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I was born in 1980, and do remember our family having a credit account at the local grocery store. This was in Helsinki, Finland.

I think our account number was 14? Simple enough for a child to remember.

Around age 9 I was using the account on my own to buy food after school. I'd state the account number, and the cashier would write the credit down with a pen into a special notepad they kept under the cash register.

Still common in largely Jewish-centric grocery stores in NYC. While you are waiting your turn at the checkout isle, you can hear little kids buying food after school and the primary phone number is the account ID.

A recent observation:

Shop to a little girl: What's your Numbra?

Little Girl: 718-.....

Owner comes by: That's Sharon and Jacob's account. You are not his daughter.

Little girls freezes.

Owner continues: Unless you are their niece from Upstate who has come for Christmas.

Little girl visibly relaxes and the grocer bags her items.

We also had a similar system in Turkey too, with local grocery shops. The owner would have two notebooks per customer, one would stay at the store and one would be given to customer. Whenever you needed to buy something but you wanted to pay later, the merchant would put the transaction on his notebook with a copy on your notebook, so at the end of the month you would simply bring your notebook and cross reference the transactions and pay your debt.

Maybe it’s a Turkish thing? Because the owner of the copy shop I mentioned [0] is a Turkish immigrant ;)

[0]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22047151

It definitely could be!

This is still very common in Tunisia too

I’m having something like this for a copy-shop in a pop 200k city. In 2020. Not an account number, and essentially a manual debit account. The owner has a book with balances of people who pre-paid, when you print something, he looks you up in his book, edits in the new balance and then edits the balance on a piece of paper I have :)

Mailboxes, Etc. used to do something similar. They had a card to pre-pay for 100 discounted copies that you could then use at your leisure. The clerk punched a hole for every copy you made.

I saw a smiliar but totally different scenario in a Stockholm suburb a couple of years ago (I guess the practice is still there): An old lady was in front of me in the line at the grocery store and paid with her card, and the clerk took out his notebook and entered the pin code. It was like the two keys to a vault. Neither of them could do the transaction without the other. I hope the notebook didn't keep the code together with an identifier, but I found it really cute.

With contactless today I guess you can solve it with just one person, but I really liked the two-factor.

And the community service, of course.

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