Saturday, July 29, 2006

Retro Video - The Front Line (1965)

The Front Line (1965)

I'm sorry, but I just love the heck out of these goofy old public domain industrial films! Can't resist posting them here (and I think they're related enough, in the general scheme and mood of things). You'll have to bear with me if you don't share my enthusiasm, cuz I think they rock. :) And this one is almost a pop art masterpiece of exploding colors, music, hair-do's, and groceries, in my opinion!

This film is a 1965 instructional short from the Super Market Institute, that delves into the fine art of cashiering, and all that it entails (which is a lot, it turns out). There's some really nice vintage grocery store footage in it, including all those gaudy, old-timey cash registers and food labels and what not.

I know this whole super market deal pretty well myself, as a matter of fact, having worked in a huge Farmer Jack grocery store here in Michigan for quite a while many years ago. Those people earn their money, let me tell you! (The good ones anyway, who actually care and work hard at it, which not everyone does.) It aint no jazz garden, that's for sure.

Our checkers today:

Note: Video is Flash format. If you don't see it, you must temporarily disable your ad-blocking programs.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

is it me or are all these presented by Readers digest? I know those were the womans choice of lit back then but jeez talk about stereo typing the consumer. great find anyways and yes they are pretty funny.

Sat Jul 29, 08:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No need to apologize, Keith. I understand your obsession! It is sorta depressing to look at, though. The margin for human error on your grocery bill with those old cash registers was high. No wonder our parents would go over it with a microscope when they got home from the store.

Sat Jul 29, 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Jimmy said...

I'm 17, and used to work at a supermarket last summer. Even with the new technology and everything, these techniques are still used when the barcode doesn't work. For instance, you have to enter the price and the department, just as in the movie. Also, they had a much harder job back then. Not only did they have to enter everything manually and calculate the change themselves, they also had to bag everything! Only people here that actually worked at a supermarket once would understand that it really is tougher than it looks.

Sat Jul 29, 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger Keith said...

Thanks for the comment, Jimmy. As I stated in the post, I certainly know, first-hand, how tough it is!

Moose: Yeah, a lot of these are RD-produced deals. Seems odd (when you see the wildly varying subject matters), but true. They had a special production division that churned out these educational/industrial films.

And yes, you definitely need to check your brain at the door when you watch most of these! Times sure have changed (for the better in many social ways). Basically, you can't watch these old films and take what they're saying to heart. If you do (and especially if you're a woman), you may find some slightly offensive, which would actually miss the point.

As this is largely a "gallery" type, viZual blog (as I intended it), so too, when I post old educational films, are they meant to be watched and enjoyed for the kitschy, pop culture elements and imagery they contain--NOT at all for their outdated social attitudes and messages.

Breaking them down too much like that, for their messages, is really a moot point today, and again, would miss the main reason I post them here. For me, it's all about the music and imagery.

Just wanted to make that clear, since some of these are pretty out there in their silly stereotyping ways! Lol. I don't endorse those parts.

And thanks, Rob! Good point on the receipt thing. :)

Sat Jul 29, 05:41:00 PM  
Blogger Cora said...

I definitely enjoy those old educational films. And I sometimes wish that modern day supermarket checkers and managers would take these "lessons of good checking" to heart. I've taken to shopping mainly during low traffic times, because the lines at the check-out are too long otherwise (not the checkers' fault, but the management's, as most supermarkets are understaffed). Cleaning the conveyor belt from time to time would be a good idea as well, some of them are terribly greasy.

Incidentially, the error margin grew larger with the earliest barcode scanners, because labels and the scanners tended to be faulty, doublecheck items, enter wrong prices, etc... When the barcode scanners started to appear in the 1980s, my parents always used to check the receipt and frequently found errors. The stores which still had everything checked in by hand (the last of those disappeared only a few years ago locally) tended to have far less errors, because the checkers usually knew their jobs.

Things I noted: There was no mention made of credit cards in the film. Either supermarkets didn't accept them at the time or they were still too uncommon.

I was also surprised that the checkers packed the bags themselves. In all US supermarkets I've seen so far, there always was a separate packer. Supermarkets in Germany never had packers at all, the customer packs the goods himself. Personally, I prefer it this way, though I suppose having your bags packed would be nice particularly for older customers.

Sat Jul 29, 09:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Supermarkets accepting credit cards is a very recent development -- like within the past 10 or 15 years. I remember Fred Meyer used to take credit cards for non-grocery purchases only.

Sat Jul 29, 11:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did the narrator introduce that first checker of the year as Ruth Buzzi?!

I did appreciate the demonstration of proper bagging using a clear plastic bag. I'll try to put those techniques to use when I have to bag my own groceries!

Sun Jul 30, 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger Cora said...

That's the advantage of growing up in a country where the customer always bags his or her own groceries: You learn how to do it properly.

Sun Jul 30, 06:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved the video! I have worked as a cashier for Kroger Food Store for 28yrs. and the funny thing is the imformation on this video is about the same thing they tell us now, 40yrs. down the line. Like: the checker is the first and last person the customer sees so be polite and pleasent, always check the bottom of the bascart, package heavy on bottom then lighter on up. Running out of space, thanks for the look back! Carol

Sun Jul 30, 11:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

20 years ago, when my sister started bagging groceries for HEB (a food retailer here in Texas) she was instucted, when noticing items in the bottom of the cart, to say to the checker "Have you seen Bob lately?" Bob meant Bottom of Basket. The management didn't want to offend the customers. It would have looked like the bagger thought the customer was trying to steal. I was in one of their stores recently, and heard a bagger say this to a checker.

Mon Jul 31, 12:12:00 PM  
Blogger Scott Parsons said...

Love those ergonomic cash registers. My wrists started hurting just watching them punch, punch, punch, ker-klunck. They remind me of Kmart since they had those registers well into the Nineties.
Did you say, bag your own groceries? I went to Pak N Save once and was completely surprised I had to bag my own. I probably used three times as many bags as they would have. To this day, I only go to full-service grocery stores.

Mon Jul 31, 05:24:00 PM  
Blogger Cora said...

Here in Germany, the customers don't just have to bag their own groceries, most places even require that you bring your own bags. You can get a bag from the store (plastic or cloth, not paper), but you have to pay for it. The only chains offering free bags that I know of are Wal-Mart (soon to be gone) and Marktkauf (which I tend to avoid because they suck in many other ways). Wal-Mart tried introducing the idea of bagging purchases, but quickly gave up, because customers didn't like it. It's what you're used to, I guess.

By the way, supermarkets over here often have overhead mirrors, so the checkers can check the bottom of the cart without it being too obvious for the customer.

Mon Jul 31, 06:15:00 PM  
Blogger Scott Parsons said...

Wal-mart is leaving Germany? How is that possible?

Tue Aug 01, 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger Scott Parsons said...

btw, I often wonder how it's possible we make more waste than anyone. With the bag concept in Germany, now I'm beginning to see why. We throw them away after a single use. We have those damn bags everywhere since some stores insist on double-bagging.
Oh, and Wal-Mart will NOT allow you to refuse a bag. I tried and the holy-than-thou cashier got all pissy and said I had to take the damn bag.

Tue Aug 01, 12:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LMAO...'Check of the year...'

Ah, the day when a woman could work as a checker into her 40s and be universally admired for it. Where have those days gone?

Otherwise, interesting film. The music was very telling of the era.

Wed Aug 02, 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger Cora said...

Wal-Mart had to pull the plug on their German stores because of the utter cluelessness of their managers. For starters, they bought up two ailing local chains with stores in frequently bad locations and bad condition. And for the first few years, they only had American managers with zero experience on the German market. They made a number of very stupid business decisions (e.g. buying up a huge number of American style pillow cases they couldn't sell, because they didn't fit German pillows), stuck to weird American morality (e.g. forbidding romantic relations between employees or refusing to sell sex mags, when no German customer gives a damn about kids accidentally catching a glance of the Playmate of the month), ran afoul of labour laws (guess what, you can't just fire people for being union members)and clung to their "Cheap, cheaper, cheapest" image for far too long, even though it was clear that they could not beat the local discount grocery chains Lidl ad Aldi at their own game. It might have worked, if Wal-Mart had stressed the huge range of products on offer (which initially was a reason for me to shop there on occasion), but instead they restricted the product range, driving away potential customers. In short, they were incredibly stupid and now there gone.

I'm actually torn between a "Serves them right" reaction and annoyance at a further loss of brand variety. With Wal-Mart's German stores being bought up by Metro AG, there will soon only be Real in the big box grocery/discount store game in my town. Now I actually like Real, but it is nice to have some variety. Plus, Wal-Mart had a great fish department.

Wed Aug 02, 05:53:00 PM  
Blogger zanngo said...

That was fun to watch!

I used to work at Whole Foods Market for almost seven years, and a couple of years into that they transitioned from manual checking to scanning. It was cool to watch this, because I swear it was almost timeless (despite the WICKED hairdoes and the actual technology. The registers' actual structure was pretty identical to the ones we were using with the 10-key registers, with the turntable and all.) Of course, scanning changed all that.

Still, the message of it is exactly what we were shown in 1991. It's cool there was a national checker competition! We had Cashier of the Month type stuff, and sweeet bonuses for accuracy and speed, but no national awards. :)

Took me down memory lane, a bit. What the heck were those stamp things the cashier was handing out as money?

Sat Aug 12, 12:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boy, this was a terrific video! I'd like to show the bagging sequence to the cashiers at my local supermarket. I swear their mantra must be "drop the watermelon on the eggs". One thing I would like to know; how come the cashiers in the pink frocks got to wear football helmets in the video yet the cashier in the green smock has hat hair? ;-)

Fri Jul 11, 10:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love this site that film i seen befor is my fav im a young guy 20 s but for some reason i love them old cash registers and i find them and restore them they are the coolest thing that one in the film is my all time fav

Sun Nov 23, 12:42:00 AM  
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I briefly worked as a cashier, we only had baggers available during the evening rush. In all other cases, the store didn't bother wasting money on that.

Anyone know the name of the actress playing the customer? She was kind of a "Hey! It's That Guy" to me. She's very tall and imposing in the video. Another site had someone guess she was in a pancake commercial from the '70s.

Sun Jan 07, 10:39:00 PM  

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