In a recent online survey, 48 percent of respondents said they never had used the phrase, “ka-CHING!” And 12 percent said they had never even heard of it.
Which is, apparently, one more indication that cash registers — Dayton’s other claim to fame — are soon to be found mainly in museums, antique sales and on the counters of little old stores in little old towns.
In the not-too-distant future, cash registers will be historic artifacts to be explained to our grandchildren, like rotary phones that once could be found hanging on virtually every kitchen wall and music players the size of small refrigerators that used to be perched on shoulders of young men strutting down the street. Relics of a time as unimaginable to our grandchildren as the need to walk clear across the living room to change the television channel.
As The New York Times reported this past week, “With the advent of tablets, particularly the iPad, many stores have traded in their clunky cash registers for mobile devices.”
“Stores across the country are ditching the old fashioned clunky machines and having salespeople — and even shoppers themselves — ring up sales on smartphones and tablet computers,” an Associated Press story confirmed.
Nordstrom is phasing out cash registers in all of its 240 stores, replacing them with iPod Touches. Some Walmart stores enable customers to scan barcodes on merchandise with their iPhone cameras, eliminating the need for conventional cash registers. On a street corner somewhere, there probably is a 10-year-old lemonade operator keeping track of sales with the help of a cellphone app.
Clunky though they may be, cash registers have had a long and profitable run since they were created in 1879 by Dayton saloonkeeper James Ritty in an attempt to stem the flow of profits that wound up being diverted into the pockets of his sticky-fingered bartenders. “Ritty’s Incorruptible Cashier” made skimming more difficult although, as any current bar owner can attest, not necessarily impossible.
Still, it was the iPod of its day. As a 19th Century advertisement proclaimed, “It is a mathematical prodigy in brass and steel, all of whose computations are invariably correct.”
Now, though, cash registers have become the dinosaurs of retail business. The only reason they aren’t totally extinct is because touch pads and other electronic devices have no drawers in which to place currency and coins. But, the Times story noted, “Eventually, the need for receipt printers and cash drawers may vanish entirely as electronic payments through smartphones and other devices become commonplace.”
In other words, one of these days we’re probably going to wind up having to explain to our grandchildren what “cash” was.