Monday, April 15, 2013


By Linda Wood Rondeau

 When I first moved to Jacksonville, I took on part-time employment as an “associate” (new world term for store clerk) in a local department store. My official department assignment was Point-of-sale (new world term for cash register) where I scanned products, totaled purchases and where once in a while people actually paid with cash.

I remember my first part-time job as a store clerk in W.T. Grants. I worked 20 hours a week after school and evenings and did some register work. In those days, prices were on the tags. The cashier put the amount in and totaled the amount of sale including figuring out the sales tax and manually adding it into the total charge. 

Customers handed the cashier cash and the cashier had to figure out the change, counting it to herself as she removed it from the drawer and counting it back to the customer. Cashiers had to go to the office and get their “drawer” for their shift and hand the drawer back in when the shift was done. Shortages were a “no-no” and a cashier could be penalized if her drawer came up short because she miscounted change. Cashiers had to be “bonded” in the event of theft or lost money. One thing for certain, cashiers became very proficient in basic math.

As I scanned and hit buttons that do all the brain work for me, I thought about how many aspects of our lives are managed by barcodes: store coupons, credit cards, preferred customer cards, bank accounts, identification cards, and even medical services. Try to get through a day without swiping something into a machine that calculates our vital statistics. Heck…we can even open up a charge account by simply putting in our social security into a service pad. 


According to “How Stuff Works:

"UPC" stands for Universal Product Code. They were originally created to help grocery stores speed up the checkout process and keep better track of inventory, but the system quickly spread to all other retail products because it was so successful.

“UPCs" originate with a company called the Uniform Code Council (UCC). A manufacturer applies to the UCC for permission to enter the UPC system. The manufacturer pays an annual fee for the privilege. In return, the UCC issues the manufacturer a six-digit manufacturer identification number and provides guidelines on how to use it.”

I must admit, I like the convenience of less brain activity, especially as I age. But I can’t help but wonder what I’ve lost in the process, besides my math abilities.

Winner of the 2012 Selah Award for best first novel The Other Side of Darkness/Harbourlight,  LINDA WOOD RONDEAU, writes stories of God’s mercies. Walk with her unforgettable characters as they journey paths not unlike our own. After a long career in human services, Linda now resides in Jacksonville, Florida.
Linda’s best-selling Adirondack Romance, It Really IS a Wonderful Life, is published by Lighthouse of the Carolinas and is available wherever books are sold.
These books are also available in ebook format along with her other ebooks by Helping Hands Press: I Prayed for Patience/God Gave Me Children and Days of Vines and Roses. Songs in the Valley is scheduled for release this fall by Helping Hands Press.
Readers may visit her web site at or email her at  or find her on Facebook, Twitter, PInterest, and Goodreads.  


J.B. DiNizo said...

Yes, I, too, remember those early non bar code days. I bought some vitamins at CVS and with the bar codes on my coupons, I was out of the store in minutes. Great, but I don't think anyone said "Hello" alhtough the cashier wished me "Have a good day."

H. Kirk Rainer said...

I remember Grants, and certainly remember the days when the cashier had to hammer-away at a cash register (on the monthly visits to the grocery store).

Even as a kid, I was impressed.

................................ Kevin Parsons said...

I remember! And now we've gone from people who can't make change and count it back, to scanning the items ourselves. Yikes!

Linda Rondeau said...

Kirk, Kevin and J.B.

Our generation has undergone more changes than any generation before it. Any wonder we're confused?

Caroline said...

What a change time makes in one's life. Nice to look back on that segment! :)

Linda Rondeau said...

Caroline thanks for stopping by.

Patti Shene said...

I'm so glad when we play Monopoly (yes, the actual board game I've had for years, complete with torn, overused money and a food-stained board), that our granddaughter actually knows how to count the change! It is not totally a lost art - yet!

Linda Rondeau said...


No it's not totally gone. Games are a great teacher. My grandkids love games of all kinds.