is life-threatening. Also, check with your doctor, hospital or manufacturer to see if any medical equipment you rely on is Y2K compliant (for details see www.fda.gov). Although most are expected to operate normally, you should ensure that the readings they generate are accurate. In addition, keep enough nonperishable food items and drinking water on hand to tide you and your family over for about a week. This will help you avoid the crowd of shoppers that may decide to do some last-minute shopping in response to Y2K scares. If you still decide to visit the stores, be prepared for some interference on your supermarket run.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Industry experts are more concerned with how consumers will respond to the Y2K scare than with how in-house systems are going to react. “Just like in a hurricane situation, people may start storming the shelves to get as much food as they can,” suggests Andy Erickson, editor of Supermarket Grocery & Convenience in Tampa, Florida. The annual directory tracks company information for all U.S. and Canadian grocery and convenience stores. If everyone waits until December 28 to begin stocking up, it could look like the day before Thanksgiving squared, advises Cathy Hotka, vice president of information technology for the National Retail Federation in Washington, D.C. “If this becomes the case, people can expect long lines,” she says. To avoid being caught up in a year-end rush, you can add a few extra canned goods to your weekly shopping list before the end of the year. Although food suppliers are looking at hoarding as a potential problem, no one really knows what to expect. “Some grocery stores will put extra products on the shelves. Others will just take a wait-and-see approach,” Erickson adds.
Then there is the matter of interdependence. If the telecommunications or electric companies experience unexpected complications, that will affect everyone. The same is true for retailers and their suppliers. “Both the supermarkets and their suppliers have to be Y2K compliant in order for everything to work properly,” comments Len Lewis, editor in chief of Progressive Grocer, a national monthly business publication, based in New York City, that covers the food industry. “If a supplier has fixed his computer equipment and the retailer hasn’t, then the work is for nothing. A lot of testing has been done on the retail and manufacturing side to make sure everyone is in compliance, so as few glitches as possible take place.”
Supermarket scanners and cash registers aren’t expected to go haywire. According to the Food Marketing Institute’s In-Store Systems Study 1998 , an overwhelming majority of supermarkets reported that scanners (87%) and scales (83%) were already Y2K compliant. Larger companies (respondents with 11 or more stores) were more likely to report compliance with front-end operations-payment terminals, scanners or employee schedule systems-than smaller firms. A little fewer than half of respondents (45%) are in the process of developing contingency plans. “Even if cash registers or scanners go down, pricing information can be entered manually,” notes Lewis. He says supermarkets