Does that store still exist? I don’t think I’ve seen one since the 90’s. As a kid, it was my favorite store to have my parents take me to because they had several computer terminals set up around the store for customer use. They were very 80’s-looking machines with green or amber lettering on a black screen. Just aimlessly playing around on them was fun enough. But the really cool thing I could do was order merchandise on them which would be shipped to the exit/pick-up area of the store. Anything in the store could be sent down a conveyor belt for us to pick up.
I started small, but quickly advanced to having huge things like couches and refrigerators and other huge appliances sent over. As my mom and I stood in line, waiting for our turn to check out, I was in silent hysterics as I surveyed all the items sitting behind the counter waiting for pick up that I was responsible for. Sometimes I would have so many huge items sent that walking space behind the counter would be scarce for the employees. If I ordered 5 couches, they would almost always sent out 5 couches.
The other awesome part of this was that they would eventually page the names I used over the store intercom. I started out using random character names from books that I liked. Hearing them say “Harriet Tubman, your order is ready in the pick up area.” was hilarious enough. But soon I started making up wacky names for them to say. I went through a phase of using names of illnesses so that they would end up paging Mrs. Amneisia or Mr. Cancer to the pick up area. Then I just started putting nonsense into the fields. I remember one I wrote was Mrs. Teetertotter, which caused a lady to announce over the store’s paging system that a child was playing with the computer terminals and that employees should be on the lookout for them.
I got to relive some childhood memories in 1992 when me and Sylvia lived in Los Angeles and were walking around and found a Service Merchandise. I was happy to see that they still had the computer terminal system in place, so we placed several orders for the largest items we could find. I remember a getting a complete living room set and some large kitchen appliances, such as a fridge and a stove. Their pick up area was much smaller than the old one in St. Louis, so the employees were pretty cramped back there, waiting for customers to come and get their giant items.
I saw my last Service Merchandise in 1994 in Austin, Texas. Their computer terminals there were slightly updated and had credit card readers on them. I taped some strips of cassette tape around my drivers license and tried sliding it through the reader, hoping that it would cause an error and let me enter one of my hundreds of stolen credit card numbers manually. I don’t know why I thought that would work, but at least I tried. Soon after that, I used a stolen money order at that same store to purchase a police scanner. It was in the days when you could buy unblocked 800/900MHz scanners, which I used for years afterwards for all kinds of phone fun, including the Dino incident that happened a year later.
Ahhh, good times with Service Merchandise…