Tesco Found Hiding Best Before Dates in Julian Calendar Date Format

By Gary Cutlack on at

Two unfortunate social media shift workers for Tesco endured nightmare interactions this week, after a customer supplied a photo of the baffling best before date of "20140" that had been stamped on a product and asked for an explanation.

The code was on a plastic sachet of burger relish supplied with two readymade burgers in buns with cheese slices, but let's not judge the man for that. Maybe it was his cheating day or he was looking after someone else's kids for the evening, or got fed up of his usual diet of salad, bananas and nuts. We'll never know what led him to purchase the meal in question.

What we do know now, though is what 20140 means. After a complicated bit of back-and-forth involving Tesco's Sharon and Maggie and their managers, it was eventually explained that "20140" is Julian calendar speak for the 140th day of next year. This therefore means the relish will taste as expected until the 20th of May 2020, after Tesco kindly had the ancient code translated to the more comprehensible Gregorian calendar expiry date.

We should point out that there are two Julian dating methods, which makes the story less bonkers. Tesco is using a shorthand version of the JD Edwards Julian date here, a modern method of crunching dates into a database-friendly format, where the numbers represent CYYDDD, or century, year and day, with 1 the number chosen to represent the 21st century, to make it a little harder to comprehend. Tesco is not, sadly, using the ancient Roman Julian calendar to remind customers to eat their pre-prepared burger sauces, as that would clearly be mad.

Rather than apologise and ban itself from tweeting for a bit until people stop laughing at it, Tesco instead grasped the initiative and used the opportunity to promote a sale on said burgers; which it says runs until the JDE Julian date of 19188, or July 9, but that can't be right either, can it? That would be the year 1919. Basically no one knows anything so don't eat the sachets at all until this calms down. [Twitter]