Why Do Cash Registers Have To Ring?

Have you ever wondered why do cash registers have to ring every single time they are opened? Why add that annoying sound when a transaction is being made? Let’s find out.

Cash registers ring in order to discourage employee theft but to better understand why they were added in the first place, we need to go through a brief history of sales tracking.

Prior to cash registers, when a transaction was being made, cashiers would place the money into the drawer and write down the sale in pencil. As this was not a very efficient way of keeping track of sales as well as controlling that employees won’t help themselves to the daily earnings, in the late 19th century, the John M. Waddel Manufacturing Company created the very first cash register: (the article continues after the ad)

Photo: Henry’s Attic: Some Fascinating Gifts to Henry Ford and His Museum

This cash register was able to register transactions in a unique way. On the top of it, there were markings of different amounts – from 5 cents to 2 dollars, and each one had a hole beneath. Every time the cashier was carrying out a transaction, he would take one ball for each coin or bill he received and roll it to the corresponding hole. For example, if the transaction was 1 dollar and 10 cents, and the cashier received that in a 1 dollar note and two 5 cents coins, he would have released three balls: one at the dollar hole and two at the 5 cents hole. By counting the number of balls each amount had at the end of the day, store owners could easily identify their daily earnings.

But even though this was quite good in sales tracking, it wasn’t quite effective in dealing with pilfering employees.


A few years later, James J. Ritty, a saloonkeeper in Dayton, OH, took a cruise vacation. While on board, he noticed a piece of equipment in the engine room that was counting the revolutions of the vessel’s propellers. Intrigued by this idea, Ritty decided to try and make a similar device in order to register his bar sales. When he got back to his saloon, he sat down with his brother John and designed what turned out to be the very first “modern” cash register:

Photo: Henry’s Attic: Some Fascinating Gifts to Henry Ford and His Museum

The cash register had push-down keys, pop-up indicator tabs and one more innovation: because Ritty noticed that his bartenders were frequently getting their hands into the till, he added a bell that rang every single time the register opened. The idea behind the bell was to increase attention and therefore, make his employees think twice before getting their hands into the till. In fact, these cash registers were called “thief catchers”.

The idea of the bell became popular and when the rights were later on, sold to the National Cash Register Company, the bell became synonymous with the cash register.

And that’s why, even today, cash register ring!

If you like what you read, then you will definitely love this one: Why Do Donuts Have A Hole In The Middle? 

Main Article Photo: nosheep / Pixabay
Photoshop: I’m A Useless Info Junkie
Sources: Henry’s Attic: Some Fascinating Gifts to Henry Ford and His Museum | The History of Cash Registers – The Origins

QUIZ: What Country In The World Best Fits Your Personality?

Why Does A Bad Apple Spoil The Bunch?