Happy Birthday — Supermarket

Picture grocery shopping about a hundred years ago.   A customer handed a list of wanted items to a clerk, who disappeared to find everything, then came back to calculate the bill.  There must be a better way.

A former clerk named Clarence Saunders thought so, too.  On September 6, 1916, he opened the first self-service grocery store in Memphis, TN.  He chose the name  “Piggly Wiggly,” possibly because he watched little pigs from a train window.  When asked about the name, he would reply, “So people will ask that very question.”  (Of course, this encouraged copycats, like Handy Andy and Helpy-Selfy, but no matter.)

The idea of letting customers choose their own items was not only popular, it was more efficient for the grocers.  This led to lower prices, a wider variety, and the modern supermarket.  By 1932, there were more than 2,500 Piggly Wiggly franchises.  Shopping carts were introduced in 1937.  Incidentally, Piggy Wiggly was also first to put their employees in uniforms and use refrigerated cases.

Read more about Piggly Wiggly at  https://www.pigglywiggly.com/about-us.  The photo is from that site.  The original source for this piece is The Writer’s Almanac for September 6, 2017 ( http://writersalmanac.org/page/2/).

 

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