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back to article Visa dings teen for $23-quadrillion restaurant charge

Visa says a technical glitch is responsible for a rash of notices warning customers their accounts are overdrawn to the tune of $23 quadrillion. An anonymous Reg reader tipped us to one emailed statement, which claimed the account of the tipster's son was on hold because of a charge made to an Applebee's restaurant for $23,148, …

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Terminator

BOFH at work?

Technical glitch? Yeah, right - more likely the student's one of Simon's lusers...

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Alert

minimum payment

...but if you can't afford the 23 quadrillion, you may make the minimum payment of 46 trillion dollars and pay the rest off later...

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FAIL

Visa deserves glitchslapping?

Express the charge amount in cents (2,314,885,530,818,450,000), convert to hexadecimal, and you get 2020202020201250. The ASCII code for the space character is hexadecimal 20. It looks to me like somebody blank-filled a field, plopped the actual charged amount into the end (hex 1250, decimal 4688, likely amount $46.88), and then interpreted the entire field as a hex number. If so, this is the kind of bug that would have been caught in even the most cursory testing, in which case the "technical glitch" Visa talks about was not really in the software--bugs happen--but in their own shoddy procedures that allowed untested software to go live.

I can scarcely wait for similarly diligent organizations to take charge of my medical records ...

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Anonymous Coward

Someone needs to go on a diet

That's a bit excess eating I would suggest.

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Boffin

uint32_t

Perhaps some bit pattern being added their 32-bit integer maths?

0x2020202020202020 - 2314885530818450000 = 3536

$35.36 seems a bit nearer the mark.

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Indeed

" It's already providing a valuable lesson in the importance of reading statements carefully."

And don't forget the 26.6%APR

Greedy fat b++++r eats all the pies, and then complains.

If you don't want to pay, then eat half the meal and complain, I think this easily learnt lesson was covered by Mr Bean and the Steak Tartar.

Visa, of course would not make a mistake, this is one of those insigned service charges applied at one of Gordon Ramsay's establishments.

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Silver badge

Lucky for himk it was so much

If the charge had been 23 dollars too much, would they have admitted it? Or would they have assumed that the customer was lying and trying to cheat them?

If their systems are faulty then their systems are faulty, whatever the amount. If these transactions got through without being automatically blocked, any other amount could get through.

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Mostly Harmless

Reminds me of the bar scene in "Mostly Harmless".

Arthur Dent: "What would that buy in pounds sterling?"

Ford Prefect: "Switzerland..."

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Happy

Respect due

I'm impressed at their systems' coders who wrote a system capable of coping with figures like that, and not falling over! I mean I've heard of inflation-proofing, but really...

Then again, a big thumbs down for the error checking monkeys who didn't bother to put any sanity checking on things like the maximum allowable size of the amount variables...!

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Silver badge

Just saw this on TV

They interviewed the idiot ... Rather than immediately thinking "computer glitch", he figured (and this is a rough quote) "I thought someone had stolen my card and bought Europe". He was dead serious. Scary that there are people that stupid out there.

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Grenade

Dinner date

For that much of a price tag on a dinner date, he better have gotten more than a kiss on the cheek.

Grenade; more for the </alt> tag than anything.

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Silver badge

Bah!

Ah yes, the old "reading ASCII data as a number" screwup. I made a reasonable living in the early 1980s fixing this error, introduced by eager Sperry UNIS/MIP customers who had customised their bill of materials explosion program and now needed it putting back the way it was so they could see how to make stuff and earn revenue again.

*Sigh*. Nothing new under the sun.

The only surprise here is that it didn't show up as a massive credit, since the odds are good the sign bit will be set. Well done all those who spotted the why of it.

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Joke

Definitely

Java at work. The machine stays up to send you bills in the quadrillions. (Probably needed to pay for their CPU time).

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Stop

Just prepaid?

The BBC story talked about bank of america, not Visa pre-paid cards

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Coat

Quick..

To the nearest Applebees and actually run up a quadrillion dollar bill.

Or how about printing a couple of quadrillion dollar notes and asking them for change.

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Anonymous Coward

There's another item very similar...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8152278.stm

Interesting... he only bought cigarettes.

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@Visa deserves glitchslapping?

>" Express the charge amount in cents (2,314,885,530,818,450,000), convert to hexadecimal, and you get 2020202020201250. The ASCII code for the space character is hexadecimal 20. It looks to me like somebody blank-filled a field, plopped the actual charged amount into the end (hex 1250, decimal 4688, likely amount $46.88), and then interpreted the entire field as a hex number. "

I reckon you're nearly right, but I reckon what actually happened is that the field was entirely blank (0x2020202020202020) and the amount has been rounded down from 2,314,885,530,818,453,536 cents to the nearest 100-dollars ($23,148,855,308,184,500.00) in the course of reporting, thereby mangling a few of the last (hex) sig figs when you convert it back.

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I think its about time...

...The Reg gave us a Dr. Evil icon?

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Coat

23 quadrillion . 7 billion people

i'd say they had breakfast , lunch and dinner , multiple centuries in a row , while ordering everything on the menu for every meal.... and still hads some small change left...

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Happy

Fnar-fnar-fnar!!

1. Haircut by a blind stylist . . . . £15

2. Dinner with a minger of a blind date . . . £10 (including tip, charity box donation and his/her bus fare back to ugly land)

There are some things money can't buy . . . Fucked up billing?

We'll leave that to VISA!!

For everything else, you can rely on MasterCard.

PRICELESS!!!!!!

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Joke

New Owners?

Did the **AA get an ownership stake in Visa?

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Joke

Actually, that's a bill from Milliways

(The restaurant at the end of the universe for the uninitiated), it had to catch up with him at some point in history. :)

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Bronze badge

Bank of Scotland

Many many years ago the Bank of Scotland pioneered a dial up banking service (in 1990 or there abouts!). A friend of mine used it, and it was quite impressive, especially for those days. One day though he logged on and was greeted by a balance printed in red with a large number of digits - something like 10 billion overdrawn. Thing is, his first reaction was to call angrily down the stairs to his girl friend to find out what she'd been buying... BoS put the error right the next day after a phone call along the lines of 'ah, you spotted that one then?'

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Airmiles

Hope he still gets the airmiles for the purchase - or, better still, 1% cashback!

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Pint

Awesome number crunching

@Anonymous Coward Posted Wednesday 15th July 2009 18:17 GMT

@Shippers

Impressive number crunching. No really. I'm impressed to the almost to the point of being overawed.

But if you ever want to get laid on a regular basis, or properly lament the fact that you are but it isn't regular enough, please suppress the urge to hex/decode/interpret/convert when you to catch sight of a large number like 23 quadrillion.

In fact I say drop the keyboard this instant, ignore the Star Trek DVDs you had planned for the night, head to the nearest bar, get wasted, hit on the nearest available target, get rejected and then proceed to drink away your sorrows. It's the only way out.......

What you say, this is El Reg and you will get flamed to hell and back for this sort of a post? Oh well...............

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Happy

A big number but

not as big as my credit limit...

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Joke

Converting to hex ?

All this converting to hex stuff seems a bit complicated. Maybe Visa have just changed their billing system to Zimbabwe dollars !

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Code error

This looks like a COBOL problem of clearing a structure by assigning spaces to the 01 level name. No type checking is performed (!) and spaces are assigned to the entire structure as though it were a string.

Don't these people realise that all code should be passed by the junior programmer, as he or she will spot errors like this, before making it live. Proper testing would help too. Then again, it is a bank, using other people's money, so who would give a shit?

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yeah but...

...what about the tip he gave the waiter!

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@Leo Maxwell re.Actually, that's a bill from Milliways

"(The restaurant at the end of the universe for the uninitiated), it had to catch up with him at some point in history. "

If it's caught up with him, it must be a bill from the Big Bang Burger Chef.

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haha

Well it's something to frame on your wall I guess!

Good on visa for making a system that could even cope with Zimbabwean style inflation!

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Coat

It's not Victor Kiam Junior is it?

"I liked the food so much, I bought the company, and the state of New York too."

Mines the one with the Remington razor and the Applebee's, diamond encrusted, doggy bag.

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Has anyone checked.....

If he left the "gratuity" field blank? cos if i was a waiter, i would add 24 quadrillion to some snot-nosed punks bill!

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Anyone for seconds?

Did that include a tip?

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Headmaster

exaggeration

don't the americans like to overstate things! Its 23 thousand billion. They have to blow everything out of proportion, Geez.

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Joke

Re: Dinner date

Honestly, the quality of technical knowledge here is appalling. alt is an attribute, not a tag.

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FAIL

impressive

Reminds me of the time the gas board had been giving us massively over-estimate gas readings for a few years, adn when we told them the actual - lower - reading, they assumed we'd been round the clock on the meter, and sent us an £18000 gas bill. For one month. Admittedly not in the same state as quadrilions, but still...

And also kudos to those who did the hex maths, it was an impressive piece of calculation. I bow to you (since no woman probably will)

Mine's the one with the meth cooking lab in the pocket (only way I can think of using that much domestic gas...)

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Black Helicopters

Computers are evil

You know, this never would have happened if the software was written in COBOL.

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Anonymous Coward

Glass half empty

"The technical glitch, which impacted more than 12,000 Visa prepaid transactions"

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Coat

@Awesome number crunching

Well, if you think that is "Awesome number crunching " - a very simple hex/text conversion, then remind me not to employ you as a softie.

Or are all new engineers that lacking nowadays?

I'll be the one with the BBC micro and 6502 assembler manual in the pocket then.

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Headmaster

title="title"

>>Honestly, the quality of technical knowledge here is appalling. alt is an attribute, not a tag.

And the alt attribute is meant for displaying an alternative for images in text based browsers. Yes. The title attribute is meant for all your mouse-over tooltip extravaganza.

As seen here:

<img src="/Design/graphics/icons/comment/headmaster_32.png" width=32 height=32 alt=Headmaster title="Pedantic grammar nazi alert">

___

(btw, isn't "Warning: Troll alert" redundant? I'm proposing: "Warning: Troll" or "Troll alert" or even better "Troll alert code double red")

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Coat

Simple explanation

He went into the restaurant singing the old jingle "I'd like to buy the world a Coke...", and the server took him literally.

Veal. Waitress. You know the drill.

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@SuperTim

<Quote>If he left the "gratuity" field blank? cos if i was a waiter, i would add 24 quadrillion to some snot-nosed punks bill!</Quote>

You never know, he may have been from the UK and believe that you actually have to earn a tip by providing excellent service, rather than automatically be entitled to one no matter what!

I have to agee with others though, it's a good job it was so high it was silly, as if it was a coupel of hundred you'd never get them to admit it was an error.

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Alert

detect the issue?

Surely their letter writing system should have baulked at these figures (if not some other internal checks) and alerted them so they didn't send letters for such stupid amounts? I guess they don't have any sensible checks on their system so that they know about issues before pissing off 12,000 odd customers and causing 12,000 odd phone calls to their call centre.

I really hate it when you call a call centre to be told oh its an automated letter, well if its automated get it to automatically detect stupidity. Its not very hard. create an exception report which can be processed by someone with common sense.

Bugs happen but with reasonable controls you should find them before the customer does!

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Flame

FFS!!!!!one!

>a temporary programming error at Visa Debit Processing Services<

Yeah and WE ALL TRUST THESE PEOPLE....

Mines the one with too many bits of untrustworthy plastic in the pockets...

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FAIL

Dinner Date Commentard Is Me

That's why I leave web site stuff to the wife.

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Coat

Outrageous amount

The problem is, this is *not* an outrageous amount to banks and credit companies anymore; just that the vast majority of "normal" people never see these.

I worked for a "small to mid-size" business where one executive kept a 3.5mil *balance* on his company credit card. The limit was over 20mil. This was, obstensibly, because he purchased capital equipment for the company on-the-spot at autctions, etc, and not because he was a sone of one of the owners. It was paid off each month...

Contracting with larger companies, I have seen limits that rival these.

Icon - looking for the receipts...

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FAIL

Autodebit . . .

Yeah, and tell me again why I want to have autodebit on my bank accounts? And remind me about the clause in the bank's terms of service which says if I am overdrawn on one account they can take it out of ANY of my other accounts to cover it? (or all of them, if needed.)

I've had this crap happen to me twice. Once on an electric bill that was "only" six times as high as normal, and once on a mortgage - the payment was a whopping $300 a month (old slum property) and Washington Mutual (yes, name and shame!!!!!) sent me a payment notice for $4,300,000 for this month's payment.

I called them and asked them if they would have taken the money had it been in my account, and their answer was "Yes, but we'd have given it back sooner or later."

No autodebits for me thank you very ****ing much - I prefer to write low tech paper checks and mail them. It is my money and I will control it. I'm not in the least computerphobic, but I'm going to do my best to keep them out of my money. (Note to self - buy a thicker mattress so I don't feel the lumps.)

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@Leo Maxwell

Actually it is from mostly harmless, after arthur gets rescued by ford, and they ride the perfectly normal beast out of the village and to the land of the king (I.E elvis(on an alien world, go figure)) and ford sees a nice ship outside the bar of the king he wants to buy, so he starts a tab at the bar, goes to the lead singer who owns the ship, and gives him a large amount of cash from his hitchikers card, he then names the figure to arthur, who asks what it could buy, ford runs a few calculations and says it would buy switzerland.

</rant>

the bit in milliways the bar bill was never mentiond only that he signed it under "hotblack" and then he gets a radio message later involving a bar bill and his exicutioner

</rant, really i mean it this time>

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@ Steve Browne, Cobolist

Oh Steve, that's a feature of the language that caused no problems whatsoever unless some dimwit tried to print a formatted version of the result BY SUBFIELD (or tried to do arithmetic on the result of course).

I thought all you young "C" language family proponents were firmly on the side of knowing what you are doing before typing code. What we have here, as we did in the days when people understood how to write in Cobol, is good old fashioned bad programming by idiots.

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