The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Opinion

September 9, 2013

Emmett Dulaney: Databases that automate the errors

I recently conducted a bit of an experiment to determine the accuracy of databases we interact with every day. Before discussing it in more detail, however, it is important to explain the logic behind it.

Today, every packaged product sold in a store has a bar code and the cashier is really just a cog in the conveyor belt making sure each item goes across the scanner the right way before bagging. The database does all the work – identifying the product, the category, whether it is taxable or not, and so on – and this is a great thing on many levels. It helps with inventory control, it helps with pricing, and it is especially helpful with navigating through the convoluted sales tax status of items. I haven’t heard anyone complain about sales tax being incorrectly calculated for quite a while even though the laws regarding it are so complex.

For example, the Indiana Department of Revenue published Information Bulletin #29 and made it effective Feb. 1, 2012. This document specifically spells out what is taxable and nontaxable as it relates to food and even goes so far as to name a number of individual products in one category or another. The category “Candy and confections,” for example, are listed as taxable items but “Nestle Crunch bars” are explicitly listed as “Non-taxable Food Items” (I guess that they can pass for a tasty breakfast just like mother would make). By having a database for a point-of-sale (POS) register, the merchant need only have identified Crunch bars as non-taxable within the last 18 months, but left Hershey bars and Bit-O-Honeys as taxable, and let the cashiers take the money identified as the total at the end of the transaction without question.

From the standpoint of a consumer, an awful lot of blind faith is put in those databases and this brings me to my experiment. Over a seven-day period, I bought a fair number of Nestle Crunch bars and checked to see if I was charged sales tax. The result is that I was not charged sales tax at four Anderson stores. I was, however, incorrectly charged sales tax at three others. An accuracy rate below 60 percent certainly delivered a blow to my trust in the system.

Text Only
Opinion
  • Editorial: Health center problem could have been avoided The lives and reputations of three healthcare professionals have been ruined by mismanagement at the Madison County Community Health Center. It could have been avoided.

    July 22, 2014

  • Bannon, Tom Viewpoint: Paramount is an investment that is paying dividends About 25 years ago the citizens of Anderson made a decision that would have a long lasting impact on the community. Instead of saving the old Paramount Theatre, which had fallen into serious disrepair, it was decided that the easy and prudent decision was to get rid of the building to create additional downtown parking. Shortly after the Paramount came down, the community got rid of another abandoned structure when the old Carnegie Building, which was the former home of the Anderson Public Library, was torn down.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • You Said It: About the reservoir, immigration and more on the Wigwam Each Monday, The Herald Bulletin publishes “You Said It,” a compilation of readers’ comments from www.theheraldbulletin.com coupled with responses by the newspaper’s editorial board.

    July 21, 2014

  • underwood mug [Duplicate] [Duplicate] Scott Underwood: Colts camp, 4-H fair demand our attention Late July is a busy, exciting time in Madison County. With the school year approaching fast, folks want to savor the long, hot (well, not so hot lately) days of July.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Maureen Hayden: Expiring term heightens the urgency of one lawmaker’s mission State Rep. Rebecca Kubacki may have lost the Republican primary to a Tea Party challenger, but the two-term Republican from Kosciusko County is not going away quietly.

    July 20, 2014

  • Indiana State of State-12 [Duplicate] Editorial: State surplus comes at expense of Hoosiers' well-being If Indiana is taking in $59.8 million less – blamed on declines in revenues from the riverboat gambling tax, inheritance tax and individual income tax – and still is able to save $106.8 million, that extra cash isn’t being plucked from a secret forest of money trees.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • NWS - HB0727 - horse and pony - DK - 266 Editorial: 4-H members have goals, dreams

    This week's Madison County 4-H Fair is an opportunity to showcase area youth. They're proud of their work. Their hopeful of their futures. And they're willing to put their goals and dreams in the public eye.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • NWS - HB0626 - Shoot - 03 Editorial: License suspension makes sense in Roger Shoot case Some will object when a person accused of a crime is punished by a professional organization before conviction.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Letter: Wall Street should not be in politics Talk about corruption, ponzi schemes, we're looking at you, Wall Street, controlling the prices of our food, gasoline and clothing we must buy and about every company in America — while trashing President Obama, the Affordable Health Care Plan, along with every Democrat, to influence our elections, at the same time.

    July 17, 2014

  • Letter: 23 Relay for Life teams raised $40,000 As chairs of this year's American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Madison County, we would like to thank everyone for their generosity and support.

    July 17, 2014

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Do you expect your physician to follow state standards and laws?

Of course
Not always
Never thought about it
     View Results