during the remediation process, the spokeswoman said.

Despite this week’s glitch, 7-Eleven customers longing for Big Gulp drink weren’t left to suffer as the chain’s stores were able to use imprint machines and other backup techniques to process credit card transactions. The snafu “didn’t have much of an impact on sales,” the 7-Eleven spokeswoman said.