Alabama's Anniston Star newspaper is reporting today that Jacksonville, Florida-based Winn-Dixie, one of the largest US grocery store chains, suffered a major problem with its electronic credit/debit card transfer system on Wednesday that resulted in customers being double charged on their purchases.
Making matters worse, the Wednesday before the Thanksgiving holiday is a very busy food shopping day in the US, so Winn-Dixie stores were filled with shoppers.
According to the Star's story, all 485 Winn-Dixie stores were affected by the problem.
The Star also reported that, "Because banks were closed for Thanksgiving, it was impossible to determine the number of customers charged twice, sources within Winn-Dixie said."
The story went on to say that, "Banks typically have a failsafe measure to protect against double charges, but it is not clear whether the malfunction bypassed those protective measures."
Winn-Dixie has nothing about the problem at its web site. I'll update this story when (and if) more information becomes available.
Update: An article in Saturday's Anniston Star says that Winn-Dixie is still trying to figure out what caused the problem. According to the story:
"An investigation by all three parties affected by the crash – Winn-Dixie, the processor and the banks – hasn’t definitively ruled out the possibility of the system crash being a result of an attack, but Winn-Dixie officials believe it was a communication error."
Maybe more will be known by late Monday.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.