Every item scanned as "Mr Potato Head" in glitch at department stores

Yesterday, five large department stores in the towns of Lindsay and Whitby, Ontario, Canada had to temporarily stop ringing up customers because every item scanned at the register showed up as Mr. Potato Head.

"A point of sale downloading error caused item names to appear incorrectly," said Cathy Kurzbock, manager of external communications for department store chain Canadian Tire. "It has since been corrected and the stores are operating normally."

Apparently, they don't suspect this was a prank but, well, I wouldn't be so sure.

(MyKwartha.com) Read the rest

Microsoft to permanently close its retail stores

Microsoft is to shut shop on the high streets and malls of America, permanently closing its 116 retail stores. Only 10 were overseas; flagship stores in New York City, London, Sydney, and Redmond will be remain as showrooms that do not sell the products. There will be no layoffs, Microsoft reports.

Alarm bells rang when Microsoft shied from reopening stores as states gave up on Covid lockdowns, but quitting for good wasn't expected. Chris Welch:

The decision partially explains why Microsoft had yet to reopen a single store after they were all closed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, Microsoft told The Verge that its “approach for re-opening Microsoft Store locations is measured and cautious, guided by monitoring global data, listening to public health and safety experts, and tracking local government restrictions.” The company declined to offer an update on when any stores might open again.

They were nice stores, but I have to admit that being able to check out a Microsoft Surface Studio in person showed how bad its pen latency was compared to iPad Pro and saved me from dropping thousands of dollars. Read the rest

'GrokNet', the AI behind Facebook Shops, looks for body type, skin tone, location, socioeconomic class in photos

• Yay, Clearview AI but for shopping!

Facebook Mark Zuckerberg today announced the launch of Facebook Shops, an e-commerce feature to allows business users to list and sell products on Facebook and Instagram. Read the rest

Wholesale restaurant supply chain opens to the public for the first time — I left with TP, milk, and more (photos/tips)

For the first time in its 40-year history, Restaurant Depot has opened their doors to the public. Read the rest

Footage of empty Beijing mall

A man in Beijing, where everyone is told to stay home due to the coronavirus, visited a mall and took a video camera. It's all but deserted: you can get served, but you're not allowed to hang around. Jump a third of the way in for the "action".

P.S. This is basically every mall in Pittsburgh on a weekday except the one nice one with the Nordstroms. Read the rest

The lost Apple Store design of the 1990s

In the 1990s, Marc Newsom designed the Apple retail store concept as imagined in this presentation video by Me Company. Read the rest

Visiting what may be the most remote and expensive supermarket in America

Barrow (aka Utqiaġvik), Alaska is the northernmost city in the United States. It's so far from most civilization that the grocery prices are astronomical. For example, a bag of frozen french fries is $17, cucumbers are $4.50 each, and a carton of orange juice is $12. Read the rest

The Mall, footage from a dying mall in 1994

This is The Mall, opened in Huntsville, Alabama in 1966 and demolished in 1998. The footage above--collected by Highway Explorer in 1994 as this former retail haven was taking its dying breaths--could do quite well with a dark vaporwave (or mallwave) soundtrack. From Highway Explorer:

This footage was shot on a very quiet Saturday night in February 1994 only a few years before its demolition. Books A Million is still there, and Home Depot is there now too. The sculpture used in the fountain sits in the traffic circle between Home Depot and Staples. The site is now called The Fountain.

Read the rest

Woman banned from Walmart for eating half a cake and then trying to pay half-price for it

Police banned a woman from a Walmart in Wichita Falls, Texas after she allegedly ate half a cake while shopping and then, at check-out, insisted that she should only pay half-price for what was left. This follows on another unusual Wichita Falls Walmart incident a few months back when a different woman spent several hours zipping around the store parking lot while gulping wine from a Pringles can. She, too, was banned.

(My9nj) Read the rest

Just like Amazon, Walmart now offers free next-day delivery

Mega-retailer Walmart on Tuesday announced next-day delivery on more than 200,000 items for orders over $35. Read the rest

Listen: Kmart in-store music/announcements cassette from 1989

Above is the audio from a music/announcement cassette played at Kmart stores in October 1989. At Archive.org, Mark Davis writes:

In the late 1980's and early 1990's, I worked for Kmart behind the service desk and the store played specific pre-recorded cassettes issued by corporate. This was background music, or perhaps you could call it elevator music. Anyways, I saved these tapes from the trash during this period and this video shows you my extensive, odd collection. Until around 1992, the cassettes were rotated monthly. Then, they were replaced weekly. Finally sometime around 1993, satellite programming was intoduced which eliminated the need for these tapes altogether.

The older tapes contain canned elevator music with instrumental renditions of songs. Then, the songs became completely mainstream around 1991. All of them have advertisements every few songs.

Coming soon: a limited-edition, "blue light" vinyl reissue. Just kidding. I think?

Hear dozens more from Davis's collection at Archive.org: Attention K-Mart Shoppers

(via r/ObscureMedia) Read the rest

Mallwave: nostalgic synth music for imaginary and abandoned shopping centers

Mallwave is a microgenre of bedroom electronic music and smooth jazz meant to evoke nostalgia for the vibrant mall scenes of the 1980s and 1990s that many of the music's composers are too young to have experienced or at least remember.

Think of Mallwave as a hauntological soundtrack for an Orange Julius-fueled consumer culture where Suncoast, Merry-Go-Round, and Spencer Gifts anchored suburban reality. (Or, in the case of some of the moodier tracks, the kind of muzak that might play in your mind as you wander an abandoned mall in a Ballardian trance.)

From Hussein Kesvanio's feature in MEL:

“The nostalgia is so real you can cry and wish you went back in time,” reads one comment underneath the video “Neon Wave Mall (Vapor Mix).” “I feel a certain sense of… familiarity watching this footage. Almost like I myself have set foot in these places,” adds a viewer of “Corp Palm Mall.” Under the same video, another person opines: “Why wasn’t I born in this time? This video makes me realize how much things were not as advanced as we have now but it was better. I could be wrong, but sometimes I feel like living around the ‘90s sounds fun. Lifestyle is different, mindset is different and not as much laziness.”

According to writer Joe Koenig, this kind of feeling — a “nostalgia for a past you’ve never known” — is called anemoia. In his ongoing project, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, Koenig describes it as “the desire to wade into the blurred-edge sepia haze that hangs in the air between people who leer stoically into this dusty and dangerous future.”

Read the rest

Give Women Your Money: Shoppable spreadsheet of women-led businesses

Editor's note: We love this one-stop spreadsheet of women-led businesses created by Krystal Plomatos, and encourage you to share it with friends and family. Give women your money, this holiday season and beyond. Read the rest

Secret Amazon-owned brands "quietly taking over Amazon.com"

If you seee a brand on Amazon and you've never heard of it, there's a chance that it's just Amazon. The company operates a growing number of labels with names like "Arabella", "Lark & Ro" amd "NuPro" to market its own products—and they'll soon be augmented by a more brands "exclusive to Amazon, but not owned by it", absorbed into its Private Brand program. Quartz reports:

Amazon’s push into private labels could threaten the third-party sellers who do business on its website, and are important to the company’s own bottom line. Amazon generated $9.7 billion in revenue from commissions and services it provided to third-party sellers (e.g., fulfillment and shipping fees) in the latest quarter, ended July 26. Earlier this week, eBay sent Amazon a cease-and-desist accusing it of a shady, multiyear campaign to lure eBay sellers over to the Amazon marketplace.

It's posed here as a solution to problems caused by Amazon's current third-party seller platform, which it won't adequately police but also understands is rotting customers' trust in the site. Savvy shoppers already know not to buy certain types of product from Amazon because of couterfeits. As CNBC reports, though, Amazon is unable to avoid the temptation of promoting its own products in competitors' first-party listings too.

Another problem: what Amazon is doing here closely resembles the marketing habits of Chinese exporters who have flooded Amazon with legitimate but low-quality gear. If you search for headphones there, for example, you get some name brands, but most of the first page of results is for brands like "Mpow", "Alihen", "Redess", "Arrela." Read the rest

Pre-internet analog Dash Buttons

Back in the day, before Amazon and even before the internet, dash buttons took physical form in Reddilist, a handy little wall hanging for the kitchen or pantry with tabs for Instant Vi-Tone, Frostade, or Johnson's Glo-Coat. Read the rest

Canadian mall caught collecting facial recognition data on the sly

When I’m in Calgary, there’s a coffee shop that I like to work at, located in the Chinook Centre Mall. It’s part of a local chain that knows how to make a great iced latte. I’m not in often, but they know me. They know my face.

Apparently, they’re not the only ones.

According to the CBC, the management company that tends to Chinook Center Mall, Cadillac Fairview, has been using facial recognition software to track the sex and age of visitors on the down low.

From The CBC:

A visitor to Chinook Centre in south Calgary spotted a browser window that had seemingly accidentally been left open on one of the mall's directories, exposing facial-recognition software that was running in the background of the digital map. They took a photo and posted it to the social networking site Reddit on Tuesday.

The mall's parent company, Cadillac Fairview, said the software, which they began using in June, counts people who use the directory and predicts their approximate age and gender, but does not record or store any photos or video from the directory cameras.

Cadillac Fairview said the software is also used at Market Mall in northwest Calgary, and other malls nationwide. In Alberta, collecting biometric data, so long as no images are recorded and stored, is allowed, without having to let anyone know that you’re doing it.

That’s frigging greasy.

For their part, Cadillac Fairview says that they aren’t required to let visitors to their property know that they’re being profiled, as the software they use, MappedIn, doesn’t store any photos or biometric information. Read the rest

A visit to China's Commodity City, the world's biggest "shopping mall"

"Commodity City is an observational documentary exploring the daily lives of vendors who work in the largest wholesale consumer market in the world: the Yiwu Markets in China," says director Jessica Kingdon.

Read the rest

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