Sunday, April 23, 2006

Know your own PLU codes!

In the early 1980's, scientists expected to discover how to make genetic changes to fruits and vegetables to cause them to grow their own identifying bar codes on every item. At the time I think people did not realize how convenient it would be for low-wage laborers and robots to stick number codes on most items instead. You've seen the universal four-digit PLU codes that appear on most fruits and veggies. Here's an alphabetical listing. There are about a hundred entries for kinds of apples! It fascinates me that four digits suffices for a world-wide coding of vegetables and fruit.

So what happens when you bring one of the oddball items to the cashier for checkout?
(She holds your plastic bag up disdainfully.) "What's this?"
"Kumquats."
"How do you spell that?"
"K u m q u a t."
(A pause while they riffle through their list.) "I don't think it's spelled that way here ..."
And so on.

So I recommend keeping your own list, for the unlabeled and unusual sorts of food you will bring to the cashier. You want to be able to say: "Kumquats, code 4303!" (Don't you?)
Here's my own "hot PLU" list:

  • 4235 plaintain
  • 4303 kumquat
  • 4309 lichee
  • 4598 daikon
  • 4662 shallot
  • 4801 tomatillo
  • 4802 dried tomato
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