Pencil sharpeners are dangerous? Really?

The UK’s Daily Mail reports on one of the most bizarre examples of weapons control run amok. Charlotte Howard went to go buy pencils like any other 11-year-old schoolgirl who had exhausted her existing supply of writing utensils (or art utensils, as it appears from one of the pictures these may be colored art pencils).

But Charlotte was stopped cold by the cashier, who refused to complete the sale because the pack contained a pencil sharpener, which is classed as a “dangerous object.” It gets even better, though. Her mother, Allison Howard, was also refused the sale because she might give the pencils and sharpener to her daughter!

Thankfully, another store in the area completed the sale. However, to me, this is the truly shocking part (quoting the article):

…The 99p Store chain’s commercial director Hussein Lalani said he was ‘proud that our processes restricting the sale of certain items to under-18s have been proved to work’.

But he added: ‘We will look into the way this particular product is classified.’ Last year, the company made headlines after a 15-year- old boy was stopped from buying wine gums in case they contained alcohol.

Sure, the process works. There’s a saying from the early days of computer programming that applies here: Garbage in, garbage out (GIGO). It would appear Mr. Lalani or one of the workers under his command (or maybe even elsewhere in the company) apparently programmed the cash register/point of sale systems with the garbage classifying a pencil sharpener as dangerous, and not surprisingly, that garbage came back out again.

Rather than celebrate that with a “hey, the computer is stupid and did what it was told” it would be more appropriate for Mr. Lalani to eat a double helping of humble pie, apologize profusely to the Howard family, and make sure this doesn’t happen again. This is a disgrace to civilized, intelligent society and deserves nothing short of absolute condemnation.

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