Retro retail technology

Vintage retail sales-slip technology

Do you by any chance remember what these “machines” were called? If you’re like me, you don’t – but perhaps you do fondly remember the pleasantly slow process of the sales clerk writing out your purchase on it and then hitting the button to give you your copy of the bill. Fancy technology, back in the day!

Okay, it’s maybe not quite up to the level of the huge spool of string (or was it twine?) that was attached to the ceiling of Bobbie Sager Ramsay‘s general store in Queensborough – with some sort of contraption that allowed Bobbie to pull down on the strong/twine and tie up your package of pork chops or whatnot that was on her sales counter – but you have to admit this is some fun vintage retail stuff here. Take a look and cast your mind back: Do you remember when all manner of stores had these devices? (I have no idea what they were called; do you?) And do you remember the sound of the sales clerk’s pen writing out the details of what you were purchasing, and then the clerk pushing a button and your copy of the bill of sale magically coming out of that not-so-high-tech machine? (With the merchant’s own carbon copy, on pink or yellow paper, also produced, and boy that was wizardry back in the day.)

I had to take a photo when I came upon this unit in a store somewhere in Ontario (the exact location is my secret) not more than a month ago. I couldn’t believe these things (what are they called?) are still in use, at least in the odd place. But I quickly decided to shove aside my disbelief, suspecting that it was far more useful to the general karma to just be thankful for a sweet reminder of the good old days of buying and selling merchandise.

13 thoughts on “Retro retail technology

    • Hey Pat, interesting to know! I do think those machines are quite funky, but it strikes me that it would be highly problematic to maintain a record of your stock using this painstaking handwritten method – whereas using a computer (and the omnipresent bar code) you know instantly how much of everything you still have in the store and how much you need to resupply. I totally love that some places still use this vintage technology, but I wonder how they manage it. I must stop into a Fabricland one of these times!

      • I agree. They must have someone sit and type all that information into a computer. Or, perhaps the information is recorded when entered at the cash?
        Either way, it’s a great store with lots of colors and textures generating thoughts of future projects…

      • Now you are bringing back happy memories of the fabrics and patterns for sale in Stickwood’s dry-goods store in Madoc long, long ago. A future post perhaps!

  1. Tweed News still has one – but when your business is more than 125 years old – this may be modern technology! 🙂 Note, the ‘News’ is tricked out with wonderful Mac computers. Maybe if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

    • That’s too funny (especially given the presence of the Macs in the office) – but, as a regular patron of the Tweed News’s storefront shop (who had somehow managed not to notice this little anomaly), I am not surprised a bit!

  2. An enjoyable “read.”
    How things have changed?
    Continue to enjoy your news of the old manse.
    Keep up the good work.
    Gerry Boyce

  3. I think it was just called a receipt writer. The very old pharmacy I used to work in still used one for some customer accounts who had tabs set up. I loved it since even though I’m pretty young I’m all about vintage and it was fun to do things the old fashioned way! Btw just found your blog and have been reading through it as I’m originally from Prince Edward County (though now live in Toronto) and most of my moms side of the family live in and around the Madoc area.

    • Hi Ashley! So glad you’ve discovered Meanwhile, at the Manse – and thank you so much for giving us that name of that cool piece of vintage retail technology. I envy you having had the chance to actually use such a thing! I’m thrilled to hear about your mum’s-side-of-the-family connection to our beautiful neck of the woods. Welcome!

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