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October 28th, 2006

Service Merchandise

One of the many stores I remember from my childhood is Service Merchandise.

Service was a “catalog showroom”, which is a relatively dead concept: you browse items around the store, note their item numbers (usually with a store clipboard or the like), and then order them up at a desk. A little while later you pick up your goods at a counter and pay for them.

That’s all fine and good, but the thing that captivated me the most about Service was the computer ordering system: Silent Sam. As a young computer geek I loved being able to place an order on the dumb terminal that was Silent Sam. It was almost like a glimpse of the future, ordering stuff through a computer. Too bad that a lot of the toys and things I wanted were not in stock.

I realized I bought a lot of stuff at Service back in the day, including my luggage (still in use!), a bookshelf (still in use!), and my current point-and-shoot film camera (hardly ever used!)

Service fell on hard times in the 90s thanks to competition and never recovered. They’re still selling things online but, frankly, you have to be a diehard fan to consider them when buying stuff.

I miss Silent Sam.

Posted in Childhood Memories, Consumer Commentary

COD October 28, 2006, 8:20 pm

I remember Silent Sam. It was almost space age for the time.

jk October 29, 2006, 2:04 am

I can still picture the local store here quite well….everything from jewelry to electronics to lawn furniture. We were very loyal customers back in the 80s.

Aanen October 30, 2006, 12:50 pm

I got my first electric razor from them, which no longer works. That store closed a few days later.

Rowtyd November 9, 2006, 11:50 pm

I worked at a Service in North Alabama during Christmas 1983. What a wild job-that was the Christmas season of Cabbage Patch Kids and Care Bears, and I can remember dozens of crazed Moms lining up outside the doors waiting for the store to open so they could grab either or both for their kids when the items were in stock.
I also recall a guy who worked in electronics accidentally cursing over the store intercom one day-it was a riot-and he was fired later that day. What a great place to work, and shop-I miss having them around.

Nashville to Baltimore March 5, 2008, 12:40 am

Service Merchandice was a great store. My Dad was one of the executives there and Silent Sam was his idea. We were good frinwith the founder of Service. I went to the store near ny house just before it closed.

Expiditor June 22, 2008, 1:50 am

I worked at SMC also. I loved working there. Silent Sam was great. Except of course when the kids went crazy placing orders that were never going to be picked up. Being the man at the other end of the printer it could drive you crazy.

Dave October 30, 2008, 12:39 am

I remember buying/getting some cool stuff from Service Merchandise when I was a kid. My first Play Station, bb/pellet guns, mech warrior toys and other cool stuff. It brings back some good memories. Does anyone know where I might be able to find digital copies of the SM catalogs?

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