YouTube contributor Vampire Robot has posted quite a few B-roll videos from retail establishments back in the day to their channel. Here’s a bunch of footage from a Sears store in 1991, complete with mostly NCR 2152 registers and their rattling printers. I’ve always known Sears to go from the Singer-Friden system to NCR 2152s to the CompuAdd registers to the current IBM SurePOS system in use today in their remain stores. Apparently some Sears stores had NCR 7052 registers as well and I’ve had folks tell me of some Sears running with IBM 4683s. I need to do more research of their practices during the 80s and beyond, but at least for now we can enjoy the NCR key beeps and rattling printers.
Why are they taking the card number before ringing up the sale?
So when Sears was using the Singer-Friden system throughout the chain, the system was designed so that the cashier had to ask “cash or charge” before a sale. This was common on point of sale systems at the time. With the Singer-Friden system, a charge sale would be recorded on a pre-printed, multipart form. A cash sale would print on a “tear off receipt”. I *think* this process carried over from the Singer-Friden systems to the NCR 2152s when Sears converted/updated their technology in the early 1980s.
Carrying an established process over when updating technology is not uncommon. When the Hills chain moved from NCR to IBM equipment (in the stores that had NCR registers), line and transaction voids still had to be printed on a form like what they did with the NCR 255 registers, even though this was not common with the IBM 4680 General Sales Application system.
As I recall, they also could not change from a charge to cash sale, or vice versa, after the transaction started. I remember once when I decided to pay cash instead of using a card, and they had to re-ring the sale and grumbled the whole time. This was during the 2152 era.