Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona, just for fun. Advertising-free, supported by my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

What "carry" meant in old-time Phoenix

The first time I ran into the concept of "carry", I was very confused. I knew what it meant to carry something, like a sack of potatoes, but what financially carrying was wasn't even a part of my world. And it just means that a business allows someone to pay over time, without interest, on goods or services. That is, a customer gets, for example, a soda at a drugstore, and the price is written down on a tab, and then some time in the future the customer pays the entire bill or parts of it, which can span over a month, or whatever. In my world, when I started paying for things in the 1970s, this simply didn't exist - at least not for me.

If I saw a sign on a building that said "Cash and Carry", I just thought that they didn't accept checks, and that you carried your purchases out. Not really. Cash in this instance could include a check, and it simply meant that the goods or services are paid for right then and there. I've never been allowed to leave a store, or pick up my car from the repair shop, without paying for it, so the concept kinda boggles my mind. If the store allowed "carry", a customer would be carried for as long as the business thought was appropriate, and would maybe send a letter every once in a while asking for a little something on account.

The repair shop where I took my car had someone who worked there who loved to tell jokes. He would often say that for some customers he would say, "It's now been over nine months, and I've now carried you longer than your mother did!" He would laugh, and I would be puzzled. Now I understand - it was simply a zero-interest loan for the duration.

And it wasn't until I started talking to accountants that I saw it that way. Businesses that carried were essentially lending money with zero interest. That went away quickly with the rise of credit cards. If someone had a credit card, they could pay for their car repairs without asking to be carried by the business. Being carried vanished just about overnight.

In old-time Phoenix, that is before the 1970s, people expected to be carried by a business. They would pick up a new suit, and walk out the door saying "I'll see you on pay day!" Of course these practices hung on longer in small towns, but Phoenix was becoming a big city, with big city ways.

Image at the top of this post: The Alhambra Cash and Carry Market in the 1930s, Grand Avenue and Thomas.

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