Store Manager Cracks UPC


Originally published in “The Id,” circa 2000. Excerpt from hard copy shown above. Artwork by Mike Robinson.

Note to Courtroom jockeys: All Id material is intended to be satirical. Any similarities to people, places or things; living, dead or undead; is strictly coincidental.

From the Dissociated Press

Bayonne, N.J. – A department store manager has cracked the code of the Universal Product, potentially unlocking every secret of the known universe.

James McCaffrey, manager of J.S. Cole’s, a Bayonne department store, revealed his findings at a press conference kicking off the semi-annual Jean Cocteau birthday sale.

“Within the next 50 years, I predict customers will be able to look at Universal Product Codes and figure out everything about what they’re buying – what it is, what it’s used for, where it was made and what the weather was like the day it was made,” McCaffrey said. “The UPC is so much more than a series of straight lines and numbers – it holds the secrets to life as we know it – and some UPCs might even reveal a cure for cancer or for hemorrhoids.”

McCaffrey added, “Now we can unlock the UPC sequence for all human traits, species of animals that haven’t been coded before, and everything else! The next few years we will see a snowballing of revelations and discoveries! The future will be a wonderful Utopian and Orwellian nightmare. Woo-hoo!”

People have looked to many different sources for the meaning of life – “Monty Python” films, Douglas Adams books, mind-expanding hallucinogenic drugs and meditation, but those secrets might instead be found within the series of thick and thin bars and associated numbers in UPCs on everything from feminine hygiene products to canned lima beans.

Bar codes have become an all-important means of inventorying merchandise and confusing customers, who repeatedly get overcharged for purchases because of scanner errors. And likewise, store owners get cheated out of profits when scanner errors are in the customers’ favor.

Following McCaffrey’s announcement, several of his employees stepped forward to help claim credit for his discovery.

“I poured his late-night cups of coffee while he pored over bar codes from across the globe looking for his secrets,” said Emily Wirth, a part-time pre-teen maternity sales associate. “He was like that weird guy in ‘A Beautiful Mind,” he had UPC bar codes taped all over his office walls along with lots of photos of Jennifer Connelly. A real nut ball.”

The store’s custodian said he was the most put-upon of all of them.

“I was designated driver when he and the other muckety-mucks had their victory party at Paddy Finnegan-Oshea’s,” said Gary Moore, the store custodian, referring to a popular pub ‘n grub joint with scantily-clad serving wenches. “I wasn’t even paid for it. They threatened to fire me if I didn’t baby-sit them on their day-long bender – and clean up after them when they vomited or pissed their pants. Which they did – repeatedly.”

McCaffrey has reportedly stepped down from his position at J.S. Coles so that he can live like a filthy recluse while pursuing further UPC studies, and cutting photos of Jennifer Connelly out of magazines. And possibly even inventing other codes to confuse people. As of this publication, he said he was working on developing something called a QR code, but since the technology to implement it has not yet been invented, he’ll just fester in his own filth while he patiently waits. And waits…



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