Whatever happened to …

… paging?

It was a banner week. I got two suggestions for the “Whatever happened to …” post. Sheila Stewart was first with this one and stay tuned for Alfred Thompson’s idea next week.

So, Sheila was inspired by last week’s post about crank phone calls and that lead to this discussion.

Ian and I were recently talking about pre-cell phone days and having to page friends/family members in large venues, stores etc to locate them. One time I had to page him in Superstore “I was waiting by the vegetables the whole time” he claims lol. If you want to do a WHT.. paging

That got me thinking for a second. I used to hear those type of paging calls over the speakers in big department stores all the time. I can’t recall the last time I did, however. It’s easy to get lost in the long, loaded aisles.

Photo by Fikri Rasyid on Unsplash

It did bring back a memory once “Attention shoppers, we have a lost child at the front of the story wearing …”. I happened to be near the front at the time and saw this sobbing child missing parents.

Of course, as Sheila mentions, we all (or most of us) are permanently connected via our cell phones these days. If I’m with you and I get lost, you can just call or text me. As I just typed that sentence, I’m mindful that it happens to me all the time. I get distracted and my wife who is more on task will reach out to me. Or, I’ll get a message on the message centre in my car “When will you be home?”

But, yes Sheila, there was a time when the only option was to go to the help desk and ask for someone to be paged and report to the front of the store or wherever. I wonder if the modern cell phone solution just makes us too accessible. I’m thinking of being at a conference and someone needing me for some reason – I’m just a text away.

Your thoughts for this Sunday morning …

  • do you remember a time when public paging in a store really was a thing?
  • have you ever had to page someone else because they’ve gone missing?
  • while most of us are connected via cell phone, a lot of kids aren’t but you don’t hear them being paged. Why?
  • do you ever regret giving our your cell phone number to someone and they use it to connect for any reason whatsoever?
  • who remembers the store itself blaring “Attention K-Mart Shoppers …”
  • if you were looking for me, where do you figure I’d be most likely to be found? How about you? Where do you go most frequently in a store?
  • somewhat related to this, I can remember a time when there was always music playing over the sound system – particularly during Christmas shopping season – but I can’t recall the last time I ever heard music in a store. Any speculation why?

As always, I’d be most interested in your thoughts to the above or anything else that springs to mind.

If you have an idea for a future post, please reach out to me with your suggestion.

All of the past posts from this regular Sunday morning feature can be found here.

8 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. Good morning Doug!

    When I read the title question and opening sentence of your post, I thought of the paging that used to happen when people carried those little devices on their belts (find a phone and call this number), and my answer to the “whatever happened?” question was “cell phones,” but reading on I then understood that you were referring to Public Address paging, and therefor did a mental correction and then the answer to the “whatever happened?” question was “cell phones.”

    In the case of younger children who don’t have cell phones, I think these days parents are much less likely to intentionally separate from their kids in stores than when we were kids, and so there is likely a corresponding decrease in the number of accidental separations. I also anticipate that most stores probably have different procedures these days than doing an all call for “would the parent of …. Please come to the courtesy desk.” I have probably one memory of hearing my name over the paging system in a store when I was a kid – – I think by the time I heard my name I was already actively looking for my mom and my siblings. (I think there was a time when the toy aisle was a common place for parents to drop off and subsequently locate their kids, but, as I said, times have changed.)

    Now, with regards to your associated question of “what ever happened to the background music in stores?“ — that gives me a bit of a pause.
    • Is it just that we have been in far fewer stores over the last two years?
    • Have stores indeed moved away from playing background music?
    • Is the background music so background these days that we don’t even notice it?
    • Has the generalized cultural backlash against Muzak resulted in its demise?
    • Have the licensing fees related to public performance of music become a cost that makes playing music in stores prohibitive?
    • Has the provision of background music in public spaces suffered the fate of elevator music?

    Maybe we only notice the background music when it stops being background and seeps into our conscious state. When I think about it now, I do notice when a venue has a country music radio station playing in the background, and it affects me like that mosquito recording that some stores used for a while to drive away loitering teenagers. (For anyone who might be reading this comment, check out “Trapped in a Country Song” by the Kingston-area band, the Arrogant Worms)

    With regards to “attention K-mart shoppers“ I don’t know if that was actually a thing, or if it just became a meme? Certainly I’ve heard it many more times as a reference than I have actually heard it in real life. Maybe it was a successful advertising campaign that caused the phrase to get stuck in our social consciousness before it became a meme? Dunno.

    If we’re ever at a face-to-face conference again down the road, I’ll see if I can locate the customer service desk and have them page you, for old time’s sake.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Doug, I don’t have a ton of paging memories, but your question of where I would be in a store is almost always a book section. I could spend hours just looking at books. Now though, when I go in a store, I’m more about getting in and out. My browsing days are gone with COVID. I wonder if others find the same.

    Thanks for your weekly trip down memory lane!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi Doug!

    What an interesting post – I was thinking about pagers a few weeks ago. Why you may ask? I was watching The Gilmore Girls for the millionth time and suddenly, Rory says: “Oh wait, it’s my pager”. And I thought: I never had a pager. I guess it’s because I spent my teenage years in Greece, where pagers were something really rare, and only doctors had them. I got my first cell phone at 20 years old, which was a hand-me-down from my older sister – a huge, bulky Siemens phone that was probably the heaviest thing in my bag!

    About Christmas music: that’s one thing I love about living in Switzerland, or actually Zug, which is a tiny canton (like a province, let’s say): during the holidays, there is always Christmas music playing in the streets and stores – I love it!

    I always enjoy your posts!

    Have a great Sunday,

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks for having some fun with this one, Doug. The Shoppers Drug Mart I frequent the most has music playing all the time, as well as an independent grocery market where the music is even better. They will both be switching to Christmas music in a blink of an eye, I bet. As you know, I am a “Winners/Homesense” shopper. They seem to have announcements quite frequently — or maybe because I spend too much time in there it just seems that way haha. If my husband can’t find me, he checks the candle aisle and is usually successful.


  5. My Independent always plays music! I remember having my friends paged as a joke, and having a person paged in the airport because he was not where he was meant to be. To bee we honest, I do all my grocery shopping alone these days. I don’t think my husband and I have been in a store together for 5 years. It makes my crazy when he disappears (and returns with $50 worth of stuff I don’t want!)


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