The evolution of the cash register

It was a long time ago, but I remember my mother paying for her groceries with her cheque book. She always had to ask to borrow a pen. Within the same time period I have memories of the first electronic scanning at the till. That “bleep” “bleep” sound is now standard background noise to any supermarket or large department store, rather than the old “bell” of the cash register.

You will be hard pressed to find a place that still takes cheques. It’s all about cards these days, and not just the payment card, but the “reward” card or “club card” that allows you to collect points that accumulate into coupons or vouchers or several other things that will motivate you to keep shopping there. Yet I do feel a little wierded out when I receive a pile of coupons in the post for all the things I normally buy. Knowing that somewhere out there a computer has a record of my shopping habits and uses it to get my business is a sign of the times we live in.

Before getting totally creeped out and feeling like the CCTV cameras are constantly watching me choose food of the shelves, or being worried social services are going to get involved and question the bottle of wine I bought along with nappies for my two year old, I can relax. It’s all about making money, not about spying, even though, you could argue, they are.

So what is the secret to all this inside information? Are they watching you on CCTV? It’s actually much more simple than that. It’s all down to some technology know as EPOS. It stands for “Electronic Point of Sale”. The information gained when an item is scanned for purchase not only goes into the till and tallies up your bill, but it also allows the shop to know how much that particular item is selling on a daily basis, and then the whole big brother dimension of keeping a record of what YOU as an individual seem to prefer.

Another job done by people gradually being replaced by computers is the till operator herself. People now prefer to do their own checking out. For those who never worked a till it can feel like a novelty scanning your own groceries, but it can take much longer due to the anti-theft super sensitive scales, but people will prefer it to standing in a queue for five minutes.

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