The Big Tubes that worked in Department Stores

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The Big Tubes that worked in Department Stores

Postby escotregen » Tue Sep 12, 2006 7:13 pm

In early life one of the punishments inflicted on me for being a wee glasgow boy was to be took shopping in town by my mum/ an aunt/ a wummin that knew the family.

This usually involved visiting a big department store. These would be either Lewis’s, Dallass, Pettigrew’s, Arnott & Simpson or the likes. One of the things in those stores that both fascinated and worried me was the big tube arrangement for making payments and receiving change and receipts. Everything in those days was of course done by cash (unless you used a Provi check … there again my family thought themselves posh ‘cos they used Caledonian cheques).

Anyhows, what happened was your mum, aunt, whatever gave payment over to the shop worker who helped you and actually sold you the goods. The shop worker would pop your payment into a wee metal capsule thing and put that into a big tube. Then, the bit that worried me… when the capsule was lobbed into the tube there would be a WOOSH and it disappeared.

There would then be a pause and the shop worker and your mum, aunt, whatever, would make polite conversation like “My, did you see Frankie and Josie last night?” or the worer saying “He looks a nice quiet wee boy, why exactly is he doing that just now?”

Then there was another WOOSH and the shop worker would lift out the capsule, take out change and receipt and give it to your mum, aunt, whatever.

I never did find out what that tube system was and how it worked and why it was done that way… does anyone know? Or are there other strange things that happened in shops that you were taken to when you were young? (stories about 'incidents in toilets' are strictly not to be included!)
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Postby hazy » Tue Sep 12, 2006 7:20 pm

It works on a vacum system. Costco still us it as it is a safe way of getting money about without people carrying it.
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Postby Pgcc93 » Tue Sep 12, 2006 7:26 pm

Lamson tubes is what your thinking of Escotty, as Hazy says there still in use.

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Postby Mori » Tue Sep 12, 2006 7:37 pm

Asda still use it in some of their stores although a lot are slowly doing away with the system the last time i noticed.
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Postby tobester » Tue Sep 12, 2006 7:38 pm

Safe way to transfer cash from tills and help prevent a hold up or till snatch
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Postby escotregen » Tue Sep 12, 2006 7:46 pm

Right thanks Hazy, this is helpful... how did/how does the pneumatic vacumm system work. I mean was there an electric or a steam pumping machine just sooking and blowing down the air?

I can see the security angle but do wonder if it was more a case in those earlier days of not trusting the 'subordinate' staff?

Another pointless wee thought - I've never heard of a pneumatic vacumm system operator; who were these people, where did they work from, was it a good number :?
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Postby Josef » Tue Sep 12, 2006 7:56 pm

I can see how it would work from the till up to the cash office, but I always wondered how it got the change back. Did it change from suck to blow (no salaciousness please :) ) once you had sent something?
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Postby Alex Glass » Tue Sep 12, 2006 8:58 pm

Did store not employ cashiers to deal with all financial transactions. In the days before the till was all singing all dancing able to read barcodes and all the other things relation to stock control.

Also old accounting proceedures and banking arrangements may have resulted in this appearing to be a more productive method.

Can't think of anything othere than being fascinated by these tudes and how you had to wait for ages at Christmas when the shops were busy.

Remember how most things were wrapped in brown paper and tied in the days before plastic bags of all sizes.
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Postby cheesylion » Tue Sep 12, 2006 9:10 pm

I'm a big tube but I've never worked in a department store!! :roll:
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Postby scaryman2u » Tue Sep 12, 2006 9:13 pm

Hi Escotregen, I got into pc`s and HG too late. i ripped out loads of these tube systems in Co-ops across the Central Belt :oops: :( without a thought to how it works but i don`t recall ever seeing a generator or any workings for the system... I can only assume they were removed previously. :x ::):
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Postby Pripyat » Wed Sep 13, 2006 12:12 am

Do some banks still not use the vacuum system. I remember the
Halifax still using it a few years back. My favourite was as Escotregen
was saying, is that the person serving tried to make some sort of
inane banter as you waited. The usual "Are you, on your lunchhour",
even though it was screamingly obvious that they didn't really
want to partake in conversation with you.
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Postby Local Hero » Wed Sep 13, 2006 7:04 am

Josef wrote:I can see how it would work from the till up to the cash office, but I always wondered how it got the change back. Did it change from suck to blow (no salaciousness please :) ) once you had sent something?


I am presuming as it was a closed circuit the cash office staff would just put the completed reciept into another pill and send it into the system to go around again.

A couple of links I found:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pneumatic_tube
http://www.capsu.org/history/telegram_conveyors.html
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Postby Sir Roger DeLodgerley » Wed Sep 13, 2006 7:41 am

Pripyat wrote: I remember the Halifax still using it a few years back.


That's right, the Halifax in Bothwell Street used this system until fairly recently and may even have installed it as part of a revamp of that branch some time in the early 90s. No evidence for this mind, just my recollection.
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Postby escotregen » Wed Sep 13, 2006 9:52 am

scaryman, isn't it becoming strange on this thread how nobody has actually ever seen the people or the machinery that supposedly operated these tubes? Ooohhh, was there something odd going on :?: .

I'm an area committee rep with the Co-operative, so I see if they can help uncover any of the history.

And well done cheesylion, you spotted my clever wee double entendre of a title for the thread :)
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Postby Simba » Wed Sep 13, 2006 11:02 am

I spotted it too. ;)

The Halifax in Inverness had this system, before they moved into a new building with BoS a couple of years ago.
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